The Journey West
As a Gobi duststorm was just beginning to lick at the city, we said goodbye to Karyn and Victor on the platform at Ulaan Baatar Station, and boarded the Trans-Mongolian train; it was a Friday, and the next time we would step off was going to be Tuesday in Moscow.
The hundred-hour journey was smooth and steady, and turned out to be a real cinch actually. We have done a few trains together, including the 30-hour ride from Beijing to UB and a 60-hour choo from the southern tip of India to just shy of the Nepal border, so we were undaunted.
Lots of this...tonnes even.
Our cabin was a snuggly two-berther, and we whiled away most of the hours in it, reading and napping and snacking and playing yahtzee. When we did step out, though, we saw somes.
We met a Mongolian singing-dancing-acting troupe in the dining car, traveling into Russia for some shows. They were all really young, under twenty, and might have been fibbing about their skills, but that thought was dashed when we were treated to an impromptu throat-singing display by one of the guys, a professional throat-singer, and one of the most talented in Mongolia, he assured us. It's like a wee didgeridoo in the man's throat, if you've never heard it. We had missed seeing the famed throat-singing in Mongolia proper, so this little display was a trrrreat!
Another nice little part of the trip occurred whenever we had a sizable stop, (15 minutes or more), along the way in Russia. What happens is, as the train slows down coming into the stations, the faces along the platform begin to focus more, and you realize that they are rabid Russians ready for a flurry of shopping. The train stops and the Mongolians bounce off the train to flaunt their wares to these textile-obsessed Eurasians. There are furious circles of women grabbing the ugliest little tops, holding them up, stretching them across their bellies or their friend's boobs, and smearing grubby little bills of roubles into the merchant's hand, before slugging along to the next circle and infiltrating that mini-market. Ren and I usually watched the spectacle from the train, but a few times we were too excited and had to get closer. I wish we had the picture of me in the midst of that up on here...
Us, being pleased.
Honestly, with all this hustle, we made it to Moscow before we knew it. Our German neighbour on the train gave us a bottle of Mongolian vodka that he seemed really happy to be rid of, we swapped a few trinkets with a friend we made named Amika, and we alighted on to the platform. The train, that tide of steel and steam, that had carried us and countless Eastern dregs all the way to edge of Europe, was over. The way was open, towards Hajji and fête days.