Irkutsk to Ulan
Some of the scenery from the train.
At the Russian border.
A Siberian street.
Leg#3: Trans-Mongolian route
Length of journey: 34 hours

September 26, 2006


This is definitely going to be more of a train ‘journey’ than an actual train ride. The reason for this is that we have been informed
that the process of going from the Russian border to the Mongolian border tomorrow is going to be nine hours. Yikes!

New train ride means new roommates. This time around it is me, Catherine, Jeannie and Nick. Today is Jeanne’s birthday and I bet
she thought that all of her birthday treats ended at the Japanese restaurant tonight where we had sushi and birthday cake. But she
was wrong as it is now her turn to have me as a roommate. What a lucky lady!

11:00 pm

The four of us just spent the last couple hours chit-chatting. During our chat I got some good practice to use what I have learned in
my speech lessons (since Nick was the one who was instrumental in pointing out my Americanims). My ‘t’s are now sounding more
like ‘t’s and less like ‘d’s, I am happy to report. Every now and then I slip into my old ways but I think my progress is being noticed
by all.

September 27, 2006


I just woke up from a horrible night of sleep. I got up twice in the middle of the night – once was while the train was stopped. This
meant that I could not even use the toilet facilities as they are closed at train stops. So I just had to wait and wait until the train
started moving…which felt like ages. In between having to get up, I was having a hard time getting back to sleep.

The scenery is pretty right now with some bare trees.

11:00 am

The scenery is now non-bare trees that are changing colors. Ahhh, autumn is arriving in Siberia.

I just saw a lake. A very, very big lake.

1:00 pm

We are now at the border city of Naushky (excuse the spelling - I am just trying to read the Russian writing). We have two hours
here. Thank God the weather is beautiful as I am assuming that there really is not anything to do here and we now have to get off
the train.

3:30 pm

We are now back on the train. We are hanging out here until the border officials come by and do the passport formalities.

I also have to take this moment to say that I was a bit wrong about this town. I decided to wander around for an hour or so to take
some time to say good-bye to Siberia and, in turn, Russia. I almost felt like I was also saying ‘hello’ to Siberia as this town was
exactly how I imagined it to be. There was no beautiful lake setting. There was no city with beautiful buildings. There was just a city
with barely paved streets and what I would deem as traditional Siberian homes – dark wood with smurf-blue painted shutters. I
would have to say that seeing this was beautiful in its own rite.

I also took my last opportunity to use my Russian rubles. I went to the ‘Food Stuffs’ store. No, that is not a typo. That is what the
sign said – Food Stuffs. I almost felt like I was back in the fourth grade doing a math ‘problem solving’ question that went a little
something like:

Question: Jen is in Russia and has 30 Russian rubles left. She needs to use them before she enters Mongolia so she would like to
make it so that she does not have any left over. In the store are various items. She has a chocolate craving so she would definitely
like to get some products of the sort, though every product does not need to be chocolate. Milky Way bars are 7 rubels, as are the
Nesquick bars. There is another small chocolate bar being sold for 5 rubels. She also thinks this could be an opportune time to pick
up some gum which is being sold for 11 rubels. What can Jen buy with her rubels so that she spends them all?

Answer: Jen can buy the following: One pack of Orbitz gum, one Milky Way bar, one Nesquick bar and one small bar of chocolate
thus using all 30 rubels.

It is really nice to see my elementary math skills paid off out here in Naushky.

6:00 pm

We have now left Russia and we are on our way…

6:30 pm

Today is Kirstie’s birthday. Poor girl as this is by far the least eventful day on our trip. The highlight for her…and us…was probably
the little birthday party we just had for her in Cabin #2.

7:00 pm

We have just entered Mongolia. We are waiting for the passport people to come around and do their thing.

8:00 pm

That was a piece of cake. In a few minutes it is time for all of us to de-board the train until 10:00pm when our train leaves for Ulan

10:00 pm

Talk about craziness right before we got off the train! Mongolians rushed on. There were really only two words being spoken. Those
were: ‘Change money?’ I am serious when I say that these people were like vultures as they rushed up to us. It was nearly
impossible to even get out of the train with all of them swarming around. Claustrophobia took over and I just had to get out. I
pushed my way through and finally made it to the door. When exiting the train, there were ten times more people saying the same
two words: Change money? Such a change from the peaceful, tame babushkas selling their products on the platforms in Russia.

It is just a good feeling to know that this whole border crossing extravaganza has officially ended. Ulan Bator – here we come!

September 28, 2006

5:30 am

You must be kidding me. What time is it? You want what???

The provodnitsa just woke me up to say that she wants our bedding. Even though the train doesn’t stop for another hour and a half.
This is nonsense. But provodnitsas scare me so I am going to oblige. I am more than okay at this point sleeping on a plain mattress
pad and bare pillow if it means I get another hour of sleep…

7:00 am

And another leg of our train journey is over…
Back to Russia.