Saturday, October 16, 2010

Across the Gobi

Thursday 14th October 2010
Up at 05.45. Quick shower and taxi at 06.30. The station was actually within walking distance but we decided that, given the early hour and the steamer trunks, for the minimum cost we would book a taxi. At the station we were met by the usual scrummage of porters. This was the first time on this trip we were ripped off. The porter wanted the equivalent (remember the relative value} of £5 to lift 2 steamer trunks and one case on to a trolley and push it 200 metres to the platform. He left it there. We are always more than happy to tip very generously but considering the taxi only cost £3 he was excessive. He then asked a little friend to take the bags on to the train. He too expected a tip. Hmmm. He didn't get it so I wonder if they're still friends.

We had to laugh -something we of course never do. We have a compartment for 4. 2 steamer trunks. one largish suitcase, one medium holdall,3 rucksacks, and 1 tiny rucksack. Hilarious. Luggage, legs and bodies everywhere.
The storage compartments are only big enough for the holdall and rucksacks! Humour, more humour, a bit of a laugh and we're sorted. It's only for one night.

We feel really lucky to have this lovely old man in the next compartment. He is a Chinese monk in appropriate garb who started communicating with Donnie in the corridor. He came in and sat with us while we tried to communicate. He introduced himself as Lama Batula. Said "Good morning, good afternoon. good evening. goodnight and goodbye". Not quite like that of course. He then closed the compartment door and said a prayer for us. He is a lovely lovely man and we feel very priviledged. We're not sure how old he is but probably about 70 yet has fewer wrinkles than us. He is travelling with 2 women, one older and one much younger. The older woman took great delight in handling both Donnie and John's bottoms as she passed. Quite a contrast.

We had a really excellent lunch in the dining car. It's a Chinese train so a Chinese restaurant car. It was a set menu.We had a really scrummy salad, followed by a rich creamy soup, then perfectly cooked steak etc and tea/coffee with a chocolate biscuit for afters, all washed down with beer of course. I have never been a beer drinker and after this holiday I don't think I will have a beer for a long time.

The attendant has just been round to tell us the toilets will shortly be locked for an hour and a half. Mrs Grumpy on the Russian train took great delight in locking them early with no prior notice. I should have said that the toilets are locked 30 mins before a stop until 30 mins after. When we have the border crossing later tonight they will be closed for 4 hours. We have started planning already - all liquids strictly rationed!

All afternoon we have been crossing the Gobi desert. Miles and miles of nothing except an occasional small village or livestock with or without herdsmen.

It's now dark and it has been a beautiful sunset.

We have one stop for Mongolian exit procedures then one for Chinese immigration, then Chinese customs then a long stop for bogie change.

Sleeping will somehow take care of itself.

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