Although this is dated Saturday you will probably have gathered from my strange use of tenses that I'm actually writing the blogs the following morning.
We woke to another beautiful day. We had crossed into Siberia some time during the night. The scenery is now more open and very flat but still with plenty of trees. The land is very boggy in places. All the settlements seem to be alongside the railway line. I would imagine that if you started to walk at right angles from the track you could go for hundreds of miles before you encountered any sign of habitation. As it is, the train goes for miles and miles of emptiness.
The vilages we pass look very poor and isolated although there are plenty of satellite dishes. Many of the houses are little more than the shacks we might see on the Barvas moor.They are constructed of wood with corrigated metal roofs. There are a few 2 storey ones of concrete block on the ground floor and timber on the first floor.
During the day we had 3 stops when we could get out and foray. It seems that the bigger stations have kiosks and the smaller ones have platform vendors.We assume that the selling of spirits on the platform is illegal. Donnie asked for vodka and she said "no" and looked around then produced a half litre bottle and immediately wrapped it in a bag to hide it! We investigated the other vendors then returned to ask for another one. She indicated for us to wait and she ducked under a train on the next track and disappeared. She returned with another bottle equally discreetly wrapped!
We had decided to have lunch and dinner in the restaurant car (despite our drunken waiter the previous night) so were not in the market for food.
Last night we had agreed to move to local time. Were we to stick on Moscow time which the train runs on it would mean that we arrived at Ulaanbataar at 1.30 in the morning and had a full day ahead of us with no sleep. It really is most confusing. John is wearing 2 watches - 1 on Moscow time and 1 on local time. Donnie is wearing 2 watches - 1 on Moscow time and 1 on U.K. time. Cath is wearing 1 watch on Moscow time and I am wearing 1 on local time. When anyone asks what time it is there is chaos! The only real question is "Is it either drinking time or eating time?"
Lunch was another omellete and dinner was borscht followed by salad. We had all enjoyed the borscht so much last night but when it arrived it was watery and not nice so we sent it back. Our waiter (sober) was most apologetic and said it would be 15 mins. When it arrived it was every bit as delicious as the previous night. The salad was lovely too. The tiny kitchen and one cook can only prepare one thing at a time so, despite the poor patronage, mealtimes are lengthy. We wonder if people are keeping all different times so are not there when we go.
John's cold is still with him but I now have a sore throat which I think heralds the onset of a cold. I haven't had a cold for well over a year so....
It clouded over in the afternoon and started to rain in the early evening. How different the landscape looks in the dreich bleakness.
We knew we would pass through another time zone in the night. It is so lovely to go to bed and be warm and comfy, lulled by the rocking movement of the train and hearing the mournful sound of the engine's siren. Another day awaits.