Tim was like a kid in a candy store this morning. He was so excited. I was lagging a little, but his mood was infectious. We needed to be at the train station by 10.20am so we had a lazy start and headed to the train station via the metro.
Our epic train journey consists of 7,621kms and 3 countries over 9 train trips. Our first from Beijing to Ulaan Bator was a massive 27 hours. The funny thing is we are traveling the same distance we did in the bullet train with less stops on this one and the bullet train took 6 hours.
As it was 26 hours we decided to splurge on a deluxe cabin so it was just the two of us on our own. We didn’t know what to expect but we secretly had high hopes of a romantic little old school elegant oasis. We were not dissapointed. Lacquered wood all over with a tiny table and chair opposite a bunk with a brown, gold and red bed spread with frills. Agatha Christie eat your heart out!
It didn’t take long for the train to leave behind the city and we were soon winding our way through green topped mountains. The scenery was beautiful and it was a glorious blue sky day. The best we have had since arriving. In our carriage of 8 we had another Australian couple, two English men and the rest Chinese. We sat back with our tea and cards and watched the scenery fly by.
Dinner was served in the dining cart (how cool is that) and consisted of delicious chicken and cabbage. We also cracked our first bottle of Chinese red and although we have had better it was thoroughly enjoyable. I think the location may have had something to do with that.
We were going to be stopping at the border at about 10pm to get our exit stamps and also to change the bogies because China and Mongolia run on different gauges (train tracks). The exit stamp was easy. They came on board and took our passports and then gave them back awhile later with the stamp. The changing of the bogies (wheels) was a different story. We knew you could either stay on or get off but at some stage they take the train away and you can’t get back on until they come back. Tim and Jonty decided to go get some cold beers at the store and of course while they were away they moved the train to change the gauges. So for about an hour and a half they were stuck in the station and missed it all.
They took the train into a big hanger and uncoupled the carriages. They lined us up against hydraulic jacks and proceeded to lift the carriage up about 2 meters to run out the old wheels and then from the other side wheeled in the new ones. It was fascinating! We then were lowered coupled back up and drove back to the station. Where Tim and Jonty were waiting.
We then drove another half an hour into Mongolia and got our entry stamps. By this stage it was about 2.30am and we were struggling to keep our eyes open. Very much looking forward to waking up tomorrow in the Gobi desert. S
Patiently awaiting our call up.
Chomping at the bit to get on.
The hallway. Carpet runner and everything.
The dining cart. Fake rose in a vase and all.
Our train being lifted by the jacks to change the bogies.
Another train came in as we did so we got to see the procedure first hand.