Happy Birthday, Charlie!
We left the Hotel Geser at 0600 sharp for the train station. The train
from Irkutsk arrived early, and so we got right on board. We got lucky on
the coach assignment. The second class coach was either brand new or
extensively renovated. It belonged to the RZD, the Russian railway system.
The next coach back was a Mongolian railways one and it was much older.
The trip down to Naushkii was quick and we arrived at just about one in the
Our povodnitsa told us that the passport people would not be along
until four o’clock. So we had three hours to kill. Had she not been able to
tell us that, we would have waited in the train all that time. So we went out
to the produkti store which had a reasonable supply of cold beer. We were
accompanied by an Australian family of four traveling in the next cabin, and
a group of young Frenchmen who seemed to be a (somewhat) organized tour
group. More about these other folks later, but we had assistance in the
important and pressing matter of beer consumption.
Not much to Naushkii at all.
Naushkii seems to exist only as a border crossing. We had to turn
over our passports, along with the entry document, and also to prepare a
Russian customs document in duplicate. We were fortunate to receive one
copy back, because Alaine tells us that the Mongolian customs people will
check the one given to them against the Russian one. No fewer than eight
uniformed officials were required to process the passports of two passenger
A train came northbound from Ulan Bataar, and the Mongolian
passengers were celebrating the two gold medals, in boxing and judo, their
national team had won in the Beijing Olympics. Their first Olympic medals
ever, I believe. Two of them ran up and down the largely empty platform
waving Mongolian flags. We all toasted Mongolia, and everyone was happy.
After we had been on the station for a while, a few more new
acquaintances drifted into the group. Two women traveling together, one a
Londoner and the other from Nelson, New Zealand. Also, there was an
American woman from Roseburg, Oregon, and her Swiss husband. The
Australian family consisted of a couple around our age, their daughter, and
their son-in-law: Phil, Di, Jaden, and Peda. The parents, Phil and Di, had
made the Trans-Siberian trip in 1979, and they said there had been many
changes in the intervening years.
Once we were cleared out of Russia, several bottles of vodka appeared
and a big party followed. At the Mongolian border checkpoint, the coach’s
toilets were closed but an Australian passenger went in anyway. Somehow,
the border guard knew. One came aboard and hassled the povodnitsa. Much
hand-waving and some excited conversation, all resulting in a one-hundred
ruble find paid to the border guard. Our train then proceeded on to
Sukhbataar where we cleared Mongolian passport control and customs
without incident. It did seem to take a long time, perhaps because we had to
remain aboard the train. The Sukhbataar train station has two duty-free
shops, with neon-lighted signs…in English! A moot point as far as Penny
and I were concerned. Several individuals came through the cars trying to
change money, but we did not take “advantage” of that either.
We then made a night journey to Ulan Bataar while the party
continued in the car.