Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Riding the Trans-Siberian To Mongolia--6/7-9

I walked to the Irkutsk Train station from the Baikaler Hostel by following the Tram which I had just missed for my 10 PM departure to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In Irkutsk I posed beside a hiker statute found along Karl Marx Street. Old Karl would be surprised to see all of the high end stores and boutiques like Armani and Channel found along his named street.

 

There were still a lot of party goers following the day's parade as I crossed the river bridge near the train station. Many of these party goers would stop in the local markets to get their favorite vodka and these stores would have an amazing selection to pick from.

Here is a last picture of Irkutsk from the bridge looking at the train station. Once at the train station I ran into the hostel manager, Dolson, who was heading to Ulan Ude on the same train.
Shortly after leaving Irkutsk, the sun set and we then set up our beds for the night and I was fortunate to have the bottom bunk so I could get up when I wanted to in the night and morning.
My bunk mates were two fellows from Kurdistan who had a contract for two months at a mining camp near the Mongolian border. The other fellow was Alex, a Russian, who ran a shoe company and factory that made designer boots made from raindeer hides. He spoke English and told me a bit about his business and even showed me him taking an annual plunge into the frozen Lake Bakail.
I was planning to have breakfast in the dining car, but I found out that there was no dining car on this train, but fortunately the guys from Kurdistan offered me breakfast of bread, cheese and sausage.
There was lots of early morning mist as we made our way toward the Mongolian border.
Our 3 hour stop near the border where we got our immigration and customs check for entering Mongolia turned out to be a 5 hour stop. During our stop the officials walked through our carriage with a drug sniffing dog that was a little black Scottie dog. He went so fast I did not have time to take a picture of him.
Alex and I got off the train and he treated me to lunch at this restaurant in Naushki during our wait. We had borscht, vegetable salad, mashed potatos and liver along with a Russian beer.
Our train only had our carriage on it as we crossed into Mongolia, and then we linked up wiht a long string of carriages on the way to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
 
The Mongolian-Russian border marker.
Here is the first ger--yurt--as we enter Mongolia.
We arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia just as the sun is coming up. I could see many gers even in this city area. This town looks pretty grubby with its industrial buildings and big block soviet like buidings and housing units.
As I arrived, I was surprised to be greeted with a "Richard Hunt" sign held by a fellow I later learned was named, Dema who was from the Khongar Hostel where I had made some hostel and tour arrangements on the internet. He drove me to the hostel , where I met Sologo, the Khongor manager.

Although I had reserved two separate short tours with them, he indicated that on this morning an Australian was going on a 3 day two night tour to the largest monastery some 236 km from Ulaanbaatar. This tour would include two nights in a ger, a horse ride, camel ride in the sand dunes and a trip to see the only wild undomesticated horses in the world called "takni". While waiting for the 9AM departure, a Swiss joined us for the trip which lowered the cost of the tour for each of us to just $74 per day. This would include a van, driver, guide, meals, 2 nights in a ger, camel and horse rides, and park admissions. After taking my last shower for three days and a bit of breakfast I was ready for the tour----or so I thought!

 

 

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