Am sitting at the China-Mongolia border crossing at about 10.30pm Sat night waiting for the first display of Chinese inefficiency I have come across to date. Not only have we been waiting more than two hours since our passports were taken from us, the train has also disappeared so the bogeys can be switched over to fit the Mongolian tracks...
Once we get back on the train we have to go through border processing on the Mongolian side! Although after sitting (alright, lazing) on the train since 7.30 this morning it has been good to get off, stretch the legs and reset the body thermostat after enduring more than 12 hours on the ridiculously overheated train - was walking around sweating and all I had on was a t-shirt and pair of pants. It also had the effect of sedating me into a near comatose state such that I just wanted to lay down and lounge around... The ridiculously unfriendly cabin attendants were less than sympathetic to our requests to adjust the thermostat and were more focused on doing whatever necessary to avoid any sign of positive emotion.
Time did pass surprisingly quickly though as we had random conversations about everything from bogans to politics and even bogans in politics! Oh and also midget stories - I was in hysterics laughing!
I am also loathe to say that I have converted to wearing the rip-off crocs supplied on the train with my socks just so I don't have to wear my boots around! It is a classy look but one which will remain on the train!
The landscape so far has taken me by surprise also, nothing like what I expected. Has been a mix of desolate, barren, parched earth resembling an earthquake fault zone through to slapped together industrial towns with countless generic apartment housing complexes to sustain the working population of the factories and plants. Most surprisingly for me so far though is the lack of snow - not a single flake has been seen so far, even on the mountain tops. That should change not too far into Mongolia, although will likely be asleep by then so won't see exactly where it begins.
What has struck me most about China is the crazy contrast of capitalism catapulting the nation into the future with the people desperately trying to go along for the ride without losing their traditions and way of life. It's a bit like the country needs to slow down to allow it's people to catch up and adjust.
Oh and the train ran out of beer and for once I was not a contributor! I found it too hot and stuffy to even entertain drinking... And the pretentious trust fund kids from Sydney's northern beaches in our group are finally loosening up and are actually pretty funny - moving from a laugh at you to laugh with you kind of relationship. I guess that's what happens when 4 people share a cabin smaller than your average walk in robe!
Am really struggling being out of my routine right now though - really just want to do some exercise. The bars on the bunks are about the right width apart to do some dips and am concocting other ways to try and set up a circuit! I did manage to find some instant oats in Beijing before I left so will be having those for breakfast which will satisfy that craving - it is tough not to have my oats each morning after over three months of almost nothing but!
P.S. It's now 11.30pm and we just got back on the train, now waiting for our passports to be returned. After that it's 20 mins to the Mongolian border station and we're there fir about 1hr 15 mins... Can't wait for sleep!