After our adventures in Siberia we were back on the train again, for the crossover from Europe to Asia. The journey was relatively short by comparison to the first leg, although drawn out by the fact that there were no other English speakers on the train, we had to spend hours and hours at the Russian-Mongolian border, consequently with no clue what was going on, and our two carriage attendants had obsessive compulsive cleaning tendencies, which included bleaching and scrubbing every inch of the corridor outside our cabin tirelessly, and especially at 4am. 35 hours later, we had arrived in Ulaanbaator
The scenery is spectacular, and the sky really does feel bigger, the people have been very friendly and we have eaten remarkably well. So much for the loose 5 pounds Mongolian diet. I have had some variation on noodles and meat most days and Casey has done pretty well for a vegetarian among a people who live off everything their animals provide.
In our five days since arriving we have stayed in a Mongolian truck stop hotel; run races up the Mongol Els sand dunes; driven across the snowy steppe (no roads required); hiked through the snow in the Khongo Khan mountains to the ruins of a Buddhist Monastery; seen a baby goat takes its first steps; and showered by bucket. We have explored the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, Kharokorim; hung out with Mongolian nomad bikers (one let me sit on his bike); and listened into monks chanting rituals at the amazing Erden Zuu Monastery. We have bartered for strange Mongolian trinkets and souvenirs, drunk tea with nomads, ridden horses through the snowy mountains in Terelj and spent two nights in ger tents, perfecting our fire tending skills.
We haven't killed each other yet, somewhat remarkably, but there are still five days to go. After a day in the ramshackle Ulaanbaator today we will be back on the train tomorrow at 7am for a final 30 hours or so. Next and final stop: Beijing and the Great Wall!