Yurts, horses and more

On the train again! Bidding farewell to Beijing just as the clouds formed above us and the smog started to roll towards us. Hurry let us through, the smog monster is coming. Passport control? No problem. Security control? Big problem. Ticket? Ticket? Our tour guide has them. You have knife….no a multi tool , no knife. Scissors, Razor, tweezers etc all had to be put into carry on luggage. Knitting needles..are they the problem. Eventually the officer gives up and says go through.
Hurrah we locate the cabin. Definitely not luxury ( we do get given clean ironed sheets ),as the seats are padded with compressed by many bottoms foam. Oh well not to worry. There is loo paper , water and soap. Cup of tea sorry, no cups but hot water. So our journey begins.
It takes two or so hours till we leave the smog of the city behind us. The ground varies from relatively flat areas where crops are growing to dry hills with gullies formed by runoff. There is minimal vegetation in these areas. Every now and then, a village will appear. Many traditional Hootus , walled compounds,are being abandoned for high rise apartments. These are stacked in lines with little space between them. You can imagine the wind tunnels and shadowing of one apartment block by another. It would seem the building of the apartment has outstripped the need, as many blocks in these outer regions are concrete skeletons waiting to be filled.
Crops of corn, vegetables and sunflowers juggle for space under wind turbines in some area . Animal production is low with some sheep and cows being shepherded in relatively small contained areas.
Goodby China. We reach the border at 9.30pm. Passports please , Declaration please. We wait, and wait , and wait. The train carriages are individually moved onto the new bogies to fit the Mongolian gauge. Still waiting. Everyone is now cross legged since we are not allowed off the train and the toilets have been locked. Waiting…12.30, waiting 1.30. Eventually around 2.00am , we are on our way with the passport control officers jogging along to make sure no one sneaks off the train. Settle in, turn off the light, sleeeeeeeep.
Bang ,bang, passport. We now have the Mongolian Passport control. Fill in Declaration now! Immigration comes through, checking for illegal immigrant lurking under your bed and in the overhead bunks. Time passes. Finally, passports back , light out , sleep we are on our way!
In the morning, the scenery has changes to flat stone ground. It has rained lately so the desert is green with a fine layer of grass peeping up among the sparse tussocks se of cars is causing and ground ,where water has pooled briefly. The telegraph poles and fence beside the railway tracks are the few signs that men have been here. Occasionally , there is a tiny settlement or a single house.
Breakfast at 9.00? Yesterdays lunch was cold rice, a meat ball and chicken drumstick. Dinner was cold rice, bok choy, pork and a chicken drumstick. Not, I repeat, not yummy. Thank goodness we had some fruit and our guides provided us with snacks!
All good , breakfast was an omelette…..a real recognisable one served with a slice of ham, cucumber, a baby tomato, rolls ,plastic cheese , butter an jam. What else could you want. …..tea only black, coffee only white and then followed by a slice of sweet cake. We found a use for the multi tool and now we have plastic cups for tea. Mike has been busy cutting the tops off plastic bottles because there is a coal fired urn at the end of the carriage for hot water. I have a supply of green tea bags…perfect.
Summer pastures are still green and we have seen our first yurt. Horses and other livestock were nearby. Cattle and sheep or goats are being herded as well as horses. Horses and cattle are allowed to graze freely but sheep or goats are penned at night.
Ultar Bataan is a combination of modern apartments and traditional yurts or Ger. The government is encouraging these nomadic people to move into apartments for Winter as the burning coal and increased use of cars is causing increasing pollution. Dinner was a Mongolian BBQ . You choose meat, vegetables, sauces , noodles and spice and take it to the cooks who barbecue it for you.

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