Wednesday 30 April 2014

Half way home

Day 30 - Erlian - 8916km traveled

It's just after midnight and we're at the Chinese-Mongolian border. In fact we've been here for 3.5 hours already. We've been through Chinese immigration and customs procedures but will still need to go through the Mongolian equivalents once the train physically crosses the border.

In the meantime, aside from a lot of sitting around, we've been having our bogies changed: Chinese railways use a different gauge than those in Mongolia and Russia, so they have to split all the train carriages up at the border, jack them up, and change the wheels before reassembling the train with a new dining car in the middle. It's all pretty smooth—procedurally that is; the train has been jolting back and forth incessantly as they shunt the carriages around—and was quite interesting to watch through the window.

Apparently the whole border-crossing process can take up to 6 or 7 hours, but we're hoping it will be less tonight because the train is nearly empty. It must be 12 carriages long but I only saw about 60 people waiting to get on in Beijing and each carriage only seems to have about a half dozen people in it. It makes a nice change from our last overnight train.

This marks the half way point of our trip in terms of time, but we're also moving on to the third of four main countries we're visiting, which is pretty exciting. Time's whizzing by awfully quickly now but we've had a great time in Beijing—Ruth's working on another post—and are really looking forward to our adventures in Mongolia.

[Update: it's 1:54am now—five and a half hours—and we're officially in Mongolia and on the move again. It's an interesting anomaly to have entrance and exit stamps from the same border crossing with different dates! Now to get some sleep...]

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