Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A tight squeeze across the border

“Ok in”

Tim and I peered into the truck that looked like boxes and suitcases were about to burst through the windows. Amongst the stacks and stacks of luggage inside there were two squashed bodies trying to make room for us to fit.

“But where is our luggage going to go? We can’t even fit in here ourselves!”

“In, in” 

The man then picks up my (almost) 25kg luggage and throws it on the roof of the van, followed by Tim’s equally heavy backpack full of all our belongings.

Tim, a cool English backpacker, and I had found ourselves on the Chinese side of the border to Mongolia in a town called Erenhot after a long 13 hour bus ride the night before.

Bumper to bumper old Russian style jeeps lined up, decorated in different colours waiting on the border to finally open at 8.30am, all amused by these tired looking foreigners trying to find a vehicle to hitch a lift to take us across the border. We settled for a van charging 40yuan each ($6AUD), but didn’t realize how much of a squeeze it would be.

First arriving in Mongolia made me realize that unless I try and learn the language, it will be a struggle to get around. There is minimal English, and now a completely new alphabet to learn (Cyrillic). Always an exciting thing when you reach a new country.

After buying our local train ticket only costing us 9600 turgiks each ($7AUD), only paying $25AUD for the bus to the border town from Beijing and then an additional $6AUD for the jeep ride the entire trip and experience across the border taking 36 hours in total and worked out significantly cheaper costing $38AUD compared to the international Trans-Mongolian train leaving from Beijing, costing 1321yuan ($200AUD) and taking 30 hours.

Quirky rainbow structure between Mongolia and China
Border building crossing from China into Mongolia
After getting through immigration we straight away came to the Erlian Train Station, a quirky place that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. The trains patiently wait to be loaded with cargo and passengers, the land beyond is flat and stretches out as far as the eye can see, a complete contrast to the striking mountain ranges in China. Blue skies, a sight I hadn’t seen in a week due to the Beijing pollution and there are no signs of chicken feet, yet.

Welcome to Mongolia. 

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