In summer 99 I planed one of my longest trips until now. It should start whit a flight to Moscow where Alexander the travel agent brought us to our hotel ,a bit outside from the center, where we spent two nights ,before we took the train for the first section of a Trans-Siberian .We were walking for hours in Moscow and I could have spent a other day walking ,in this huge city.
How to get a visa: actually I bought the trip to Beijing over a travel agency in Switzerland. But still it was my job to organize all the visas. So I started whit the Mongolian one which took one week .As second the Russian one which was valid for three months (cheaper then a two week-visa ) . To get a Russian visa you need a invitation from Russia (vitamin B, a family or a friends home to stay ,or a booked hotel, one night is enough) .The Chinese visa was at last because it starts running off on the date of issue.
the kremel out of LEGO
Young kids earning their money playing-Russian melodies in the middle of the marketplace
Moscow - Irkutsk , was the first section of a beautiful trip through Siberia by train. In a 4 person cabin ,that's where we spend the first 4 days whit other two travelers.
Blankets and sheets had to be paid for use ,at least hot water was for free, to make soups tees etc... so life on the train for such a long time was better then I expected. Also to meet Russians on the train was a excellent experience which brought me closer to their culture .And I'm sure I'll go back to Russia. There are no plans jet ,but soon there will be .
The train stopped all two to five hours on he whole trip to Irkutsk, where we had time to buy food from the farmers ,selling their perishables on the stations. From boiled eggs over smoked fish, berries and other different fruits. So there was always a reason to leave the train, specially for me .I love to eat, all day long .
Lake Baikal pearl of Siberia
The day we arrived in Irkutsk we asked the lady we stayed, about the Baikal area and the boat connections between the Villages, because there is not always a connection to each village and especially not every day so we had to plan the next days quite early enough. With 1600 meter depth and 20% of all the freshwater the deepest and biggest lake in the world.
Around Baikal there are deep forest's decorated with big cliffs ,they offer a good view over the place .There is a lot of trails who bring you to great spots around the Lakeside. On my daytrips I met a lot of peoples ,some of them were camping since two weeks close to the water, which is so clear peoples say ,that if you drop a big stone in the lake , you can recognize it until it reached a depth of 40m.There are also some small beaches where locals use to lay in the sand to warm up themselves. Water temp. rises to a max of 14 degrees Celsius, so nothing for me .But at least I touched the surface with my feet once! In the north peoples say U can see seals ,and if you're lucky bears ,there's also lots of big birds hunting for fishes .
Around Listvjanka there are lots of mountains you can climb where you have nice views on top of Listvjanka ,the first village from Irkutsk by boat up north.
Virginie and Rita a old lady who invited
for tee and breakfast, we slept at her daughters place
a beauty of a house ,fresh food from the garden and sauna!!
beautiful wooden carvings around the houses in Siberia
the cardrivers seem to get used to it, groups of lazy cows are walking and even laying in the middle of the roads .
A little village on Olkhon island .It takes about 12 hours
from the south of the lake by speedboat.
Andrey and Zhana's family where we spent the last night at the lake Baikal delicious food from the garden ,berries from the forest and Siberian honey ,sauna again and really nice people!!!
After we spent ten amazing days in the Baikal area, we got the next ticket from our agent to carry on over Ulan Ude to Ulaan bataar the capital of Mongolia. Early in the morning we went on the train for the next 3 day untill we will arrive in the capital of Mongolia . Slowly the peoples faces changed into a mongolian look .Faces get larger and eyes get smaler, the train still stopped every few hours for food and to check the weels and of course they fill up the missing water ....
On the Mongolian border the train stopped and left our wagon alone at the station for about 8 hours ,in the mean time the police controlled our passports,and visas. There was enough time for eating and loundry in the toilet. I heard peoples should change their currancy in Chinese Yuan at this station, but of course when we arrived the office was closed .Also food is there softice and chocolate!!
Also the forests we passed for days are gone,here it'is just grass grass and once more grass all over the beautyful landscape. Cloudes shadows are passing, and like magic the light changes each second, hills in the back get lighted up than the light moves slowely over the mountains, in the same time there's a other sunshine passing a mountaintop in front ......theres so much variations the whole day long...
Our train just passed the first gers (mongolian houses), early in the morning ,and everybody on the train was streching it's head out of the window to enjoy the whole scenery in the morning sun. There's group of horses guided by horseman far out in the fields ,and soon we could see Ulaan baatar .
We spent the first night at a local familys place, the next day we left by minibus in direction Hölvsgöl lake north-west of Ulan baator. On the way we use to visit the Erdeni Cu monaster close to the ex - capital of Mongolia Karakorin. In our bus were a few local man singing and drinking sleeping and singing again ,the our shadows were long when we reached Karakorin .In courtyard we slept in a nice little house with two guys from hungary.Next morning the owner made some trouble about the price we supposed to pay .He asked for three times more than he told us the night before! But strong we were, we sad no!,forget it!,no!, He finely got so angry that he allmost smacked Virginie on her head ,so the whole group of us just left his yard after we gave him the money we were told before.Bastard !!!
< the daughter collecting and separating goat and sheep by comand
enjoying the nice landscape ,after the truck left us out in a big field While there was no bus around we started walking out of town to get a lift on a passing vehicle. We walked for about 2 hours, finely we could climb on a truck who took us close to the city we wanted to go .On the route we saw a accident ,of a truck that fell off the road on it's back, where the peoples use to sit ! Nobody dead exept the truck but.... some times I'm really thankful to the controling power on this earth that I'm still in a bet every night!!Stuck in a town called Cécérlég where the 4-weel drivers asked for 70 US dollars to bring us up to Mörön for about 4 hours drive!Crazy! The time to reach this village was about 2 days by truck and bus for 9 US dollars !So our desicion was to go back to Ulaan bataar and try the northern road over Bulgan, Möron to Hatgal .
While we where planning the next trip, we met a couple from france/nederlande .So me and my girl- friend agreed to go to the gobi with them . 25 US/day driver called Bilgay ,and a 4-weel russian bus ,a really cool mobile !So we did some shopping for the next 10 days and off we went for the next adventure .There are some waterpumps in the fields close to villages so we started with 20 liters .
On the road we saw wild donkeys, antilopes ,eagles big like a child ! marmots ,hamsters ,snakes , lizards, big groups of camels, and of course sheep and sheep and sheep. I had sheep for lunch sheep for dinner and sheep for breakfast ,served with housemade cheese and Irak (fermented horsemilk 3%).Jammi ! ! !
What do you like for dinner ? "Maybe goat?" "Why not !" we responded (different than sheep I guess, at least it sounds different) so the older son of the family left the ger and came back with a goat on his horse .The father of the family took the horns and rammed them in the floor. Bilgay had to the legs and with a thin knife they cut a small hole in the trough. >>>
If you really want to (see blood) learn how to prepare a peeled goat ...click here!!!
The next morning the driver followed a road out of nowhere, sometimes we saw gers far out in the grassland, otherwise everything looked the same ,sand and grass, the whole day long .Here and there marmots hide in their holes ,or a little fox is running away .In the first days we told Bilgay to go closer to see it better or even to get it on our films .But instead to drive close to it he pushed his foot on the gas and with 80km/h he took off from the road and went diagonal through the fields to get this fox ,dead or alive ,it must bring a lot of money if he could sell it .The only thing I saw in front of our bus was a bushy tail of a fuc..... stressed fox (he never got one) running like hell. So after a bit of action he went back to the road and carried on .This happened three times !!! I think you can imagine what happened with the 150 antelopes on the horizon?! Lots of vibrations!!!
Not far from the road we met a family who was busy to carry peaces of wood off their truck ,our driver explained that will be the beginning of a new home of these peoples ,so we stopped to learn how a ger was built.
Further north of the Gobi we passed Erdeni Cu again, a nice monastery surrounded by a white wall. There are some shops where tourists buy souvenirs and antiques .If you leave the backdoor there's a stone turtels hidden in between high grass ,about 200m to walk.
Another night out of nowhere on the way back from the Gobi desert ,after Bilgay couldn't find the gers we supposed to sleep in .
On the way back to Ulaan baatar we entered a national park where they breed wild Presvalsky horses , they were imported from different zoo's around the world .The park has a center station not far from the entrance ,where they show pictures about the transport of these horses ,also about other animals living in the area .
Some animals you can find in Mongolia ,like this little Iguana on a sanddune in the Gobi desert
This hamster looking one lives in the mountain area ,sitting in front of its home to get the last sunshine before it's getting cold .
In the mountains there's lots of white and blue-colored Edelweiss ,on little bushes we heard a loud cri..cri..cri.. so we started looking for this insect. Finely we found it ,it was a creature who belongs to the family of the grasshoppers.
Eighteen days were over and I picked up the next train tickets for Beijing in the travel office . Make sure that your reservation is early enough ,there's no chance to get tickets ten days before U leave!! depending on the season.
Two days left and we're back in a four-man cabin on the transsiberian train on the way to Beijing for the next 36 hours .On the Chinese border the train went into a huge hall at night ,where they lift up each wagon to change the wheels. With a loud whoooop.... the driver makes signals for the workers when he's on the right level to release the wagon .In about 1,5 hours the train left the hall and we carried on in the dark of the night ,on smaller rails!
In the morning everybody was on the windows again ??The great wall of china!! After each turn the train made ,we could see the wall hiding between the huge mountains. Of course each and everyone made photos like crazy .On the last kilometers we started go get ready for Beijing ,reading the city map once more to check where our guesthouse should be .For 35 Yuan we stayed in the Jinhua hotel in the south of Beijing a swimming pool and a stinky river just beside, but actually a good location.
From now on my real traveling started without any prebooked tickets ...