Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Border Crossing 8/11- 8/12

On the morning of August 12th Brad woke me up, letting me know he saw Lake Baikal and it was probably about time to get off the train.

The previous morning we thought we would have our own train cabin on the ride from Ulan Batur to Irkutsk, Russia. We were the only people in our four person cabin as we rode through Mongolia. The windows did not open and the conductors continued to close our cabin door. After we played a few rounds of cards it was obvious that if we stayed perfectly still we would be less hot. And as we laid there I thought it was only fair that I too remove my shirt. In fear that we would suffocate I got out my fan. As I lay on one side of the cabin, Brad in the other, both of us shirtless and me waving a fan, a Mongolian passenger opened the door, visibly annoyed that we were occupying the entire cabin. I put my shirt on and the male and female Mongolian pair brought all their luggage into the cabin.


Our cabin mates did not speak English, but we slowly learned much about them. Upon first glance they seemed to be mother and son. The closer we got to the border the more stuff this pair pulled out, primarily clothes. They began stuffing these clothes into the clothes they were already wearing. The woman was putting socks down her pants. And the boy small pants under his own. We were sharing the cabin with smugglers. As we walked around the train car it was clear that every Mongolian person on the train was a smuggler. The mother and son pair put a leather jacket on our side of the cabin, to make it appear to be ours. As we got closer the duo filled out customs forms. And once that was all finished they could only wait and relax. The boy then put his feet on the woman's lap and she began stroking them. It was then clear that it was not a mother and son pair.
We had been warned about Russian customs officers. But, at this point, I was far more nervous for the smugglers than our legitimate documents. Somehow our cabin mates and the rest of the smugglers on the train were let past border patrol. We then all had to get off the train and wait while train cars were changed before we entered Russia.

Trans-Siberian Express

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