Missing- One Dutchman

Trip Start Jul 18, 2006
Trip End Jul 17, 2007

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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Sunday, August 6, 2006

Hi guys, will make this brief , one because it wasn' that interesting and two because the internet just decided to wipe the last 20 minutes of writing (nooooo). Our train left at 8am so we got up nice and early and got onto our little prayer mats to pray that there would be no Chinese animal traffickers! Our prayers were answered and we ended up sharing with Andy from Salford and Martin from Holland. The train journey was pretty uneventful. The scenery outside quickly turned to desert and stayed that way for a hell of a long time, which can get a bit tiring. Plus it was roasting, 35 degrees on the carriage! We had the window open for the first part of the journey but when we'd let enoug sand in to stage a sandcastle building competition we decided it may be better to leave it closed and rely on the fan that looks like it could remove several limbs with ease. Spent a lot of time sleeping! Saw several towns that actually made you a little bit sad just to look at them, let alone to contemplate the thought of ever living there! When the train did stop the entertainment came in the form of swarms of children who would crowd you with bottles of ice water crying 'one dollar' over and over (although they were slightly more useful than the children selling rocks!). It was quite sad to see in a way cos you know that there's not much else to do in town other than freeze water and sell it for a dollar.
The border crossing seemed to take forever, although the bottle of Chinngis Khan vodka that we all saw off sure helped pass the time. The only 'interesting' thing was that the border police made Beth empty her bag for no real reason (knew she was always a shifty one, she was probalbly checking for smuggled Mongolian children). At the Chinese border they moved the train into a big shed and lifted each carriage up on jacks to change the wheels as the gauges are different in the two countries, we tried to watch it all but Chinngis took over and zzzz.......
In the morning the scenery was completely changed again, the evidence of farming was about the most notable thing (unlike Mongolia where if you can't stab it to death it's not real food). At the second stop in China, about 200km outside of Beijing we asked the guard how long we had before the train left 'ten minutes' (that it a quote as well). Upon hearing this Martin rushed off down the subway (later telling us he was after some food despite having more food than the three of us put together). However, after about 1 minute the train, probably as it was running late, pulled off. We sat down and were like 'where's Martin?' After a quick search of the train and a phonecall from the station we soon realised that he hadn't got back on the train!!
After what seemed like an eternity we reached Beijing. The thing that immediately struck you (apart from the humidity) is the lack of English (tell a lie, the map had 'wecome to Beijing and the rest was in Mandarin) and the sheer number of people. We took the subway to the hostel, Andy and Aaron taking Martins bag between them and after leaving Andy at his palace-like hostel we turned up at our slightly-poorer-by-comparison Leo Hostel. After an amazing lunch we moseyed down to the other hostel for some beers with the guys from the train. After and hour or two Martin turned up with one of the oddest tales ever. He'd eaten in the guard's restaurant, posed wearing their hats, met an Australian businessman who took him out for dinner and then rode a rickshaw to the hostel, with the driver in the back as it was 'imperialistic' to have things the other way round! And that's it, the tale of the blessed missing, but now found, Dutchman. Needless to say we're all planning to get off 200km from our destination on the next train.
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