A couple of pics of two Swiss cyclists

Trip Start Sep 04, 2007
Trip End Nov 20, 2007

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Still Tuesday, September 11th

I didn't actually get off the train in Jining myself, but a couple of Swiss cyclists did, and I figured this would be a good excuse for a quick story and a couple of pictures.

While I was standing on the train platform in Ulaan Baator, a couple of attractive cyclists with fully loaded touring bikes passed me and smiled. I'd already grown accustomed to the fact that, even in Ulaan Baator, westerners don't run up to one another, hug like long-lost family, and sob with glee, so a pleasant acknowledgement was fine. Heck, I'd seen several westerners a day, on average, most of whom I had no desire to hug, much less cry with.

Shortly, the train rolled in, the conductor helped me figure out where to go (the text on the ticket was in Cyrillic), I hauled my bags into my sleeping compartment, and I hoped like mad that I'd have the place to myself. Blind faith in my fellow man is not one of my strong suits, and I didn't want to have to learn to trust a total stranger in the few hours before bedtime so I could get some sleep.

Barely had I opened my book (still finishing the book on Genghis Khan at this point) when one of the cyclists appeared in my door to ask whether I spoke English and, ascertaining that, whether she could stash their bags in my compartment for safekeeping until they got their bikes on the train. Sure.

To make a long story short (also not one of my strong suits, as you surely know by now), Simone, Clizia, and I chatted on and off over the next nearly 24 hours, until they got off the train in Jining. A few months ago, they quit their jobs as a medical intern and a midwife, respectively, to bicycle from the northwest corner of Mongolia to Ulaan Baator. They had covered the distance so much faster than they'd anticipated that they had an extra couple of weeks before their plane left Beijing for home. Less than enthused about cycling across the desert, they decided to take the train to Jining and bike from there into Beijing.

By the way, I lucked out and did get the compartment to myself if you don't count Simone and Clizia's bikes. They had company in the other two beds in their compartment, so they had to stash their bikes in the corridor. When the conductor noticed the three of us talking and realized that I was alone in a compartment, he asked (mimed, really, like most of my communication lately) whether the bikes (in bike bags) could go onto my spare lower bunk. They were pleased, and I didn't need the space, so I bike-sat for a night.
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anamioka on

The Modern Peter Fleming
Your travels in Mongolia and China remind me a little of Peter Fleming's adventures in News from Tartary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_from_Tartary, esp. the part about running into two Swiss cyclists. Peter Fleming was accompanied by Ella Maillart, a well known Swiss adventurer.

scottk on

Re: The Modern Peter Fleming
Thanks, I'll check it out when I get home. I tried just now and got an error message in Chinese, then tried just getting to http://en.wikipedia.org and got what looks, at first glance, like the same error message. Someone seems to have decided that Wikipedia is evil.

scottk on

Re: News From the West
Many thanks for the heads up, Gary. I've picked up a couple of copies of a Beijing English-language newspaper, but distribution is spotty, and I hadn't seen one in a few days. Thankfully, the impact of the typhoon was not as great as predicted:


I expect to be in Shanghai around October 8th. Cleanup should be mostly complete by then, I hope.


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