A couple of pics of two Swiss cyclists
Trip Start Sep 04, 2007
19Trip End Nov 20, 2007
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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
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.