Following a 6am start to catch the 7.15am train from Ulan Bataar to Beijing and an interesting border crossing and bogie change interlude we arrived in Beijing the following day at 2.15pm, with mixed feelings about where we had been and what lay ahead.
The last leg of the journey was the plushest train yet…LED displays, flasks of hot water and cups provided, TV in each cabin and a clean toilet and shower! Travelling out of Mongolia the superb scenery of the Gobi desert was mixed with thousands of miles of bleak and barren shrubland, interspersed with the odd Ger camp and an abundance of carrier bags, we could see the other end of the twenty-plus carriage train winding back on us as we wound our way to our next destination.
As we got closer to the Beijing, passing mountains, frozen lakes, coal mines, industrial units, shanty towns and heading towards construction on a phenomenal scale, it dawned on us all that we were coming to the end of the Trans Siberian Railway adventure. I was overwhelmed with excitement, a sense of pride and mounting anticipation of what the rest of the year might have in store… but, more than a little sad we were coming to the end of such a terrific trip.
After experiencing more in the previous month than I could imagine in a lifetime I was exhausted, overcome with emotion and more than ready to stay in the same place for a few days. I couldn’t believe I had actually done it and it felt truly amazing!
Being part of such a fantastic group made the experience even more enjoyable, but I did feel a yearning to explore on my own, wander around Beijing without an itinerary and have the luxury of pondering over the next place to visit…maybe I could do this travelling lark after all!
And, on arrival in China’s capital I wasn’t disappointed. Our final honcho, Alex, met us at the station, took the obligatory team photo and ushered us to a not so nearby bus. I liked Beijing instantly. Much cleaner (yet even busier) than I expected, plus the heat of the sun after so much snow and ice gave an instant warm glow!
People seemed fascinated by us all and on leaving the train station we immediately hit a sea of faces offering us taxis, buses, bags, souvenirs, water or some just stopped and stared…a few even took photos!
We headed to the impressive looking (if a little pricey) Jade Youth Hostel near the Forbidden City, ran off to our rooms for a quick shower and change. Meeting for a celebratory beer in our “normal” clothes, we hardly recognised one another – clean and out of head-to-toe thermals!
After a quick tour meeting to arrange our final group day trip (to the Great Wall…I know I am a lucky girl!), we headed out for the famous “Peking Duck” and to explore our new temporary home.
Well, three countries, four cities, two towns, one settlement, a frozen lake, nearly 200 hours on a train and over 7,600km under our (slightly looser) belts…what a journey so far!