There was more stunning scenery before we reached the Chinese border. The river at Ulan Ud was also frozen solid.
We reached Zabaikalsk, the border, at 11.45am and, instead of remaining on the train as we had hoped we had to go to a large waiting room in the main building. We never did work out where everyone else went as they certainly were not with us.
We did find a café selling a very limited range of food. We opted for a pie which was kind of like a Cornish pasty. They were then zapped in the microwave which left them slightly warmed in the middle and jawbreakingly rubbery round the edges. Hardly a gourmet delight but it filled our stomachs and passed some time. The café was spotlessly clean and decorated as if it were a private dwelling. Unfortunately this photo doesn’t show the sunflowers above the small serving area.
They had removed the train to change the bogies so we felt a little vulnerable for a while. We had been told our wait would be 3 hours. 5 hours later we were allowed back on the train. Our passports had been taken away for scrutiny and we were then visited by customs officers. They were followed by Border Control who searched the compartment. They looked under the bunks, had us remove our holdall from the above door storage and felt along the pelmet at the window. Obviously looking for leprechauns trying to escape into China. We were reunited with our passports which were checked again before 9pm when the train finally moved the 800 or so yards to Manzhouli, the Chinese border.
They were obviously expecting us and had laid on a splendid firework display. The fact that it was the Chinese New Year was of course purely coincidental. As midnight approached the fireworks reached a crescendo and the noise became a cacophony. Our passports were removed again to have our visas checked and various intimidating officials marched up and down the corridor. We were questioned as to what we were taking into China and how much money we had . A sniffer dog was then brought in to check our luggage. It spent a while on one bag and kept coming back to it. That was the bag containing our prescribed medicines. A scary moment but it then seemed happy and moved out. Whew! In the meantime guards were marching up and down the platform. The train finally pulled out just before 1am.
Ice Festival here we come!