22.10.2011 - 23.10.2011 22 °C
Border pissing contest
There were some Mongolian words and at that her husband who was sat in the front passenger seat gave her a small orange bowl, there were some shuffling around in the Jeep I was in, it was hot and cramped. The husband got out of the car as did the son who was sat in the back with me. There was only me and her left in the car and something was going on, and I had a good idea what it was. I was in a Russian jeep that had its entire interior stripped to its bear metal and to open the door there was a shoe lace probably connected to the door catch. I started yanking at it to get me out and I only managed to escape just as she had begun pulling her knickers down. I wasn’t even in China yet, in fact we were still in no-man’s land, territory between Mongolian and China, having just been stamped out of Mongolia we were waiting in this beat up vehicle to cross into China.
I had decided to go the long way to Beijing by taking local trains rather than the Trans-Siberian. The route is still the same but you have to get off the train in the Mongolian border town of Zamyn-Uud, cross the border yourself in a bus or taxi to the next town or Erlian, China where you pick up the onward train to Beijing. On the Trans-Siberian you do the entire border crossing in the comfort of your train, but I had heard that this border crossing was interesting, so I decided to take a look. So I travelled to Zamyn-Uud cross the border by car or bus as you cant walk across, and then hop on a train on the other side in Erlian. Simple? Not in Central Asia. This border crossing from Mongolia to China has got to go down as one of the most dysfunctional and craziest systems in existence.
I got off the train and it was easy to spot where to go for a lift across the border. I got bundled into a small jeep with about 5 others. We were blocked in from another jeep that had parked directly in front us, no problem, 5 guys rolled it down the road into the back of another idle Jeep. So we set off as if this was whacky races, in the car with 1 Mongol driver and 5 Chinese. The driver we had was a bit of a rookie, quite young but broad if not a little overweight, his peers were all weathered veterans and he was competing with them for business. We shot across a field towards the border where I could see the line of cars and trucks waiting in line to cross the border, giving the false sense that there was some kind of order.
The Russian Jeeps, and there were many, were managed a little bit differently. There was a separate line about 300 yards away from the border, all the Jeeps lined up literally bumper to bumper, shunting each one forward as they smacked into their rear. The drivers would all simultaneously get out of their Jeeps and congregate around a car. Inside the car in the back seat was an Army official, he would see one person at a time and no more. He would be driven back and forth from the border to the line of Jeeps. Each time he arrived the Jeep drivers would get excited. A batch of tickets would be given and then a batch of Jeeps would horse down towards the border for the next step in the saga.
Our Rookie got his pass and I could see his big frame bouncing towards the car, he got in the car and shot to the next point where the cars and jeeps were crammed so tightly together they may as well have been all welded together. All the Jeeps were fighting for space, in a mad frantic rush to get across stealing an inch at a time. Just as we had managed to squeeze our way to the front of the line, the goalposts in this calamity production moved. The new orders were that a single line needed to be formed. But the Jeeps were refusing to move so a big army official began throwing rocks at us, big fooking rocks, he then ran at us and booted the drivers side door in. We moved, but only in a circle, still sniffing at the entrance to the border. A Chinese girl behind me said “Boss is coming” which kind of explained what was happening, they wanted to restore order before the big man saw the carnage. The Jeeps were now circling the Army like a blood thirsty pack of wolves, they were inching forward and then backing off when the rocks would come but they weren’t backing down just yet. Next a soldier stood right in front of the cars acting as a human shield to stop them from getting across. This was going crazy, why didn’t he just join the back of the queue? He got out of the Jeep and squared up to the big Army man in a big Army suit, shouting and screaming, but he was totally outnumbered. Things were getting a bit ridiculous and then everything just stopped, the army turned to face a precession of cars when the saluted, once the cars were out of sight, carnage started all over again. The Jeeps in front started revving and managed to penetrate the border, my guy was stood still arguing when he seen that there was an opening. He turned and ran as fast as his body would let him, but his belly was working a different rhythm to his body, almost smacking him in the face at every stride. He shoved the army aside and drove almost over a couple as he sped off across the Mongolian border, still shouting at the guy as he passed.
I then had to pass through the border checkpoint on foot and have my bags examined, but this was relatively civilised.
Once I got out I was grabbed by some guy who put me in a Jeep with some different people, is this how it worked? (I later found out that he thought I was another traveller, us westerners, we all must look the same.) So I ended up in a different Jeep with an older Mongolian Family. We had to tear down the road to get to the next border control. Our driver tried to be casually drive by all the waiting cars and sneak through the Chinese barricade, our car was surrounded straight away by Chinese who were not going to dick around, so he made a retreat, nice try though. Instead of going to the back of the line, he chose a point by a normal civilian car. That poor car and those poor people in that car must have been scared shitless, the jeeps tore it to bits when they started moving, our driver side swiped it and I saw another car do the same on the other side. Then things were quiet for a while, the China border had shut temporarily and no cars would pass. It was a chance to relax for a while.
And that was when Mrs Mongol decided to pee in a small orange bowl. I had managed to escape just in time once I figured out how to pull on the shoe lace in the right way. I saw her exit the other side with bowl in hand, she emptied it and then put it back in her bag. The family then decided it would be a good idea for them to walk across the border from here. It was not surprising, when I got back in the jeep I realised that the bowl must have been too small for Mrs Mongol, but that hadn’t mattered. She must have carried on regardless, pissing all over her hands; the back of the Jeep was flooded. I had to lift my bag off the floor to stop it from getting wet.
I got through the Chinese border and the driver of the Jeep was supposed to wait for me so that he could drop me in town to the bus station. It was no surprise to me that he didn’t turn up, probably noticed the pool of stinking ammonia behind him and figured enough was enough.
The shamed family stood there outside the Chinese embassy, expecting to get this lift, I waited with them for a while until I realised it was pointless, so I had to resort to hitchhiking into town.
Welcome to China….
Russian Jeeps, bumper to bumper
cranking the motor to get it to start....
the church on spilled pi**