Having made it to the border town of Erenhot we were keen to get out into the wilds of Mongolia, with plans to explore the Gobi desert on the other side on our way to Ulaanbaatar (at which point the frequency of blog posts might decrease somewhat…). Before reaching the town however, there are some interesting inhabitants – a large collection of dinosaur sculptures, with a pair of diplodocus kissing across the road! This isn’t simply due to a Chinese fascination with the creatures, but because a lot of the early fossils were discovered in this area. We stopped for Giles to say Hi to a T-Rex before continuing into town. We’d also passed a large bull earlier in the day, apparently representing hard work and perseverance. Splendid! Whilst we put our feet up, Yingchu headed for the customs office to process our paperwork for planned exit the next day. And so the great bureaucratic cogs of border processes everywhere ground into action….and ground us to a halt.
The processes used at this post are, apparently, subtly different to those used at the entry port of Tianjin, and some of our paperwork didn’t satisfy them. The issue seems to centre around the declaration of weight – whilst one port considers the weight of the vehicle and contents together, the other considers each separately. The numbers on the entry and exit paperwork therefore don’t add up, with each side insisting their processes are correct and refusing to lose face by altering their maths. Whilst we waited to see who would blink first, we wandered the town doing some last bits of shopping – more rice, cigarette lighters for the stove, and stove fuel, which proved the most tricky. Kerosene is pretty easy to find in most places in the world, but not China it seems, so we’re burning petrol until we find some in Mongolia.
And so whilst we write this we have checked out of the hotel and are sat in the lobby. Apparently Tianjin have blinked and the cogs are turning, but we might yet spend another night here before we are allowed through.
Well, yesterday came and went and shortly before 5.30 we admitted defeat and checked back into the hotel. No one is completely clear as to what the problem is or where the paperwork buck stops but the result was another night in Erenhot and dinner courtesy of NAVO, which is nice. Nothing against the town itself but Erenhot isn’t exactly somewhere to cherish a few extra hours in when the wonders of the Gobi stretch out ahead of you, and when Yingchu delightedly announced she’d found somewhere extra special for dinner serving sheep’s eyes stew I had to contain my horror. In fact she had said sheep ice-stew which is something else entirely, also delicious. Phew. She then broke the news it seemed everything was ready for our exit the next day but, in a slight deviation from normal protocol, we needed to go to the customs warehouse first thing and proceed from there. Which is where I am now, enjoying the warm sun and cool air of late afternoon… Mike recently bundled into the back of a customs agent’s car to see if he and Yingchu could speed things along because the truck, it seems, is not allowed to move. Anywhere.
First border crossing: 2 days and counting, and that’s with the help of an agent. I think we’ve nailed it!
Thanks to: customs officers officers all over the world for so diligently protecting our borders…