Holiday 2002 Trans Mongolia Express and China

Flag of Russia Flag of Mongolia
Flag of China


Russia, the largest country in the world, spans two continents, Europe and Asia. The country stretches almost 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) from west to east.
Covering more than one-ninth of the world’s land area, Russia can be divided into three broad geographic regions: European Russia, the territory lying west of the Ural Mountains; Siberia, stretching east from the Urals; and far eastern Russia, including the extreme southeast and the Pacific coast.
European Russia is primarily a rolling plain with an average elevation of about 180 metres (590 feet). The topography is sometimes rugged, particularly in the north, where a maximum elevation of 1,191 metres (3,908 feet) is reached in the Khibiny Mountains of the central Kola Peninsula. The southern border of European Russia includes the young, seismically active Caucasus Mountains, which stretch between the Black and Caspian seas. The Greater Caucasus reach a maximum elevation of 5,642 metres (18,510 feet) on Mount El’brus, an extinct volcano and the highest peak in Europe. Other lesser known mountain ranges continue northeast along the country’s southern border.
Heading east, the European Plain meets the relatively low Ural Mountains. The highest elevation is in the north at Mount Narodnaya (People’s Mountain), at 1,894 metres (6,214 feet).
East of the Urals, the plain region continues, entering Siberia in the West Siberian Plain, an expansive and poorly drained flat area that is generally marshy or swampy. Just east of the Yenisey River begins the rolling upland of the Central Siberian Plateau. Elevations here average about 500 to 700 metres (1,650 to 2,300 feet). Rivers in this region have dissected or eroded the surface and in some places have formed deep canyons.
East of the Lena River, a series of mountains and basins make up the East Siberian Uplands. The region’s higher ranges, such as the Khrebet Cherskogo and Kolyma Range, generally reach maximum elevations of about 2,300 to 3,200 metres (7,550 to 10,500 feet). Nearer to the Pacific Ocean in far eastern Russia, the mountains become higher and steeper, and volcanic activity becomes prevalent. On the Kamchatka Peninsula, 23 of 120 volcanoes are currently active. The highest cone, Mount Klyuchevskaya, reaches an elevation of 4,750 metres (15,584 feet). This volcanic mountain chain continues southward in the Kuril Islands.Russia borders more countries than any other nation. In the extreme southeast, it adjoins the northeastern tip of North Korea. On the south, it borders China, Mongolia, Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea. On the southwest, it borders Ukraine, and on the west it is bordered by Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, the Gulf of Finland, Finland, and Norway. The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Province is situated between Lithuania and Poland.
To the north, Russia is also bordered by the Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas, which are all arms of the Arctic Ocean. On the east, it is bordered by several arms of the Pacific Ocean: the Bering Strait, the Bering Sea, and the seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Russia encompasses several distinct climate zones, which generally extend across the country in east-west belts. Along the Arctic coast a tundra climate extends south in the far eastern region on upper mountain slopes. To the south is a broad belt of subarctic climate that reaches the city of St Petersburg and broadens east of the Urals to envelop most of Siberia and far eastern Russia.
A more temperate continental climate occupies most of European Russia. This belt is widest in the west, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, then tapering eastward to include a narrow strip of the southern West Siberian Plain. It is also found in extreme southeast Russia. Moscow, which lies in this climate zone, averages -9°C (15°F) in January and 19°C (66°F) in July.
A broad belt of drier steppe climate with colder winters begins along the Black Sea coast and extends northeast across the lower Volga Valley, the southern Urals, and the southern part of western Siberia. It continues eastward in isolated mountain basins along the extreme fringes of Siberia and far eastern Russia, and in the North Caucasian Plain.
The country’s harsh climate reflects its high latitude and the absence of moderating maritime influences. Winters are long and cold, and summers are short and relatively cool. Temperature extremes are common. The coldest winter temperatures occur in eastern Siberia. Verkhoyansk, in the northern part of the region, is often called the “cold pole of the world”. During January, temperatures average -49°C (-56°F) and have plummeted to close to -68°C (-90°F). Although absolute temperatures during winter are somewhat higher along the Arctic and Pacific coasts, the winds are strong, dropping wind-chill factors to below -50°C (-58°F). In northern regions, frequent featureless, overcast skies, particularly during winter, have earned the name pasmurno, or “dull, dreary weather”. During December, Moscow averages 23 days with overcast skies.
The same conditions that make for cold temperatures during winter in the northeast—isolation from the sea and narrow valleys between mountains—produce air stagnation in summer, which allows for strong heating under nearly continuous daylight periods at these high latitudes. Temperature extremes in Verkhoyansk have fallen to -68°C (-90°F) and risen to 35°C (95°F)—the world’s largest temperature range at 102.8°C (185°F).
Annual precipitation in most of the country is only light to modest. Cool air has little capacity to hold water vapour. Across the European Plain, average annual precipitation decreases from more than 800 millimetres (31 inches) in western Russia to about half that along the Caspian Sea coast.
Throughout Siberia and the far eastern region, annual precipitation ranges from 508 to 813 millimetres (20 to 32 inches), with more in higher elevations and less in interior basins.


The topography of Mongolia consists mainly of a plateau of about 914 to 1,524 metres (about 3,000 to 5,000 feet) in elevation, broken by mountain ranges in the north and west. The Altai in the southwest are the highest points in the country. The Gobi Desert covers a wide arid tract in the central and southeast areas.

Mongolia’s climate is harsh, with temperatures ranging from -30° to -15°C (-22° to 5°F) in winter and 10° to 27° C (50° to 81° F) in summer. Winters are dry, and summer rainfall seldom exceeds 380 millimetres (15 inches) in the mountains and 125 millimetres (5 inches) in the desert.

Almost 90 per cent of Mongolia is either pasture or desert. Its fragile soils are prone to overgrazing—the country has one of the world’s highest ratios of livestock to people. Agricultural production has been on the rise since 1980, but it has not kept up with population growth. Access to urban sanitation is good, but safe water is scarce in rural areas.

The burning of soft coal and the concentration of factories in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, have severely polluted the air. The country also suffers from deforestation, desertification, and soil erosion. Currently, 4 per cent (1992) of the country is protected, with the government having established 12 conservation zones. Among these is the Big Gobi Nature Preserve, 5 million hectares (12.4 million acres) in area.


Mountains occupy about 43 per cent of China’s land surface; mountainous plateaus account for another 26 per cent; and basins, predominantly hilly in terrain and located mainly in arid regions, cover approximately 19 per cent of the area. Only 12 per cent of the total area can be classified as plains.

The three longest river systems in China are the Yangzi, Huang He, and Xi Jiang, all of which flow in a generally west to east direction to the Pacific Ocean. About 50 per cent of the total land area of China drains to the Pacific. Ten per cent drains to the Indian and Arctic oceans. The remaining 40 per cent have no outlet to the sea and drain to the arid basins of the west and north, where the streams either evaporate or percolate to form deep underground water reserves. The Tarim He is principal among these streams.
The northernmost major stream of China is the Amur, which forms most of the northeastern border with Russia. The major river of North China is the Huang He, called “China’s Sorrow” because of its devastating flooding throughout history.
The Yangzi River of central China is the longest river in Asia. A major transport artery, the Yangzi rises near the source of the Huang He, has a vast drainage basin, and enters the sea at Shanghai. The most important river system of southern China is the Xi Jiang.
Most of the important lakes of China are situated along the middle and lower Yangzi Gorges. The two largest in the middle section are Dongting Hu and Poyang Hu. In summer, they increase their area by two to three times, serving as reservoirs for excess water. The Tibetan Plateau contains many large saline lakes. The largest of these is the marshy Qinghai Hu.

The Asian monsoon exerts the primary control on China’s climate. In winter, cold, dry winds blow out of the high-pressure system of central Siberia, bringing low temperatures to all regions north of the Yangzi River and drought to most of the country. In summer, warm, moist air flows inland from the Pacific Ocean, producing rainfall in the form of cyclones. There is much less rain further from the sea and on leeward sides of mountains. The remote basins of the northwest receive little precipitation. Summer temperatures are remarkably uniform throughout most of the country, but winters are characterized by extreme variations in temperature between north and south.
Southeastern China, from the Yangzi Gorges southwards, has a subtropical climate that becomes distinctly tropical in the extreme south. Summer temperatures in this region average 26°C (79°F). Average winter temperatures decline from 18°C (64°F) in the tropical south to about 4°C (39°F) along the Yangzi River. An average of eight typhoons a year, mainly between July and November, bring high winds and heavy rains to the coastal areas. The mountainous plateaus and basins to the southwest also have subtropical climates, with considerable local variation. As a result of higher elevations, summers are cooler, and as a consequence of protection from northerly winds, winters are mild. The Sichuan Basin, which has an 11-month growing season, is noted for high humidity and cloudiness. Rainfall, especially abundant in summer, exceeds 990 millimetres (39 inches) annually in nearly all parts of southern China.
North China, which has no mountain ranges to form a protective barrier against the flow of air from Siberia, experiences cold, dry winters. January temperatures range from 4°C (39°F) in the extreme south to about -10°C (about 14°F) north of Beijing and in the higher elevations to the west. July temperatures generally exceed 26°C (79°F) and, in the Huabei Pingyuan, approach 30°C (86°F). Almost all the annual rainfall occurs in summer. Annual precipitation totals are less than 760 millimetres (30 inches) and decrease to the northwest, which has a drier, steppe climate. Year-to-year variability of precipitation in these areas is great; this factor, combined with the possibility of dust storms or hail, makes agriculture precarious. Fog occurs on more than 40 days a year in the east and on more than 80 days along the coast.
The climate of Dongbei Pingyuan is similar to, but colder than, that of North China. January temperatures average -18°C (0°F) over much of the Manchurian Plain, and July temperatures generally exceed 22°C (72°F). Rainfall, concentrated in summer, averages about 510 to 760 millimetres (20 to 30 inches) in the east but declines to about 300 millimetres (12 inches) west of the Da Hinggan Ling.
Desert and steppe climates prevail in the Mongolian Borderlands and the northwest. January temperatures average below -10°C (below 14°F) everywhere except in the Tarim Basin. July temperatures generally exceed 20°C (68°F). Annual rainfall totals less than 250 millimetres (10 inches), and most of the area receives less than 100 millimetres (4 inches).
Its high elevation means that the Tibetan Plateau has an arctic climate; July temperatures remain below 15°C (below 59°F). The air is clear and dry throughout the year, with annual precipitation totals of less than 100 millimetres (4 inches) everywhere except in the extreme southeast.

The trip

Day 1: Amsterdam - Moskou

Day 2: Moskou

Day 3: Moscow

Day 4: Trans Mongolia Express - Russia

Day 5: Trans Mongolia Express - Russia

Day 6: Trans Mongolia Express - Russia

Day 7: Trans Mongolia Express - Russia

Day 8: Trans Mongolia Express - Mongolia

Day 9: Trans Mongolia Express - China

Day 10: Beijing

Day 11: Beijing

Day 12: Beijing - Xian

Day 13: Xian

Day 14: Xian - Chongqing

Day 15: Chongqing - Yangzi River

Day 16: Three Gorges

Day 17: Yangzi River - Yichang

Day 18: Yichang - Sanjiang

Day 19: Yichang - Sanjiang

Day 20: Sanjiang - Yangxi

Day 21: Yangxi - Zhaoxing - Yangxi

Day 22: Yangxi -Longsheng - Longji

Day 23: Longji

Ping An

Day 24: Longji - Yangsho

Day 25: Yangsho

Day 26: Yangsho

Day 27: Yangsho - Guilin - Guangzhou - Hong Kong

Day 28: Hong Kong

Day 29: Hong Kong - Amsterdam

This document was last updated on 10/01/04