Sunday, 27 July 2008

Back to the USSR

We’ve now left Ulaanbaatar and are Russia-bound. The border is just over the hill.

We enjoyed our time in UB immensely. A few nights we headed out of town with Pete, who runs the excellent Café Amsterdam, and his girlfriend, Sarah, a VSO volunteer. We’d find a river and have a swim and a BBQ. During one such excursion to the Terej National Park we had to cross a large river, which was flowing in several channels.

On the way in we scouted it carefully and checked there were no deep sections. Beside one section there was a Land Cruiser parked up and all the cars contents drying on branches. They’d obviously got stuck in the middle somehow. On our return Peter (Lovell) took a slightly different route.
Half way across the car took a nose dive into a big hole in the river bed.
Water surged over the bonnet and half way up the windscreen. Pete floored it and Roxy somehow powered through without stopping. Amazing, especially as we’d been told whatever you do, don’t get the water over the bonnet!

Whilst Pete was recovering from his tonsillitis Dave and I headed out of town with Dochka, our translator, to do a case study. We rocked up at nomadic family and were invited into their ger.

Inside the Ger

The subject of the case study, a 64-year-old mother of ten had been forced to move from the far west of Mongolia by the changing climate. The case study is probably our best yet, especially as climate change has such potential to heavily impact the traditional nomadic lifestyle here.

We got the problems we’d had with the Landy in the Gobi fixed, at least enough to get us to Japan (fingers crossed) and Pete over his tonsillitis we finally escaped UB yesterday. Obviously, we struggled to find the correct road out of the city and took a very scenic but not particularly speedy route out of the city.

We camped up high on a col with a terrific view. As darkness set in we were treated to a full 360 degree display of lightning storms, whilst the sky above was cloud free.

We’d just called it a night and we about to drift off to sleep when the wind started to pick up and the mother of all storms hit our camp. Our tents collapsed under the Gale Force winds and Pete in particular was beaten down inside his tent by the poles. Efforts to shore up the guylines were fairly futile and one by one we retreated to the Land Rover. As I got out of my tent the pegs gave up their tentative grip on the rocky ground and the tent wrapped itself around me. After a few minutes wrestling it I managed to pin it down with the table and some rocks as the rain poured down on me.

We sat in the Landy and had a game of cards until the storm abated and we ventured outside to re-erect our sopping tents and attempt to get some sleep, praying another storm wouldn’t hit.

Morning Camp Visitor
Today we drove to within spitting distance of the border, stopping at a bow and arrow factory to see the traditional method of making the beautiful Mongolian bows. Next time you hear from us we should’ve reached Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world (hopefully Pete won’t try to ford it!).

Many thanks to everyone in UB who made our stay so much fun. If you have a copy of the UB Post or the Mongol Messenger newspapers to hand you can read all about it.

- Spike

Playing on the iPod: “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan

Police Stop Count: 24 (including two within 30 minutes when Pete decided to break some Mongolian traffic laws)

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