Community Highlights Asia ALL THINGS MONGOLIAN

Well the sixth day of incubation passed with nothing falling off nor any uncontrollable sneezes, so we could get on with enjoying our trip. Except of course that getting out of Russia and into Mongolia was a task taking 7 hours. I would love to re-engineer the processes involved in going from one country to another in a car. I could get it down to about 5 minutes per vehicle, and guarantee that anyone smuggling anything larger than a Marmot would be detained at Vladimir Putins pleasure. Instead for a start both borders open at different times, and just because you have got through one border does not mean that the other one does not close before you can get through to it. 7 hours is trying for the patience even of an Englishmen but we were witness to a bout of fisticuffs as tired of waiting people just push in. The laugh is that it’s not pushing in that annoys the authorities in this case the pusher in had missed having his wheels sprayed with Dettol.
Anyway our first night was spent with a lovely German couple coming the other way who arbitrarily had been refused entry to Russia because their visa didn’t start until midnight. They were worried about sleeping near the border as crime seems more rife there even though any miscreants would easily be caught at the border as they waited patiently for 7 hours to make their escape. For some reason they felt safe with Janet and me, even though in her passport photo Janet bears a striking resemblance to Myra Hindley…and come to think of it you never see them together do you.
Next day we set off for Olgii, only a matter of 100k or so but 50/50 tar or washboard. There was a lovely lady who runs the Travellers Ger Camp in Olgii who speaks perfect English. Of 3 million Mongolians only 2 speak English, and her son is the other one, and they were able to give us the complete lowdown on the forthcoming Nadaam Festival, which does not occur everywhere or even on the same day across the country. On the basis of her advice we chose to spend Nadaam in Hovd, which seems to be an A list festival. Bad roads meant a couple of nights bushcamping, and we were none too impressed with Hovd even though we needed to stay in a hotel to clean up.
Mongolia is a different culture for sure as we passed a man on the roadside to Hovd taking his pet Eagles for their daily constitutional. Then when we get to Hovd trying to find a shop or a restaurant is well nigh impossible since shops do not have windows, and their doors look just like a private house. You may ask how then do shops attract custom, and this is done with tannoys which blare out in competition with each other who is selling what today. Apart from the noise pollution most tannoys are on a 3 minute loop so the same thing is blasted out 14 hours a day 7 days a week. We had to bear 3 days of this bedlam but Nadaam when it came was worth it.
There are 4 sports in the Nadaam games. There is wrestling …..where the fat geezer always wins…. Bone flicking (flick small bones from the leg of a deer at a target…..the old geezer always wins, horse racing…where the littlest geezer always wins, and archery, where the geezer with no wonky eyes wins. I have a tip for the organisers of Nadaam…have a Victor Ludorum say like the pentathlon (I don’t know what 4 sports is). The big geezer would be useless at horse riding, the bone flicker would not have the strength to draw the bow…and Jessica Ennis would scoop the pool…QED.
Just one last story on Nadaam as this is getting a bit long. Our hotel was empty before Nadaam but during it it became horribly rowdy. One night at 3.00am the noise was so bad from the room two doors down the corridor Janet got up and found the door of the room open , and she just poked her head in to say “for fucks sake keep the noise down” Janet here ……. I very politely asked them to PLEASE SHUT UP This didn’t work so 10 minutes later I was dispatched to said room with a little more authority. As I shoved my head round the door I discovered the 4 semi finalists in the wrestling that afternoon. I take it back… they were not fat, and they could easily have rendered my body as spares for the bone flicking contest next day, so I wished them all a Happy Nadaam and beat a strategic retreat. Shame I didn’t have Jessica Ennis with me…..
Next day we set off for a couple of bush camps on the 400k journey to Altai., and on the way quite by accident came upon more horse riding with jockeys aged from 8-12 yrs riding flat out for 20k’s. These are not ordinary horses and over 2/3 miles would not trouble a class hurdler like Galant Eye but they do keep going, and if necessary you can fire an arrow whilst going full tilt.
Its amazing that Mongolia is so sparsely populated you can drive 200k without seeing a soul and then a road side hotel appears. Twice we stayed at these weird locations, marvelling at the business model which deemed they should be built, as on both occasions we seemed to be the only customers. Altai to Bayacangor was horrible roads maximum speed 10mph, and no hotels, only steppe. This has its advantages as you can stop simply anywhere, and on the worst stretch of this road Janet simply was in her element. We could get through mud, rivers, and really any conditions, but the locals were hopeless. Janet became the arbiter of the right line to take through mud, and 10 times out of ten she was right and the locals gave smiling thanks as they followed our route. Not so a poor Frenchman who got stuck twice and had to be pulled out twice, on the last occasion even the emergency puller got stuck.
From here the conditions got much better but despite the popular belief Mongolia does not have jaw dropping scenery,….what it has is a culture all its own, and a huge dose of tranquillity. If you suffer from acute anxiety this is the place to come…there is simply no stress….except of course in Ulaan Baatar, which is the second most polluted city in the world, and has traffic jams virtually 24 hours a day. If there are no traffic jams the authorities send out a squad of Traffic Police to direct traffic manually and this normally gets things back to the usual mayhem.
Still the verdict from Janet would be “fantastic”, and from the more discerning traveller (me) great initially but easy to get bored with mutton dumplings and horses milk.
Si Thee

This featured blog entry was written by facawis from the blog The Facawis go Round the World.
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By facawis

Posted Wed, Jul 24, 2019 | Comments