Published: October 20th 2006September 22nd 2006
So as you all know the Russians are noted for cutting away the red tape and bureaucracy from their systems, there train border with Mongolia is no acception. After half day on the train we reached the Russian border in the afternoon. Several hours were spent waiting for something to actually happen and wondering whether Ronan would actually be allowed out of Russia that day. After carefully minding his Russian immigration card (tiny slip of paper required to enter and leave Russia) for 22 dyas, he decided to lose it when getting on the train that morning. This led to minor pandemonium and a search more throurgh than any Russian boder check of our cabin we sweated anxiously for his faith. Turned out the old Ballinteer smile worked a charm and he managed to blag himself another one. That was guard number one who was followed in slow succession by passport control, storm troopers ransacking our cabin and customs officials (who were more interested in the beer being carried by our Mongolian cabin companions.) The whole "stream lined system" took a mere 6 hours of our young lives. Finally we crossed into Mongolia only to be greeted by the Mongolian border
control, who were thankfully a bit more efficient and managed to do it in 3 hours. We eventually arrived in Ulaanbaator early the next morning. (Mongolian trains are slow).
We were greeted by Sara our guide for the next 6 days who brought us to the Bangayol Hotel, easily our plushiest accomodation of the trip so far. After a few hours sleep we got the city tour. Ulaanbaator is starting to find its feet after Soviet occupation, and is a lively interesting city, but not over burdeoned with attractions. It does boast 2 Irish pubs, (one bizzarely called the Grand Khan) and the most dangerous drivers on earth. After visitng the main street and the square, we went for a Mongolian Barbeque and a few beers.
As part of our trip we had arranged to stay with a genuine Nomad family, herding on the Mongolian steppe. We were collected by our guide, Sara and our driver, Aduuchin (meaning horseman). We soon learned Aduuchin liked to arrive places first. Lets just say he has perfected the art of under and over taking on roundabouts and seemed to go faster the worse the road got. We set off from Ulaanbaator
Ronan For A Change
stopping off for supplies along the way. This is where we realised we would be sharing our ger with the two English couples we had previously met in Irkutsk. We also had to bring gifts for the family, including soap, toilet paper, washing powder and sweets for the kids, as advised by our guide. Apparently our suggestion of a bottle of vodka is of limited use on the Steppe.
The drive was going to take 6 hours which seemed like an awful long time for 250km, however once we reached the road we figured out why. After avoiding pot holes for an hour, we took the bold step of driving in the field parrallel to the road. As most the traffic was in the fields, the wild cows and horses grazed on the road, drinking water from the potholes.
We arrived at our camp in late afternoon and were introduced to the family. Part of the formality was to have a bowl of tea and to taste fermented mares milk. This was followed by a round of snuff, some dried yoghurt biscuits and some very old dried cheese. Then we were each shown to our ger. We had
We Admit We've Forgotten His Name - He Was A Legend By All Accounts Though
the privilege of having the ger where they dried the meat which made our ger very popular with the flies. Unfortunately then Ronan became rather ill all over the Mongolian steppe and had to retire to bed for the evening. The mares milk was the suspected cause. Ciaran spent the rest of the evening watching life in the camp and the sunset.
The nights were very cold and we had to try and keep our fire going with dried goat shit an d whatever else we could find. We also had some noisy mice for company during the night. But being the men we are we overcame it.
The next morning we headed to the Khar Khorum Buddhist Temple, and were given a guided tour. That afternoon we got the chance to ride a camel, bring in the herd and milk the mares. After dinner we had a formal gift giving cermony and had a chance to talk with the family.
Before leaving the following day we got to try on some traditional Mongolian folk costumes, and say our goodbyes to the family.
After another heartstopping car journey, we were brought to a touristy ger camp,
where we stayed for two nights. A lot of luxury compared to the last camp. We got to some archery and hiking. Our second evening there we were treated to some traditional Mongolian music and throatsinging, which was about the strangest thing we have encountered on our trip so far.
After two relaxing days we returned to Ulaanbaatar for our last night in Mongolia. In fine Mongolian style we went for a few beers and an Indian meal with Alex, James, Greg and Sarah.
We decided to stay up all night to watch Liverpool scrape a victory against Galatasary before catching our train to China at 5am.
Next stop Beijing...
There are more photos below