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Published: October 6th 2017
My boots are on the ground in Mongolia and I am taking it all in, as to be expected. I decided to arrive a few days early so that I had a chance to acclimate and deal with the jet lag before I faced the camels. We are 13 hours ahead of home (central standard time) and that is quite an adjustment.
I usually figure if I can sleep on the flights, that gives me a leg up on managing jet lag and this series of flights was pretty good for that. It took nearly 30 hours of travel to get to Mongolia, so every tidbit of comfort is cherished.
The night before I left, Kyle took me out for a date night and while we were at dinner he asked if I was worried about traveling. I am sure he probably expected I would say that I was scared about being alone in a foreign country, that I was nervous the camels wouldn't respond to me, or worst case scenario, I would just be so upset about missing him I would not be able to survive! (Ok, pretty sure he did not expect me to say the last
Blue Sky Hotel
Where I am staying until I meet with the other cameleers.
one!) I think he was taken aback when I said my biggest fear was making my connecting flight in Chicago.
I had less than 45 minutes to go from a domestic flight to an international flight and, for various reasons, I was concerned I would not make it. My worrying was for naught and I made it with 5 minutes to spare! I thought it seemed strange how quickly we went through boarding, but did not think much of it. Usually the mass of people getting on an international flight creates a beehive of chaos and energy, but the terminal was light on people and particularly quiet. I just assumed I missed some of the energy since I arrived in the nick of time.
I filed in and prepared for a long flight to Beijing. Then, the flight attendant said the most magical words a traveler can ever hear..."are you comfortable being in the exit row?" I answered yes and tried not to pump my fists in excitement.
As I walked toward my seat, I tried to play it cool when I saw that not only did I have an exit row seat (leg room!!), I had
View From My Shower
I am not kidding...fantastic way to start the day.
the aisle! Giddy with excitement I started to settle in and get ready for 13 hours in the air. Then, the flight attendant approached me and said something I have not heard in over 25 years.
She told me to move to another row where the arm rests can be lifted so that I could stretch out on the flight. I literally sat there dumbfounded for a moment and didn't respond. What was she saying? Didn't she see I had the next best thing to First Class?
She said, the flight is not even 1/3 full and everyone can have a row to themselves. This is unheard of and I was convinced she was exaggerating. She said China was in the middle of celebrating an 8 day holiday and no one is traveling right now.
I picked my row, set up camp and slept like I was in a bed. I also propped the pillows up and read like I was in bed. The crazy thing was there was no one in several rows in front of me, behind me or beside me. Meal service took about 10 minutes and there was never a wait for the
rest room. It was like hitting the flight lottery!
Despite that extreme luxury, it is a long haul to get from Kansas City to Ulaanbaatar. There was a long and not exactly luxurious stop in Beijing that included pasta at Pizza Hut and a shower at an hourly hotel. I arrived in Mongolia at midnight and cringed when the pilot said it was 2 degrees C. I stumbled into my hotel exhausted, but ready for adventure.
With time on my hands and no one to contend to but myself, I decided to get acclimated with this new city and there is no better way to do that than walking, shopping and dining! I made my obligatory trip to a supermarket as I just love to see what everyone eats, spent an afternoon touching Mongolian cashmere sweaters and scarves and walked the streets until I was tired enough to get a good night's sleep.
The most exciting discovery was seeing camel milk and camel milk products in the grocery store. I can only imagine what the store employees thought about me photographing the dairy section! It was also exciting to see camel hair products among the cashmere garments.
It looks like I am in the right place.
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