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Published: November 22nd 2010
Sain Bainuu (Hello there).
Well, since our last message from Irkutsk we've had quite an adventure indeed. Eric managed to get himself left behind at a train station on the way to Mongolia. Here's his version of the story:
We had 50,000 roubles left, so at the last stop before the border, I went out to spend it at any shop I could find. I asked the provodnitsa (train attendant) how long the stop was; I asked 'pyaht naht zut minutes', which is 15. She though I said 'pyaht minutes' which is 5, so agreed with me. So I wandered off to spend our money (about $9 US), only to see the train pulling away as I tried to pay. So I ran after the train, but it was going faster than me. Just as I was running out of breath, I stopped beside a solo locomotive. The driver (?) asked me 'Ulaan Baatar?' (Capital of Mongolia) and I said 'Da, da' so he gave me a ride. I got to sit up front and even got to toot the horn. A couple stops later (after about 45 minutes) we caught up to my train and so I got back on, no problems.
Now, here's my version:
Eric wanted to buy some beer. Out of the goodness of my heart I agreed to remain in the train to watch our stuff lest it be stolen by some wayward individual. As Eric left the train I could have sworn I heard the provodnitsa say "5 minutes" in English but that could have just been my imagination. So, about 4 minutes later I went to the door and started looking around to see if he'd gotten back on the train. I noticed a couple of other folks that also seated in our compartment running back to the train a few cards ahead. A few seconds later we started to pull away and there was still no sight of him. I mentioned this to the provodnitsa as she locked he door to the train but she insisted that he'd gotten back on the train near the restaurant car. I kept looking for him anyway and soon I realized that we indeed must have left him behind. So, as I was making contingency plans to get his and my stuff off the train in Ulaan Bataar (or explain where my friend was as I crossed the border) up pulls a locomotive along side us and Eric hops back on the train. No one could quite believe that he'd hitched a ride on a train engine. Once he was back we decided it might be a better idea to buy the beer in the restaurant car instead.
Since we've been in Mongolia we've also had a few adventures. Our first day here we met up with a couple of folks who wanted to take a jeep trek through the Gobi Desert. We agreed and left the next day. In our group was Kirsty (Australia), Eileen (USA), James (England), our driver Bimba (Mongolia), our guide Gana (bilingual Mongolian...fortunately English as the other language) and us (Canat's ... we're no longer Canadsky's, we're Canat's).
The 8 day trip was full of surprises which are far too lengthy to explain in detail. So, I'll just list the major catastrophes:
1. The first night we were forced to pitch our (borrowed) tent in sand. As a result the pegs didn't stay in very well and the wind blew most of the fly off just before it started to rain. We woke up in the middle of a collapsed tent with big rips in the side and big puddles all around us. It was pretty damn cold too (about 7 degrees or so). ... Good start to the trip.
2. We're driving through the middle of the Gobi Desert when we crashed the jeep into a 3-foot deep crevice. It took us about 2-3 hours to change a messed up tire, remove the front-wheel-drive driveshaft, fill in the ditch, and push and shove our way out. I think the frame of the jeep was bent afterward as well. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt but we were afraid our guide might have a concussion because she smashed her head into the windshield quite hard (shattering the glass).
3. I (Gerry) got lost in the middle of a mountain range after dark for a few hours and had to be rescued by several Mongolian horseman. They received a couple of bottles of vodka for that one ... enough said.
4. With our jeep now only rear wheel drive we got stuck in the sand near some sand dunes in the south Gobi. Our driver had obviously never driven in sand or snow before because he continually buried the vehicle despite our cries of "Zogs!" (stop!). It took us a few hours to get out of this one too.
5. Same day as 4. Our engine overheated numerous times throughout the day in a whole day of driving we made maybe 200km progress. To top it off we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere (and I mean nowhere) and the driver had to walk for miles to get some fuel. We'd found a gas container by the said of the road about an hour earlier ... ironic huh. Fortunately our group had become immune to the adversities of Mongolian travel and before the driver was out of sight we had a fire burning and our dinner half cooked. At this point we were averaging one major disaster per day.
6. We had a few good-luck days and we were all trying to guess at what the next trouble would be. No one guessed that the electricity would have been down for two days at the gas station and we wouldn't be able to fill the tank. We made a hopeful run for Ulaan Baatar with the fuel we had and ran out just as we approached a station on the outskirts of the city ... whew.
Despite all these problems (or maybe because of them) this was one of the best 8 days I've ever had. Mongolia rules.
Our plans for the next few days are to head to a nearby National Park and hike and camp and meet the locals. The people we met on the Gobi trip were so friendly we'd like to meet a few more. We're worried now that the border restrictions have been lessened this place will be all sullied up in a few years time by all the gringos.
We heard that Princess Diana was killed in a car accident about a week or so ago. The details are really sketchy around here so could someone please give us an update (there's a British guy with us who's pretty curious too). For those of you who are paying attention this is a clear invitation to write us a note.
Big Mac combo research:
A BMC combo doesn't exist here. If it did the burgers would probably be made with mutton anyway.
Jason: Happy Birthday kiddo. I sent you a postcard which you've hopefully received by now.
Nalini: Can you get info on JET for next year. I'll send more info from Beijing.
Bobby: Thanks again for doing all these stupid favours for me. Send us a message and let us know if everything went all right or not. I hope Verny is doing ok ... give her a hug and rub her tummy for me.
All: We'll check your messages when we hit Beijing in about a week or so.
Gerry & Eric (or Eric & Gerry)
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