zondag 28 september 2008

Dusty desert

Wow,Mongolia is amazing. The last two weeks I have been astonished by the beautiful landscapes that came by. With a big Russian Gaz 66 we rode from Ulan Bator (UB) to Bugat, in the far east of Mongolia. As a bunch of fishes we were stuck in the back of the truck with 12 people, together with all the gear for the landyachts, food and our own backpacks. There is one road in Mongolia with has asphalt, and after 50 km outside of UB, the road continues in a dirt track. You can imagine us bumping and jumping inside the truck, trying to hold on to the stove, a cupboard or just anybody.

At night we tumbled out of the truck, and rolled out our sleeping bags on the vast Mongolian plain, dreaming under the millions of stars above us (did you know that in Mongolia you can see the star covered sky the best?). The road was long, but beautiful. In the 3rd night we were stopped by the police at night. There had been a robbery in a bank in UB and 12 people stuck into a big old russian truck coming fom UB was definitely suspect.

Unfortunetely, Nick and my passport were still in UB, because of visa procedures. The Mongolian police here in the outskirts of Bayar Hongor were glad they could finally had 'a case to solve', and our missing passports were all of a sudden a big problem. They decided we had to come back the next day, which we did. We visited the highest officer in town, according to Esee (our Mongolian guide) an officer of the secret police, and filled in some form in which we honestly declared who we were and which languages we spoke (Polish; beginner).

In the mean time the rest of the crew were having breakfast at a Mongolian family in town. After another 4 hours of sunbathing, drinking vodka and doing some laundry in the river, we set off again.

On the fourth day we were finally ready to get the landyachts together. We were at a beautiful plain so the circumstances were great for sailing. but did didn't last very long. the Gobi deser offers a lot of different grounds, but not all are suited for landyachting...bumping over ditches and puching each other because the wind is nowhere to be seen or just not strong enough to push a 100kg's yacht. Even my bike was used. Especially Esse and Bayra, the 2 mongolians, loved cycling. Esse even askes me if he could buy mine (sorry!).

It is amazing to ride trough these big plains of nothingness with the mountains in the distance and the blue sky above, waking up in the morning with a herd of camels staring at you. the country offers so much diversity. From big fields of gravel, into plains with bushes and big ditches. Riding along mountainranges and over sand. camping next to sand dunes or with a family in their ger.

After 15 days on the road, we had to find a way back to Ub because of flights, visa's and other tours. So Nick, Yoel, Esse, Tomek, my bike and me got in a little van which took us over a mountainrange to get to the nearest town where we got 16 hours later. From there we joined a little van which seemed to be full, but apparentely, there was room for 5 more people. With 20 people stuck inside a little van it was a interesting ride for about 30 hours. never knew I could actually fold my hips and keep my legs up for that long.

My short stay wit the expedition was an amazing ride which I will never forget, thanks Ania, Swiatek, Irek, Xenia, Piotr, Tomek, Andrzej, Esse, Bayra, Nick, Yoel, Pawle and Kasha for your brilliant company.

So, now back in UB, on y way to Irkutsk, and how knows what after that

maandag 8 september 2008

Sailing across the Gobi desert

My days in UB seem to be over, although you're never sure. Tomorrow I will (hopefully) be on my way to the west of the Gobi desert...together with 7 Polish people, one Canadian, one English guy and two Mongolian guys. I will take part in the 'Gobi 2008 expedition' an expedition in memory of Wojciecha Skarżyńskiego, who did a same trip 30 years ago.(http://mongolia.info.pl/content/view/147/67/)
We will leave Ulan Bator to go west where the sailing will start. at the end of September I will leave the crew to come back to UB while they will continue along the Gobi.

This weekend we did a small trip to Hutai national park. This park is famous for its Przewalski horses. It is amazing to walk and ride through a big steppe, surrounded by mountains and to see these horses walking in groups, curiously looking at you, or chasing you away. We also encountered a big herde of regular horses with their herdsman and a big group of camels. Beautiful scenery.

I am glad to leave the city, It is very strange to stay in one place for such a long time, after spending so much time on my bike. To be honest, I do miss my bike, and I do regret sending a lot of stuff back home. It is so much better to just hop on your bike whenever you feel like and to actually go somewhere instead of waiting here in UB for a transport to arrive, for a truck to be fixed, for our expedition to be ready. Hmmm, maybe I got too much used to decide myself when, where and how to go somewhere instead of depending on others.

But things happen for a reason, (yep, I got philosophical), so I am sure everything will turn out just to be the most amazing, fantastic thrill seeking experience I have ever had. And I do enjoy my time here. Hopefully I will be able to do some cycling later on, maybe in the Gobi (if I can take my bike) or in Russia or Europe, on my way back home...

Mom, I am on my way...

woensdag 3 september 2008

stuck in UB

Our cycling trip is over, we are both on our way back to Holland. Marjolein is doing a tour through Mongolia at the moment together with Astrid and some other travellers . I am still hanging around the capital city, Ulan Bator, waiting for my trip to start, somewhere next week (see:http://mongolia.info.pl/content/view/147/67/). Untill then, I just wander around this strange town.

The city consist of mostly old Russian apartment buildings, surrounded by fields full of 'gers' (the Mongolian version of the yurt), and little shacks with brightly colored rooftops. In between this strange combination of buildings there is a very modern looking construction rising up. Are the nomadic Mongols settling down? The city has a strange atmosphere, there is something about it which intrigues me. Maybe it is the fact that it is a city made by nomadic people, maybe it is the fact that it is a city in which the people who seem to travel the most, are the foreigners. I haven't seen any city in the last few months where there is such a big variety of European food. Berlin Burger, Chez Bernard and even cafe Amsterdam make you feel at home with their bockwurst, croissants, and koffie verkeerd.

The children of the street try to find a way to earn some money and find some shelter, the foreigners try to book a tour and get away as quick as possible, because their train to Russia or China is waiting.

I will just wait a bit longer until my trip starts, and meanwhile, watch the city and its people go by.
I didn't book a train ticket yet...