Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mongolia - Part IV

One of the things I was mostly glad about when I was in Mongolia was having a great driver. Driving around in Mongolia can be quite challenging, most – if not all – roads are not paved and there are virtually no road signs. It is not uncommon to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere

Another thing I came to appreciate was our van. At first I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have a more modern and more comfortable car – we drove some 2500 miles and, trust me, it wasn’t always a smooth ride – however I found out that these vans are very strong and enduring and, above all, they are completely mechanical – meaning that they have no electrical parts. The good thing about this is that when they break down, spare parts can be found easily and they can be repaired just as easily by almost anyone.

There are other good sides about driving around as opposed to flying from one place to another. First you improve your sense of direction, you learn to watch signs that you did not consider before. For example, an electricity line can lead you to the next town

(I just love Mongolians who live in villages and still live inside gers, which we renamed "town gers")

An ovoo can be extremely important – first it gives you an excuse to take a little walk and stretch out a bit – for the record, ovoos are piles of stones that have a religious meaning, you should walk around them three times clockwise and throw three stones on top of them – secondly they are road marks, so most directions you get sound something like "Get to the big ovoo and make a left", and thirdly they can give you a chance to meet some local people

Another good thing about driving around is that you get to see a ridiculous amount of animals:

yaks and cows

a number of birds – apparently Mongolia is birdwatchers’ paradise

camels – I had never seen white camels before

and soooo many beautiful horses – if you’re lucky you can also see some wild ones (we didn’t see any)

Of course, there are times when you feel like you’ll never see any living form ever again, like when we went to a place called Ikh Gazryn Chuluu (which translates to "The place of small stones" or something like that). I remember feeling like I was on another planet and commenting how all those conspiracy theories about man never setting foot on the Moon must have originated there – unfortunately picture cannot really describe that place

If being there could be a little frightening, you can always hope for a little help from above

and find some comfort inside your ger for the night

the inside can be quite cosy

Before you know, it’s time for you to get back home and you’ll miss all that, but if you’re lucky you’ll have something nice during your flight as well – this was taken at airport in Moscow