Eleven days of Mongolia. What a trip I have experienced. It contains all the elements: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, because my story – with Henry, my travel buddy – is not only good.
The man in the hotel
After the nightly smoking man in our hotel room, where I said ‘Fuck off’ and he left the room, we went to breakfast. I had not slept much and was ready for a breakfast. We chat with a couple from Switzerland who had rented a car. That is $ 200 a day, excluding petrol or gas where most cars drive on it. Many cars are a Prius. A driver, what we have, costs 40 dollars a day including gas, but then you are bound to a driver.
After breakfast we wait for our driver, but he did not come. We had agreed at 9 o’clock and he was still not there at half past nine. At 10 o’clock he came walking in. We were already grumpy – at least I – because there were suddenly mosquitoes, until then I have not seen a mosquito in Mongolia and now they are everywhere, and I mean, really everywhere. If you stand five minutes, at least thirty will be on you. I had not had any sleep and now he came too late while we were going to hike today. Something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
“It’s here an hour later (in Khovd),” Buddee told our driver. We looked at the clock. “Swallow your words,” I told Henry, because we were wrong. Especially me. So we left on time.
Along the way we saw a horse competition of young boys because of the Nadaam Festival, while we were looking for the entrance to the nature park. We could not find it and decided that we went hiking. It is so beautiful everywhere, so it does not matter where you walk. We also wondered if there is an entrance. Mongolia is a large nature park.
There are three million Mongols. Of which two million live in the countryside and one million in UB.
The hiking was fantastic. We saw horses, the water that meanders, the steppe, the mountains, snow on the mountains. The photos say enough.
The ger in Ölgii
After this we continued to Ölgii, the big city in the west. I would not call it a city. It is a big village. I had booked a ger, because I did not want another man in my room. I am not a big fan of the hotels in rural Mongolia.
We arrived in Ölgii and Buddee pointed us at the water that was everywhere in the streets. Remember that there are many streets of sand. So it is a mud pool. We went to the gerkamp.
The gerkamp was a big mud pool. Buddee did not laugh anymore. We walked around the camp and it was a big disaster. We decided to go and look for a hotel.
Another hotel in Ölgii
After an hour’s drive we find a hotel. All officials appear to be in the hotel from the government, many Germans who help, so this must be a good hotel. The Germans are here – I will learn later – because they still have a bond with Mongolia from the Communist era. I also asked these officials, but they were not too keen to tell why they were working as Germans for the Mongolian government. However, due to the flood, there is no water or electricity in the hotel.
I was lucky that there was a half hour of hot water so I could take a shower. I heard Henri in the room while I was in the shower and asked if it had succeeded with the Permit we needed to enter the mountains in the west. He did not respond. I opened the door a bit and there was Buddee. I stood eye to eye with him and I was naked. I quickly closed the door again and growled something. I will not repeat it.
It was crazy that there was only a triple room now that Buddee had no acquaintances in this city. Or am I crazy now? In any case, he slept with us that night. Which was also good for our band. After he has seen me naked too.
To the mountains
Miraculously the next day went smoothly. One of the officials showed us the office where we bought the Permit you need for the park. Buddee arranged a driver for a good price and at 12 o’clock we were two drivers and a new jeep – a very fat one! – on the way to the mountains.
We stopped for food and meet a German and Andy, an American who told us that they were two days in the snow on the mountains. How cool! I felt like it. We continued until we arrived at the base camp at 21:00. Tomorrow we would go up with two horses and then down again.
And then there came a man with the story that we do not have a Permit. No Permit? Yes, we bought it this morning. No, that was our entry, but we had to have a separate Permit. We told the story of that morning, but no, that was not enough.
They kept our passport. We could either pay a lot of dollars – which we were not going to do. Or back to Ölgii to get the permit. We had to pay a fine anyway, because we were in violation. We said it did not know and that our two (!) Drivers did not say it either.
We had to wait in the jeep and our drivers got on the head. Buddee came back and almost had to cry. He said he was sorry for his Mongolian, and that there had been a threat to put him in jail until we had paid. We said we were going to pay of course – we did not let him sit. The other driver reacted nonchalantly and I felt that it was more about the money.
Long story short, we got our passports back. We did not have to pay. The jeep driver said he paid and he paid for it by taking four new passengers back to Ölgii. There was nothing left but to go back. I suspect Buddee has paid to buy himself free and that the jeep driver has made a deal, but I have no proof for it. In any case, Buddee was now our friend.
The Bad (again)
Now we drove back after Olgii. It became a long day, evening, night and morning. We arrived early in the morning. There was no electricity in Olgii and we could not refuel. We were stuck. We wait until 9 am until Buddee had the guts to drive to Khovd. Why that first was not possible and then, because there was no gas station on the road, no idea, but we drove and I wanted to leave.
I was at the low point of my journey. We were much more in the car than I wanted, I felt chained to the car and the driver, we had to drive for at least three days until we would be back in Mörön – what the deal was – and although we wanted a Gear every time We ended too often in a dirty hotel that smelled of cigarettes, without electricity, without water, and you paid the full pound.
Pull The Plug
We arrived in Khovd and I decided that I wanted to go to UB by bus. I stop. Henry did not know what to do and Buddee was panicking. Henry suggested to eat, because we had not slept and hardly eaten. We did that. I decided to sleep with Buddee’s sister and Henry took a hotel. Henry called me and said that I could also take a plane ticket instead of a 48-hour bus. I thought about it and said yes: we flew back.
The next day was fantastic. Of course it started with nudity. I slept in the sofa of the sister and her husband. They slept on the floor and Buddee on another sofa bed. All in their Gear.
I woke up, turned around and looked at the naked body of the sister’s man who lay naked with his noble parts in his hand on the floor without a blanket. She just turned on her bra. I turned around again.
After breakfast of milk tea, that I could drink now, and cookies, I walked over to Henry. We visited the market. We adapted traditional clothing. Henry thought about a new shoe business – importing Mongolian shoes to the USA.
We had lunch with Buddee and his sister and it was great food. We paid Buddee everything even though it was less days. We decided to go to the market again until our flight. They went along and made sure that we got Kazakh music from Buddee.
Flight to UB (Ulaanbataar)
Buddee waited with us for the plane at the smallest airport I ever visited. We hugged each other – yes with Buddee – and I will never forget this journey. It was so different from what I thought, but I have learned a lot, I am unwise that I have not climbed the mountain, but I did not want to miss the Mongolian hospitality, the small villages, the nudity and maybe even the dirty hotels.
I have ten more days in Mongolia. To be continued…