Day 17: Baga Gazrin Chuluu - Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog› entry 19 of 34 › view all entries
And then came the long drive back 'home' to Ulaanbaatar. Even though the surroundings were still stunningly beautiful (we passed some gorgeous mountain ranges on the way, as well as the biggest lake in the Gobi region) none of us were particularly thrilled. The thought of going back to Ulaanbaatar coupled with the tiredness after seven days of relatively hard travelling dampened our spirits somewhat.
Just after midday we came back on the road we had taken from Ulaanbaatar on the first day. A week ago all was covered in snow, and it was freezing cold. Seeing the restaurant where we had 'enjoyed' our first lunch in the bright sun instead of a snow storm was particularly interesting, because it made the difference of, well, like summer and winter.
Later in the afternoon we came across a couple of people in a battered Mercedes that had broken down. As you can imagine breaking down in the sparsely populated Gobi can be quite cumbersome, so Nora did the only natural thing to do in Mongolia: stop and help.
The Mercedes looked as if it had been towed by a truck and then the truck too had broken down. The Mercedes was hooked up to Nora's Uaz while the driver of the truck hailed over a couple of passing petrol trucks for help.
It seemed the guys in the Mercedes had no idea what to do with a car that just had a near-death experience, but Nora, *our* Nora, picked up a couple of screwdrivers and a spanner from his Uaz and he had the Mercedes up and running again within half an hour.
Though that had been half an hour which we would have preferred to have spend sipping beers on a sunny rooftop cafe in Ulaanbaatar, I must admit it was an interesting experience to see Nora helping these stranded guys, while somehow cars and trucks appeared from every direction to offer help as well. In the seven days we had been driving around the Gobi we'd seen on average about one car an hour. But it seems as if every Mongolian driver has some sort of radar that tells them people are in trouble and need help, so before we knew it there were ten or so cars stopping with drivers offering help to the guys in the Mercedes and the stranded truck.
Around four we finally left the bumpy dusty rocky roads of the Gobi behind us and we cheered as we arrived to the tarred road that leads to Ulaanbaatar.
Another shock was the traffic. Cars everywhere, honking, roaring, trying to overtake in places where it isn't possible. I realised that Ulaanbaatar must have the worst traffic in the world. I have been to bad places, Mexico City, Bangkok, Cairo... but this is the first time that I am in a city where most drivers seem to have absolutely no clue what they are doing. I doubt you need a driver's license to drive in this country (well, you probably need one, but it seems hardly enforced) but most people drive as if years of driving experience hasn't taught them anything either.
Back in the UB guesthouse we had a very, very welcome shower and a clean set of clothes. The plan was to leave on another trip in two day's time, to maximise our time in Mongolia. The Germans had more time, so they wanted to spend a couple of days in the city, and Maciek would travel to Beijing on Thursday. So it was the end of our trip together, and Robbel and I had to find ourselves new travbuddies.
Before we had left on the Gobi trip we had put a sign up asking for people to join us, and we were happy to learn that two people had signed up. From a financial point of view five people on the trip would be ideal, but four wasn't bad either. The Germans weren't so lucky. They wanted to travel around the centre and the north for about 10-13 days, but they had difficulty finding people to join them.