Most American’s are well acquainted with “Murphy’s law.” A universal principle which states: if things can go wrong they will. Mongolians are also well acquainted with this law except they call it “going places”.
My trip from UB to site began haphazardly. I thought I was travelling with my Aimag-mate Greg. He had been informed earlier in the day that we would be leaving at five that evening, which, in Mongol time means anywhere between 5 and sometime the next day. Thus, I was rather surprised when my Director interrupted my morning cup of coffee to inform me that she was waiting outside my hostel. Unfortunately, I was enjoying my morning cup about ten blocks away. After sprinting back to my place and throwing the contents of my room into bags and loading those bags into a “jeep” we were ready to begin our journey.
We started by touring most of UB. We visited various family members, my director needed to stop by the ministry of education, we went to the bank, and hung about various other spots for a good four hours. After five hours in the car we embarked on our twelve hour car ride.
Before I continue it is important to clear up a few aspects of Mongolian culture. First, a car is not considered full until all of the seats have been loaded up with bags and people are sitting three to a seat. The back of our two seater jeep contained five people plus luggage. Add to this a small child and you are in business. I was lucky enough to sit in the front seat and only shared my seat with my luggage. All told we had seven people plus several hundred pounds of luggage in a vehicle slightly smaller than a “geo cruiser”. Second, the word road is loosely applied. It can mean a paved stretch of land or it can mean open field in which a car may pass. For the most part road means a dirt path that doubles as a testing site for bunker busting bombs.
Upon leaving the city limits I took some Benadryl and prayed for sleep. Despite the late start and the road condition the beginning of our trip went smoothly. We knocked off a good 100 kilometers in about six hours stopping occasionally for gas, food, and smoke breaks. The little kid in the back was remarkably well behaved and a benevolent God had answered my prayers. The next hundred kilometers would not go as smoothly.
The road went from bomb target practice, to nuclear accident. The only difference being that nuclear accidents, I am told, leave flat surfaces. To make matters worse many roads were under construction. When roads are being worked on here the construction crew deposits a giant mound of rubble across the road to prevent people from driving on it. These things are hard to see at night and we almost hit several of them. At one point I woke up in the act of crashing. We did not hit anything.
Sometime between sunset and sunrise we got stuck in the mud. It was late and dark and the driver decided that we would sleep in the field rather than try to un-stick ourselves. I woke sometime around dawn and helped push us out. Three kilometers later we ran out of gas. I found this particularly vexing as I had offered the driver twenty thousand Tugriks for gas earlier in the night. We eventually found some gas and got into Tsisterlig or about 26 kilometers from my site.
We broke a leaf spring in Tsisterlig and had to wait until the jeep was repaired before we left. Our time in Tsisterlig was pretty nice. We were not moving but the town is pretty and I was able to entertain my-self. More importantly, it had an outhouse which was great because I had Guardia at the time. With the jeep repaired we finished off the remaining 26 kilometers without incident.
28 hours after leaving UB I had travelled two hundred kilometers and found myself at home…sort of.