Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mongolia 2017 - Day 14. Arvayheer to Ulaan Bataar

The last leg of our trip was pretty uneventful, so for lack of something to tell I will just say that if I had to be reincarnated I would not mind coming back as a Mongolian horse. We have seen herd after herd of these magnificent animals running wild through the valleys, as if they were the owners of this land without boundaries. To me they just look as tall and sleek as any other horse I have seen, so I am not sure where the notion came that Mongolian horses were shaggy little ponies.

Once we got to UB Zoe brought us with unerring precision to the Best Western where we had stayed in our arrival, where we were received like heroes. Truly it seems that driving independently through this fabulous land is never done, and the reception people were so amazed at the extent of our trip that they gave us the presidential suite for the price of a normal room.

I had been stressing about our dusty car, because I didn’t want the folks at Sixt to impose a steep cleaning fee, and because the dust was proof irrefutable that we had been driving dirt roads (The lady with whom I spoke with in corporate had warned me sternly that their cars were not to be taken in dirt roads. In Mongolia? Really?). I was thus ready to spend the following 3 hours washing the car. What was I thinking about? This is a civilized land with car wash outfits that for mere US$ 20 offered full detailing. What a relief.

We spent the time going to downtown via “Uber”. It turns out that for years now many drivers here take passengers that go in their general direction, for the equivalent to US$ 0.40 per kilometer. Zoe is of course an expert in this mode of transportation, so with the flick of a finger she flagged down a driver, and a few minutes later we were in downtown, where I had to return the tent I had rented, buy a couple of books for Ronnie’s international library, and indulge in a tiny keyboard that I can use with my iPhone.

We concluded the evening with a delicious Indian dinner. Mongolian food is nourishing, and mutton fat is said to be good for your skin, but in general it would have to be classified as not very flavorful. In contrast, the Kashmiri rice (with raisins, cranberries, and pinion nuts), eggplant, and spinach dishes we ordered were bursting with flavor and exotic spices. It was a most satisfying end to a fabulous adventure!

We will all be a bit sad scattering tomorrow, but we are all going to other exciting adventures, and will anyway see each other in Oregon to watch the solar eclipse on August 21. Let’s see, Horacio will be heading to Ethiopia and is looking forward to seeing his old friend Dr. Getachew Tikubet, and John will be heading out to field camp in eastern Oregon four days after he gets home. Zoe is the real adventurer here though: She will be going to the northwest corner of Mongolia for a week of hiking with a friend, followed by a few days at Lake Baikal with another friend, and then a visit from Mom Anita and brother Leo and a few days of dinosaur immersion in the Gobi Desert. Finally she will get back to Darhan, where she has been based for a year, pack all her stuff, and then take the Trans-Siberian train from Ulaan Bataar to Moscow to join yet another friend, stay there a few days, and then travel together to Saint Petersburg for a week-long visit before flying back to Oregon. This young lady certainly gets around!

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