Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mongolia 2017 - Day 15. Ulaan Bataar to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The last day in Mongolia was completely uneventful. John left at 6:30 am for the airport, had a 4 hour layover in Seoul, and by now should be comfortably ensconced at home.

I drove Zoe to the train station at 9 am, to take the fast train to Darhan, and she made it home without trouble.

I drove the rental car to the airport, and had no problem returning it given the excellent job done by the car wash folks. We did exceed our allotted 3,250 km by 500 km, so had to pay an additional 150,000 Tugriks, but that is nothing compared with the fun we had.

As I sat waiting for my flight I thought about a couple of things that maybe I should have added somewhere in this narrative. For example, I should make some mention of the national drink—vodka! My personal brand is Chingis Khaan, which can be found just about everywhere. Even the dinkiest store will carry it, in sizes ranging from the 12 ounce personal bottle, to the 1 liter party bottle. Everyone knows that vodka has wonderful medicinal properties. Is your head aching? Take a shot of vodka with two lumps of sugar. Ia your stomach upset? Take two shots of vodka with a spoonful of milk tea. Are your muscles sore? Take three shots of vodka and rub some mutton fat on the afflicted part of the body.

Vodka is also the national pastime amongst men, who love nothing more than gathering in groups of three to polish a bottle or two. And certainly we should not forget the caretakers of seedy hotels, like the one who was so far gone that he kept checking his pockets for the keys over and over, until eventually was rescued by the lady of the house. In short, alcoholism is a serious problem throughout the country.

I also should mentioned that, although we had glorious balmy weather at the start of summer, the winters here can be unbelievably cold (another good reason to stay warm inside your ger imbibing vodka al day long). How cold? Well, how about -40 degrees C. That is right, negative 4 – 0, and that is run of the mill cold temperature, with the record reportedly being –55 degrees C! The funny thing is that precipitation across the country is not really that much (5 to 20 cm per year from south to north), so the brutally low temperatures are accompanied by not much more than a dusting of snow. The freezing temperatures are also the reason for the much damaged asphalted roads across the country; the ice wedge effect busts the asphalt very easily, a small hole develops, and within a few months the holes are large enough to swallow our poor Suzuki Jimny.

I was reminded about another Mongolian peculiarity when I sat down to my last breakfast at the hotel and was served a steaming bowl of noodle soup. Soup for breakfast is a very common occurrence because it is easy to reheat and gives you another opportunity to ingest mutton fat, with its many health benefits. And speaking of foods, I should mention the Boloneski sauce (the Russian version of spaghetti sauce) and the Mongolian ketchup, without which a table would be practically naked.

OK, we are ready to board and I have just taken a quick look to my itinerary: Two hour flight to Beijing, a 10 hour layover in Beijing, and an 11 hour flight to Addis. Oh dear Lord, I am going to die.  

No comments: