Ozzie

Ozzie

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Days 139 to 142 – Around Ulaanbaatar – Fri 12 to Mon 15 Jul

Days 139 to 142 – Around Ulaanbaatar – Fri 12 to Mon 15 Jul
A pretty blue sky greeted us Friday - rest, maintenance and photo editing and blog catchup planned. Reorganised cupboards and bags in vehicle and lockers, filled up containers and shakers, BoyRob cleaned air filter, dust/mud from valves. GirlRob moved on to IT tasks, and sat in a corner, gritting her teeth, trying not to go completely insane with computer continually shutting down- "blue screen of death"….so cranky, finally had time, place and internet – and b... machine wouldn’t work. Next morning, same old, same old, but in rain – deep puddles everywhere, and mud being tracked into “house”. BoyRob bought glue and re-glued strip that seals roof from rain, dust, sand - will need a rubber stopper to prevent recurrence as there's a slight bow in roof (only 4 struts each end, no support in middle). 














GirlRob went back to common area of guesthouse scrunched in with other travellers – this time computer behaved but precious little internet with so many people trying to use at same time. It was easier to chat and get embroiled in the lives of the travellers - mainly bikers, many broken down, trying to order parts, or just waiting (and partying every night whilst waiting….). Some injured in desert, broken ankle, weepy lacerations and deep bruising, ouch. Old couple wondering if their dream trip is over with Range Rover needing total rebuild. Saturday night we enjoyed dinner with Jon and Jude at Oasis, heard their tragic story re their differential “explosion”, stranded here until parts arrive from UK.









Manager Sybill is a German, she’s just sold business and returning home after 18 years. Started out working with prisoners, stories of how unsophisticated UB used to be, deer down from wooded hills walking streets, only one car in main street every half hour etc. Drove around central business district and explored some of the sights – more sophisticated perspective from the less developed part of town, its container markets, fresh animal skins for sale, overcrowding, blocked drains, deep ruts and potholes. With such a small and basically agrarian population there's not a lot of money for development (although the effects of mining are beginning to appear). Had good meal and bottle of red at an Indian restaurant - don't know where its sourced, but it was the best lamb and chicken in quite some time.  











Monday our Fuso was booked in for 30,000km service with Mongolian Star Melchers (and other two vehicles are having grease and oil changes – and all are having tyre rotations). We had met their top salesperson Huska, at EarthCruiser Caboolture when they inspected and put in an order (which is now unforgivably overdue) and he made us welcome – brought in managers and engineers to look at ours (so embarrassingly muddy and untidy with all compartments emptied for the tip upside down to get at the engine….)

GirlRob took advantage of first sunny day in three days to do laundry – with Ozzie uptown, had to hang washing on communal line in between bike leathers, sarongs and sleeping bags. Fortunately it was dry before a late afternoon sand storm blew through the capital. Had Mongolian vegetarian pasta - finely chopped salad with hot spaghetti ("interesting") for dinner at pub. Hopefully tomorrow will see the final work - tyres rotated, then we can head out of town towards Russia and Lake Baikal..... 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Day 138 – Nadaam Festival Ulaanbaatar –Thur 11 Jul


Day 138 – Nadaam Festival Ulaanbaatar –Thur 11 Jul
Taxi to stadium, walked past food stalls, amusement tents eg darts at balloons and robotic soccer. Opening ceremony tickets were available outside from scalpers- and they certainly got us! 8,000TG normally, paid 50,000TG ea. BoyRob and Miles found one guy and just started negotiation when police came up, confiscated his tickets and they led him away! Minutes later they had already bought from another guy just as GirlRob had got another seller to agree to 35,000TG ea - oh well. 
We had been warned many times that UB was alive with pickpockets, especially in crowds like markets and festivals, so we left our handbags and wallets behind. Our security measures backfired somewhat when BoyRob had to get his cash out of his sock, and Miles had to put his backpack on the ground and fumble with a plastic bag... 




Tickets were worth every tugrik - the day was filled with colour, music (drumming, throat singing), large helium balloon releases, drone camera, marching band, running soldiers, minority groups, traditional dancing, parades, horse acrobatics, wrestlers, archers....





 






Wrestling unlike western styles, a line of red judges, line of blue, one per pair of wrestlers. Wrestlers weave in front of judge who removes their spire hats. Once stronger player gets other to touch ground, winner does traditional “fairy” dance in front of crowd emulating falcons or phoenix - fascinating display!

 













Ate khuushuurs large steamed meat patties deep fried in batter, dripping with oil and handed out in paper bags. Went to another arena to watch male then female archers, in brilliant coloured greatcoats in wools, felt, brocades, panels and bright sashes. Bone bows and decorative scabbards for arrows. Up to 10 sets at time, stand in groups of four - number ones fire first, then twos etc. Women have “handicaps” of maybe 5 metres lining up in front of men. Pretty hairy with all arrows from front and back lines firing, and assistants going in front of firing line to show how far arrow fell short, walking up aisles returning arrows etc. T'would never get past workplace health and safety in Oz!



Walked 4kms home in heat (sure it must be good for us). Nice storm in arvo - heavy enough for a reasonable Ozzie wash!! Finished up great day with dinner at Korean restaurant (hot n spicy!) with Guy and Cheryl in nearby hotel – real refectory d├ęcor and service.


Day 137 - Sujji to Ulaanbaatar - Wed 10 Jul

Day 137 - Sujji to Ulaanbaatar - Wed 10 Jul
Overcast, cool, flicked up mud on Ozzie as we drove out of our wetlands camp. Traffic increasing, horses and families in people-movers still on move, many cars with national flags on cars, one had full sticker across bonnet. Hope the public holidays for festival don't start today, need MobiCom to restore my account so I can download email/data, and access Internet which I haven't had since I took out their SIM card and used TravelSim to make calls to Australia. People stop and go to toilet on side of road, on plains, no trees/ bushes, men in full view, women squat, and some spread skirt out around them. Had to laugh - "Trees Our Future" sign, but not one in sight as far as eye can see. 












Heaps of police activity marked start of Nadaam horse race at least 100 entrants approx 40kms from Ulaanbaatar, looks like grasslands of at least 10kms sectioned off by police bikes, pulled over to side of road to watch. Vehicles led way out front with horses following in huge dust cloud (maybe marking way, ensuring no one enters from sides??), then cars veered off, and horses really took off. Spectacular to say least.The road into UB was closed off, police directed us down to "GerTown", food central and parking, lots of temporary and display gers, horse trucks, vehicles parked on every hill. We were just in time to see end of horse race which had obviously turned around and come racing back, ending up on slope... admirable stamina, horses and young riders. From what we've heard so far it's all kids, and races are based on age of horses. 

 

Afterwards, horses have sweat paddled off, those with saddles removed, and led away. Many of the people then eat meat, goat chops, animal jerky (stringy, chewy!) and drink soft drinks.











Road to UB reopened, and we drove into chaos of city after heavenly solitude and roads to ourselves. Drivers blowing horns, trying to push in, way too close for comfort along Peace Street! Police everywhere but not interfering with traffic. Then suddenly we were jammed with very limited movement for almost half hour and getting very hungry. Cheryl went into back of their vehicle and made peanut butter crackers which they passed through the truck window to us to maintain our strength!!  Mongolian flags for sale - Marina says it’s also Independence Day (from Chinese that is, not from Russians). Finally found Oasis guesthouse where we are booked in to the carpark with access to showers for a few days – no other accommodation available due to the Festival. Pretty cramped, but secure, and loads of English speaking bikers and overlanders so should be entertaining.