World ARDF Tour 2001 Part 20

Bruce’s Report #20

We’re on the Miat airlines flight from Ulaan Baatar to Beijing. The plane seems fine (so far). Outside we can see the Mongolian landscape which is grass covered hills and plains mostly. Occasionally some trees on one side of a hill only. None of the roads are straight, possibly because the road keep changing path as some hole or obstacle becomes too big.

Mr Han and Us (UlaanBaatar)

The overhead wires!!

Bus stuck on track

The Chinese at the temple

Firstly, I realise I’ve somehow missed the tour day. In short, we were taken into UB to look at the Temple we’d already looked and the state department store we weren’t all that interested in. Therefore during the store bit we escaped to our internet cafe and you got one of the sets of reports and some pictures. I had to abort sending the last set of pictures as the connection was running really slow at the time (it always does when you’re in an particular hurry) and I didn’t want to miss the bus.

Panarama of Ulaan Baatar

We then proceeded in our 3 buses (one which needed an occasional crank start) to a hill overlooking UB to get an overall view from a lookout, and then a bit of a drive back to the area we’d had the 2m competition in for lunch. We proceeded along steadily worse roads till suddenly there were sparks and zaps (and gasps) from the lead bus I was in as we ran into some low slung overhead powerlines (oops). Luckily we were on rubber tyres is all I can say. There is a somewhat cavalier attitude in Mongolia (and China too) to electricity distribution. The Baht hotel appears to be wired using wires slung between the balconies and running over the doorsteps jammed in the doors.

Mongolian Horseman

Us and the Mongolians

After they emptied out the 3 buses they managed to get them all under the wires and after a delay we piled back in and onto a grotty track somewhere near where TX#5 was in the competition. Lunch was a picnic consisting of meat cooked using hot black rocks, rice and some vegetables, and of course potatoes. Australia was to join the Mongolians. This was fun. You are meant to handle the hot black (and slightly greasy) black rocks for good luck. The meat sauce left in the pot was also very yummy. This was the first occasion we were introduced to the fierce Mongolian Vodka too 🙂

Secondly, a story from the 80m competition. Apparently one of the Korean competitors fell into an animal trap and knocked himself out cold. The next thing he knew he was in a hospital. He was apparently found by some locals, so as far as the orgainisers of the event knew he was still out there somewhere and a search was organised. This delayed proceedings somewhat and explains the late Banquet start. After the prizes were awarded, I presented the clock to Mr Khosbayer of MRSF in appreciation for the event and hospitality.

Clock Presentation to MRSF
After the Banquet we drifted outside. The Mongolians had formed into a circle and were celebrating the event taking turns with the single vodka glass. After the Mongolian team leader asked if I could send him all the pictures we took, but instead I offered to copy them then. Unbeknownst to me this involved yet another three Vodka shots in the Mongolian control centre and I was starting to feel a bit unsteady by this stage ! Congratulations to the MRSF for running a really interesting, challenging and actually reasonably hassle free event. I hope we manage as well in 2003! 

The next day we got a lift to Ulaan Baatar along with some of the Russians who were about to catch the Trans-Siberian train to Moscow (a two day journey), and then another 2 day journey by train to Vladivostok ! The other Russians were from Lake Baikal in Russia, not far from the Mongolian Northern border. They were keen for me to try the local Lake Baikal Vodka. We were able to book into the Nassan guest house again, and as I said in the last report I did manage to find accomodation in another guest house a short walk away for the Kazakhstan team, but they must have decided to sleep at the airport afterall. I was able to send out pictures up till the end of the 2m competition here in Mongolia. The later pictures I haven’t sorted out yet ! [Ed: No hurry after all]

In the guest house we met a girl who had just arrived in Ulaan Baatar. She was about to head out on a two year stint teaching English in a small town to the North of UB as part of an “Outreach” program. She is only paid a nominal amount to live, so the work is voluntary. Another Outreach man was heading South to teach business practices. The “English” Mongolian newspaper seems to be full of lots of reports of foreign aid or Government schemes.

After lunch at another nearby cafe (even had ice cream…yum!), we phoned NyamKa and she subsequently found us. We had an interesting ride in a car to DavKa’s house in one of the suburbs. In Ulaan Baatar there seems to be little concept of maintenance or repair (a bit like Bryan’s car really). The buildings are either older Russian apartment blocks falling apart somewhat, ramshackle single storey buildings, brand new buildings or of course gers (Mongolian herders tents). When the road bitumen is damaged it, well, stays that way. There is a big dirt section on “Peace Avenue”, one of the major highways through UB. With snow or ice for much of the year maybe it doesn’t matter all that much. UB is a strange mix of the old and new. There is the Russian past still very strong, western influences much more pronouced than China but always there are reminders this is basically a herder society with cattle crossing the roads, the gers and horses riding about on the outskirts of town.

DavKa and NyamKa

Looking at (these) Pictures

Inside the Ger

Outside the Ger

NyamKa is in her third year at University studying English and Japanese. She wasn’t an ARDF competitor, but had come along with DavKa to look at the events. DavKa is studying medicine. He showed us some of his textbooks and they are mostly Russian. DavKa is part of a large family (I think 7 children). His younger brother Mec-Ka was also an ARDF competitor even though he is only 10 or so. (These are their short names … the full names are many syllables and I have no hope of remembering them all!). DavKa had twisted his ankle on the 80m event (with the terrain I’m not all that surprised) catching his foot under a root. I was amazed to see him injecting himself with an anti-inflamatory, but when I later learned he was a medical student it all made sense. (see picture Report 19).

DavKa’s House
The house was a long low building originally made of wood that had had a row of bricks added on the outside (with insufficient foundations by the look). Probably there were 4 homes in each building. The (squat) toilet is seperate and shared between many houses. Inside the house it was quite comfortable with the impressive Mongolian carpets hanging on the walls. We were treated to dinner, puzzled over some wooden puzzles, had the obligitary 3 vodka toasts and showed the family some of our pictures of the event (this laptop is really becoming very well travelled). They also took us to see inside a ger nearby belonging to some friends (in fact the driver who had given us all a lift there). DavKa had lived in a ger himself till he was 10 years old. Well this suburban ger inside had a few modifications from the original herders ger layout; the saddles were replaced by a HiFi, the fireplace in the middle replaced by an electric oven, and the women’s cabinet included a TV, but still very cosy and practical. The walls were decorated with more of the Mongolian carpets.  Afterwards we went out to get some ice creams at the local store and were chased by many little kids fascinated by the foreigners. There is a notable difference from China here with the number of kids roaming about. In China with the one child policy the parents are much more protective, and you see them holding onto their child when they go out. 

Farewell UlaanBaatar
We had a great time visiting our guests and it was sad to say goodbye back at the guesthouse.  Another thing I should note for those orienteering/rogaining people amongst you is a short ad in the paper here: “HASH HOUSE HARRIERS The Hash House Harriers run-and-walk club meet at 6:15pm every Tuesday . Meet at the front of Bayangol Hotel.” Also Alex from Kazakhstan has given us a new updated APOC 2004 brouchure if anyone is interested. Nikoli and Karina were not at this event since they probably are going to the French Region 1 championships in September instead.  Well, we’ve now landed, picked up Adam’s huge bag of Hockey gear and are awaiting the flight to Singapore. We were nearly stung by a huge excess baggage fee, but I suggested we put a few kgs extra each in our hand luggage. That brought it down a bit (and the fact we laid the luggage back on the scales as much off the scales as we thought we could get away with). Normally they wouldn’t worry about 10kg extra over 3 people, but sometimes the Chinese like to be somewhat officicious.  I have to say a special thankyou to all those who went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their countries: Jerry, Grant, Perry & Anne, Stephan, Georg & Barbel, Markus, Stefan, Mr. Han and DavKa & NyamKa. It makes all the difference on a long trip like this ! 
Thanks also to those of you who have been replying to the reports. I know they vary in quality a bit depending on where I am, how much time I manage to sequester and how tired I am. Apologies for the typos; I know they make it harder to read as they are distracting. I’m amazed sometimes how many letters end up swapped and missing when I have time to read quickly over the report before sending. This keyboard gets intermittant sometimes too (seems to be behaving at the moment however).  I’m a bit sad the trip is coming to an end, and leaving all the old and new friends. So who’s going to Slovakia in 2002 ??
Cheers from Beijing (and later Singapore…free broadband using Wavelan card!),
Mongolian Hat
(Mt Buller the following weekend)