Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 15

August 15 Ulaanbaatar

Friday morning we woke up and checked email on my blackberry. There was a note from Rosie saying that Paul had arrived the previous day and was staying at the Chinggas Khan Hotel, the nicest and most expensive hotel in Ulaanbaatar. We jumped in the car and headed over to his hotel. It was great to see him, the first familiar face we saw in the past month. Later in the day we had a meeting at the hotel with the educational TV station producer and a couple of other people from the station. They asked us to come down to the station and to do an interview about our Mongol Rally adventure. The station was having a staff retreat at a ger camp south of the city the very next day and they asked us to join them. On Saturday morning the communications director and a camera girl accompanied us and gave us directions to the ger camp. We stopped along the way at a giant statue of Chinggas Khan. This statue is about 12 stories high, the largest horse statue in the world. You can ascend the inside of it on an elevator and walk around on the horse’s back. The view of the surrounding country side was spectacular. We did an interview there and then carried on to the ger camp. There we were treated to lunch and Paul did a demonstration of the MediCruiser equipment. The station’s producer is very interested in creating some programming about MediCruiser to help get it launched in Mongolia. He could clearly see the potential for delivering modern health care in Mongolia. They also produced more footage of the vehicle and then we headed off back towards UB. On the way back we stopped to have a ride on a camel as well as a hainhe which is a cross between a yak and a cow and looks like something out of star wars.

When we got back to UB we went to the finish line party for the Mongol rally and what a party it was. The adventurists had hired a number of bands and entertainers and even had fireworks. We got to meet up with lots of people that we had met along the way and lots of others that had just arrived. There was a great deal of camaraderie as we exchanged stories of our adventures over the past month.

The teams that had entered Mongolia from the far western side had it a lot tougher than teams like us who had travelled through Sibera and entered Mongolia from the north and the condition of their cars proved it. We wanted to make sure that the MeidiCruiser arrived in good condition so we took the route with the better roads. From western Mongolia to UB the roads are more like tracks through the countryside with lots of potholes and rocks and rivers to ford. One team I heard about hit a rock and knocked the plug out of their oil pan. Luckily another team following them noticed a trail of oil and managed to alert them before they lost all of their oil and ruined their engine. The guys followed the oil trail back down the dirt road and by a stroke of luck stepped on the plug. They dusted it off put it back in, filled up with fresh oil and continued on their way. Ross and Ian who we had met up with a couple of times told us how there are only 3 big towns along the way and they were towed in to 2 of them. In one instance they put a couple of holes in their transmission and lost most of the transmission fluid. When they were towed into town they found out that because the transmission is aluminum no one could weld it. They guy at the garage ended up smashing bits and pieces off of an old transmission he had laying around and then proceeded to glue in the broken pieces, repairing it like a jigsaw puzzel. Another team told of breaking their rear axel and using a couple of pieces of wood and a lot of wire to make a splint strong enough to get them to the next town so it could be welded. It sounds like we missed lots of fun.
The party went on late into the evening. I managed to get back to the hotel by 2:00 and Calen followed several hours later.

This morning we walked to the “Black Market” one of Asia’s largest markets which attracts about 60,000 people per day. This was a fantastic market teaming with people where you could buy anything you could imagine. It is also a hotbed of pickpockets and indeed we were targeted. A couple of guys jostled me in between stalls and I immediately felt my pocket for my camera and sure enough it was gone. I told Calen and Paul that the camera was gone and we turned right around and confronted the thieves. Once they were cornered they turned over the camera and we were on our way. So not only was I pick pocketed but we were able to get the camera back as well.

When we got back to the hotel we met with Dr Luvandash from Emergency Medical Services who took us for lunch and then to the Gobi Cashmere factory store to buy a couple of cashmere sweaters and then to the national theatre for a concert of traditional Mongolian folk music and dance. We are now packing and preparing for our early morning flight back to England. We depart Mongolia at 7:30 to Moscow and then on to Heathrow in the evening.
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