Mongolia, first impressions

Once more,  after a long 12 hours bus ride across borders, we made sound and safe. We had made it to Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. Immediately after we sat feet on the ground, a bunch of girls came to obsessively ask us where were we going to stay, what was our plan and that they could offer us great accommodation and all sorts of tours and activities to do in Mongolia.

I have to say that since my idea coming to the country was to ride horse, they got me quite distracted, Alex saw the trap right away. We got rid of them and tried, few meters away from the bus, to figure out what the plan was from then on, because, once more, we had NO plan, a side from the addresses of some workaway.com farms in the country side that had accepted our request to stay there for a week.

We happily realized that the flyers these promoting girls had given us had a map of the city on the back side, something highly appreciated when you literally don’t know where to go to. Based on the map, the only park we saw was in the city center and this was too far to walk it, so we had to go by bus.  Problem was, we had forgotten to change money so we only had rubles, and it was too late for banks to be open, and withdrawing money we thought it would be too expensive, so what to do? we just asked this young girl on the bus station if she’d take some rubles in exchange for the equivalent in tugriks, and she did, so we could pay the bus.

Once in the center we walked to that green area we saw on the map, what ended up being a small amusement park fully fenced, meaning, they close it at night, so a no-go for us. Next to it we saw a parking space, and on one side a space where only luxurious jeeps and so on could be rented, after much consideration whether we should just pitch our tend on a green spot we had seen or ask the seemed like security guy, we decided for the second and luckily he ended up to be a super sweet, nice and caring guy who agreed to the quite strange proposition of us sleeping on the margins of the parking space, and even allowed us using the tiny container-room that the workers have to eat or relax while working. And so we first experienced the friendly, happy and (too)easy-going Mongolian way.
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The morning after we strolled a bit around the city using still the flyer map and while looking for a bank that had open on Sunday. And what about the farm? Well, that was another story.

Thing is, the  first farm I so badly wanted to go to was from a man named Bayaraa, who accepted my request quite rapidly but who somehow few days before we started our trip, went missing, meaning his profile disappeared. So in our desperation we contacted a second farmer, Martin, that also accepted the request but who suddenly also stopped responding to the messages when realized that, due to Russian visa, we could stay for a week (normally workaway.com stays are meant for at least a month). Because of all this mess and during our trip, I contacted a third person, in this case a woman named “Dalai”, who had a quite new profile but who immediately accepted my request, and who became our last hope. The only problem was that she forgot giving us any address or contact number, so we only knew the are where she is located, and this, in a packed area with thousands or gers* spread all over the country side, isn’t a great help. But we decided to risk it, and so we went again all the way until the Dragon Bus station.

*A traditional yurt (from Turkic) or ger (Mongolian) is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

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trying some local meal before leaving to the bus station

Once there and standing before us on the line, we saw a European young looking couple, to me it was somehow pretty clear they were Catalan, being one yourself, you have a sixth sense for it. So once they were done buying their ticket, we asked them where were they going and all. They had planned to go to the same place as we had decided, so we joined them in the adventure, without any contact info from this woman nor farm.

The bus from Ulanbataar to Mörön, the bigger city close to the lake was not as planned, the bus we had booked was broken and, what we discovered to be “the mongolian way” it got replaced for a much older one, which didn’t match the plate number on our ticket, so we walked around the whole station without even knowing that “our bus” wasn’t even there. In the end the driver of the new bus tried to explain us, what for us sounded more like another way of tricking us into going with them, what was the new situation. In the end we trusted him and jumped in.

The ride was okay, not much sleep but with astonishing views of the country side, the yurts, the horses, the cows and finally the yaks (the super hairy cows typical for the region). We were so excited. Once there we still had to deal with 5 taxi drivers who wanted to get us to Khatgal, the village next to the lake, in the end we made it to get a good deal, probably still paying more than a local, but that is something you have to accept when you travel to “economically poorer” countries.Picture 001Picture 002

Already in Khatgal and after having some nice quiet breakfast in the still sleeping (at 9 am) village, we started looking for a place with wi-fi, to see if the woman had answered any of our messages, but she had not, so we had no plan again. The Catalan couple had the idea to camp near by the lake and figure out what to do there so we said good-bye to them and started wondering around the village, asking people if they knew the woman named “Dalai”, asking people how much was to rent couple of horses, etc. Stuff that you wonder yourself when you have no idea what to do neither how. In the end, hopeless, we decided to buy some food and join the other couple at the lake, so we started walking.

Suddenly, a guy on a motorbike calls my name “Elisabet!” I immediately turned and the man said: “I’m Bayaraa, from workway!”. Well, what a surprise! because this was the guy from the very first farm who had accepted my request but which profile had disappeared from the webpage. In any case, and although we were still very confused about it all, we both, one after the other, jumped on his motorbike that drove us until his place, still in the village.

Finally it happened that “Dalai” and “Bayaraa” were the same person. Bayaraa had erased his old profile and created a new one, but obviously without informing me about it and because the description and the pictures showed there on both profiles are totally different, I thought it was different people, well… so are the Mongols.
Once at home, these were our first impressions..
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an outhouse toilet! 😉
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the stove, believe me, not as bad as it looks like!

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washing clothes in a no current water washing machine..

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