Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Empty, Dusty Road to Ulaanbaatar- Mongolia's Capital

The friendly clerk, unaccustomed to foreigners spending the night in her hotel, knocks on my door to make sure I'm up to catch the 8 AM bus.
Ticket sales start at 7, and she makes it clear unless I desire spending another day in Nowheresville (literally the English translation of the town's Mongolian name) my three and half hours of sleep must suffice.
She walks me over and negotiates the ticket for me.
I'm grateful and let her know.
bus interior
I gather my stuff, and return to wait for the inefficient system to process her passengers; no electronic check-in here.
I'm the only white person, probably in the entire town, and somehow I end up with the worst seat possible- "Back of the bus whitey."
The very back, and the only row which is elevated so we're too high to look out the windows, which I couldn't anyways since I'm in the middle seat, and the curtains around me are drawn closed.

The bus departs an hour late, making me wish I had used that time for sleep since there is zero chance of doing so en route. Only a few miles outside of town, the paved road ends, and the Mongolian outback begins. We move incredibly slowly, often coming to a standstill as we navigate holes which, if  I could look out the windows, I'm certain I'd see filled with the the skeletons of trucks, their unskilled drivers waving to us for help.
The bus shakes and gyrates like a chihuahua during an earthquake.
We kick up so much dust, that even with all the windows and vents closed, passengers are covering their faces with their jackets, coughing hard as the powdery ground enters their lungs. I look down and see my pants literally covered with dirt; our ship is not exactly airtight.

brief excerpts from the bus ride to Ulaanbaatar

The paved road returns, creating a collective and audible sigh of relief amongst the passengers, then falls away again soon after. This continues for the next 100 km, as we slowly slog our way through.

inside Mongolian eatery
Half way through our journey we make a stop for lunch, about the only sign of human life we've encountered along the way.
While large in size, Mongolia only has 3 million people, giving it the lowest population density of any nation- 1.8 persons per square kilometer.
As nearly half of the country resides in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, and given that forests cover only 8% of Mongolia and are found exclusively in the North of the country, you can imagine the expanse of barren nothingness.
Coughing up fine dust particles while gazing at the lack of scenery, I question why it was I came here. The best answer I can come up with is that I'm running out of new countries to visit.
"Maybe I should buy a ticket to the moon," I joke to myself, but, looking outside I imagine Mongolia might not be all that different visually.
Plus it's cheaper.
Ancient Mongolian woman at lunch stop


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