Tue 25 Jun ’13 – day 45 The rain hammered down all night and the strong wind making the cover over the chimney hole flap around; however the resultant noise was not enough to keep me wake for very long, so I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Up at 06:20 hours – no hot water, but lucky to have water at all as there was a problem with the supply last night. Having washed my face and cleaned my teeth, I walked back to the ger – jacket on as it was definitely the lowest temperature of my whole trip so far.
We had an early breakfast so that we could get on the road and head back to UB.
I was very disappointed with this ger camp as it was the worst of all the locations at which we have stayed. As the camp was the closest to UB and therefore got the greatest number of visitors, plus being the countries prime conservation conference centre, the whole place needed a good shake up in order to bring it up to a very much better standard.
All the ruts on the track down to the main road were filled with water, so Wednesday had to take it very carefully to ensure that we got there in one piece. Up to the blacktop and turned right, just 87 km from UB and the going was pretty good until we reached the outskirts of the city where we got stuck in a traffic jam while waiting to get through the toll booth. People were trying to jump the queue, so there was lots of tooting of horns and I don’t know why they bothered as the queue stretched as far as the eye could see.
We turned right off Peace Avenue and things went from bad to worse as we passed one of UB’s major markets – one hour to go just over a mile and it’s not as if we can get out and walk as the rain was pouring down.
Ankhaa took us to the ‘Souvenir Shop’ were the goods were expensive, but of a good quality. I ended up buying four small pictures which I’ll get framed to hang on the wall, while after some haggling Chris and David purchased a traditional bow.
After a dash back to the mini-bus through the rain it was off to lunch. One thing about this trip is the amount of food that we have been given – large breakfasts, three course lunches and the same for dinner. Today we are in an all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ. Great salad to start and then you filled a dish with meat and veg, pick your sauce and then take the whole lot to the chef and watch him cook it on a very large round hot plate. There was much throwing and catching of the long cooking knives to impress the customers. Full yet again.
The rain had stopped as we headed back to the hotel and checked in.
Disaster, they’ve misplaced (or lost) my suitcase, so much gnashing of teeth. I went up to my room and emptied out the rucksacks and put things out for the laundry as I had very few clean clothes, then asked reception to expedite the washing. I went on-line to Anne at John Allan Travel to explain what had happened and what I now needed her to do. I also contacted my sister to say that I was now back in UB.
I tried to have a sleep, but just laid there thinking about what I had lost and needed to continue the journey. I eventually got up, showered and dressed before going down to the foyer to meet Ankhaa and then had a discussion with the Senior Sales Manager and Front Office Manager (both ladies) about what had happened and what I needed. They were going to see what could be done.
Ankhaa was wearing a skirt and blouse, so this was the first time we had seen her legs – not bad.
It was off to dinner at a restaurant on the ground floor of the building which houses the offices of Tour Mongolia, the company which Ankhaa works for. Another good meal, but I was being to feel stuffed so left some.
Back at the hotel we all went up to the Edge Bar for a night-cap, but no alcohol was being served, so soft-drinks all round. We were told that following riots at a previous election a law was passed that no alcohol could be bought anywhere in the country on two days before the election, election day itself and then for three days afterwards. Strange, but it seems to work.
Went to bed but I tossed and turned a lot as the quilt made me feel too hot; threw it off, but the air-conditioning made me feel cold. Not sure when, but I must have dropped off at some point.
Wed 26 Jun ’13 – day 46 I kept waking up thinking about what was in my suitcase, besides the laptop, shoes and clothes, there were my house keys, address book, the guidebooks and all the travel documents to get from Ulan-Ude to the first hotel in Japan.
I eventually got up just before 08:00 hours, showered and dressed in clean clothes as all the laundry had been returned last night. Then went down to reception and asked that the Business Centre be opened up so that I could go on-line. As this was the day of the Presidential Elections, it was also a public holiday, so the centre manager was not in. The hotel staff eventually got things sorted, even if they did have to phone the manager at home as she had changed the password and not told anyone.
Anne had come up trumps and had sent everything I needed from her end; I had just one query about the airline e-ticket as all I had was a number on an e-mail. I then contacted Yuriy at Real Russia, told him what had happened and asked whether he could issue duplicate tickets. Having closed the system down I packed everything that I did not need into my rucksack and went down to the foyer.
Wednesday was already waiting and we set off to the DHL office; as it was a holiday, there was just one lady and her three year old son in, very efficient as always and things were sorted PDQ.
On the way back to the hotel I saw that all the shops were still closed along Peace Avenue, but I hoped that they would open later. The man in charge of the barrier didn’t want to lets us in, so Wednesday launched into a tirade, Mongolian Army officer (as he used to be) to a subordinate. The barrier was opened.
Having collected all my info from the room, I met up with Ankhaa in the foyer and we had a meeting with the hotel staff. Some good news, because after the Bells Boys had watched hours of CCTV footage, they thought that they had tracked down my suitcase, but cannot confirm it until tomorrow because of the holiday. We discussed getting the suitcase back to me if it was actually mine and they were happy to get it couriered to Ulan-Ude; I had to sign for 500000 tögrög (about £250) which I was given to help me buy what I need for the remainder of my trip.
Everyone came down for the 11:00 hours meet and I brought them up to date with the saga of the missing suitcase. Chris and Nes are very concerned, but David was like me, it had happened so let’s move on.
We set off to visit museums, but they were all closed despite their websites saying that they would be open. So a drive around UB which from my perspective was better than trampling round inside looking at exhibits.
We passed the Presidential Palace and then drove through the ‘rich persons’ district where lots of building work was being carried out and then on to the monument commemorating Soviet / Mongolian collaboration. It was high on a hill to the south east of the city and the view was pretty good. The trouble is that with an ever increasing population the city was expanding into what we would term as green belt land.
We tried to visit the Old Palace, but yet again it was closed despite the sign saying that it would be open. It looked a bit weird as it was now surrounded by high-rise buildings.
On to the cashmere shop, a factory outlet, where I bought presents for my relatives, a cardigan, jumper and scarfs. When I reached for my credit card it was not there. Aaagh!!! Then I realised that I must have left it at the DHL office; Ankhaa got on the phone, thank heavens it was not yet 13:00 hours (closing time) and yes they had it, so a quick drive over to collect it. I must be cracking up in my old age.
The farewell lunch was a four course affair, when the starter and pud would have been enough.
Chris and David set off to walk back to the hotel while the rest of us tred to find an open shop where I can buy some clothes, but even the Store No 1 was shut. Everywhere was closed except the mall by the hotel, so having dropped off my day sack Ankhaa took me shopping. An interesting experience having ladies select my clothes; I got a shirt and chinos (too long in the leg, but I can turn them up) in one shop, a nice pair of (Spanish) tan shoes in another and a small wheelie bag in a sports store. The overall cost was more than the hotel had given me, but not by much and I have some assets.
I took out more tögrög against my debit card having max’d it to the daily limit yesterday and as all the banks are closed I will have to change the money into Yuan at the border. ATM’s are wonderful devices.
Back at the hotel I was asked to wait until the Front Office Manager appeared and I told her how to identify my suitcase and the combination.
Ankhaa has been wearing a smart black embroidered blouse which she was given last night as a birthday present from some friends.
It was then back to my room for a snooze, the laundry arrived, so a shower, dress and then the others arrived to leave their bags in my room while they check out. Up to the Edge Bar to waste time before they depart to the airport; I managed to get some photos from the outside patio area. I could see the monument across the valley, with a picture of Chinggis Khan carved into the hill on one side of it and a quotation in the ancient Mongolian language on the other side. Peace Avenue is very quiet with little traffic moving, but it will be back to its normal hectic state tomorrow.
At 20:45 hours we descended to my room where they collected their bags and then it was down to reception. Wednesday looked very smart having had a haircut, shave and with clean clothes on.
Hugs and handshakes all round as they depart for the airport for their long flight home, via Seoul.
I went back on-line to find that Yuriy can’t issue duplicate tickets, so I had to pay £270 for e-tickets which I would have to exchange at the station.
I am now on my own again and it felt a bit strange after twelve days in the company of others.
And so to bed having booked a 05:00 hours wake-up call with reception as the wake-up system on the phone was not working.