Things Are Starting to Get Interesting

When we left on The World by Road seven months ago, we knew that were were going to see some eye opening things, meet some interesting people and experience a lot of things that for us at the time would seem pretty out of the ordinary.  For the most part, the trip has not disappointed in this regard and we have had a lot of unusual experiences. However, our collective experiences and encounters in Australia, SE Asia and China would not necessarily fall into the category of being totally random.

In order to experience some truly random things, you need only to come to Mongolia, because we are tallying them up on a daily basis here. I am even going to take some of these experiences a step beyond just simply being random, and categorize them as being straight up weird…I mean Twilight Zone type weird, and it did not take long to start to have weird things happen to us in Mongolia.

You are now about to enter the Twilight Zone

After crossing the Mongolian border, we immediately felt like we were tossed into the wild west. The border crossing is on the edge of the vast emptiness of the Gobi Desert and as soon as we arrived, we were greeted to an oncoming sand/dust storm. The wind and flying debris added to our confusion as we tried to negotiate our way through countless Russian-made jeeps and trucks overloaded with supplies and goods obtained across the border in China.

Once we had paid our 4,000 Togrogs (a little less than $4) to get our cars cleared through customs, we headed out into the desert. Heading out into a strange and potentially dangerous environment such as a vast desert is probably not the best idea especially since it was starting to get dark. Within a matter of minutes, the sealed road of the border town of Zamyn Uud, disappeared into a maze of jeep tracks that seemed to go off into the Gobi in all directions. Convinced that this could not be the highway to Ulaanbaatar, we turned around and tried to get our bearings. With the help of a Mongolian truck driver and his creative way of telling us just to head northeast, we determined that the chaotic and crisscrossing tracks did in-fact represent the road to Ulaanbaatar. At that point it was dusk, but we were both a little uneasy about camping near the town because border outposts always tend to attract interesting people, so we headed out into the nothing.

After driving about 20 kilometers, we again felt that we were not on the right road as we saw a little more traffic (two cars) on another track about a kilometer to the west of us. We crossed over… no medians to worry about here, and found what looked like a more well traveled jeep trail. At that point it was pretty much dark, so we parked the Toyotas and prepared to camp. We were definitely in the middle of nowhere and aside from an occasional truck passing by in the distance, were completely alone… or so we thought.

Within a few hours, we spotted headlights approaching from the south and they were headed directly, albeit circuitously, for where we had set up camp. The occupants of the car must have spotted the Tundra in the distance with their lights which is pretty easy to do considering everything is totally flat and it is pitch dark out. We began to wonder if we were camping on someone’s grazing land and they were coming to check us out. To our amazement, a late model Honda pulled up to our camp and four younger Mongolian guys popped out. They saw that we were white and started speaking to us in what sounded like broken Russian. It didn’t take long to realize that these guys, who smelled like they had been enjoying some of Mother Russia’s finest Vodka, were totally lost and looking for the road to UB as well. Unfortunately, we could not help them and they got back into their car and zig-zagged their way back across the desert in the direction of town.

Just a few random camels in the middle of nowhere

The desert offered up numerous additional random encounters and occurrences… everything from large birds of prey cowering down in fear at our presence to police quarantine checkpoints in the middle of absolutely nowhere. After about three days in the Gobi, we finally made it into Ulaanbaatar which both of us were amazed to find is no longer a backwater Soviet outpost, but a booming, thriving cosmopolitan city of nearly 800,000 inhabitants. However, in true Mongolian style, there is still a large degree of randomness here in the city. Traditional Mongolian gers (felt tents similar to Yurts) share real estate with towering skyscrapers under construction and you can still expect to have some interesting encounters with the locals.

Tired of your uptown condo in downtown UB?

You can keep it real… and random by visiting you local Yurt dealer

You can find them everywhere in the world, but still random to get your Guinness on in Mongolia

Just the other night, we were at a German brauhaus in central Ulaanbaatar (totally random in and of itself), when a local Mongolian guy approached our table. Again, it was obvious that he had been enjoying beer bingo at the bar and immediately started talking to us about the qualities and attributes of Mongolian women and how it would be his pleasure to introduce us to a few. After some more "conversation," we ascertained that "Bambo" was a Mongolian who had been living in Hungary for the past 14 years with his wife and son, but was back in Mongolia to visit his other wife and daughter. Morals aside, Bambo was friendly guy and shortly thereafter, invited us to come out to his countryside spread and go hunting with him. He informed us that we didn’t need to drive our own car because he had five and that he had enough pistols for everybody… he just needed to buy bullets before we left. He also assured us that there was plenty of things to shoot at and if we wanted a horse to ride, he had over 200 and he would literally give us one. Bambo had to get back to his other guests, but gave us his mobile number and said it would make him very happy if we called to take him up on his offer.

These are experiences that you can’t make up but seem too strange to be true. I am sure an interesting blog about our time spent with Bambo will be forthcoming, and the fact that we are going to go out and shoot things with a strange Mongolian guy we met at a bar makes me question my own sanity, but when in Rome I guess… and I have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg.