We won’t see pavement again until we reach the edge of Kharkhorin later tonight. A huge effort is underway to rebuild the existing highway, as evidenced from the multitude of trucks and other heavy duty equipment we pass en route. This construction forces us off the paved road and onto a dirt one, which then unbraids into half a dozen roadlets that thread across the steppes. Mongolians don’t particularly care to keep to one official detour. Our driver too decides at times it is better to scour a new path across the grass than to follow the existing rutty drags.
This is a rough, beautiful country, a lost one, with a broken history and stoic people. The landscape is endless and ragged, a thin skin of grass stretched over lumps of bones. In the tucks of mountains and hills, people have set their gers, which are bright dots against the dark and enveloping grass.
At Lun, about four hours from UB and far along enough to get a pompeiian dose of dust and heat, we had decided there was no way that we could make it to Tsetserleg in one day as the other team had done. The roads won’t improve and the travel was taking a toll on both N and A. I should say, however, that I have been amazed at how well our little one is managing so far. His sleeping and eating schedule is totally whack, but he seems as wide-eyed and hilarious as usual, easily endearing himself to the Mongolians. N deserves all the credit for this, for making sure he gets full and undisturbed sleep when he needs it. That she’s still breastfeeding has also made it easier for Augú to be fed and to be comforted.Filed under travels | Comments (2)
We leave the city limits just before the morning traffic starts to boil. Because I have the fattest ass, I get the honor of being in the front passenger seat. Nikki, Augú in his car seat, Uyanga and male Byaamba have to share the back. The first hour or so of driving passes without event. Our driver, whose name I never did catch, puts in a cassette of a very popular singer, whom I’ve heard countless times blaring out of cabs and stores during my walks around the city. His excellent, operatic voice makes me wish I had spent my childhood years in the Mongolian countryside, just so I could use his songs to reminisce.
N had spoken to G last night, who told her the drive to Tsetserleg is about 12 hours, not eight, as the group had originally estimated. “The roads are dusty, but generally in good condition,” N says, recounting G’s words. She has been taking 500 mg of Panadol every 6 hours to combat the fever and looks and sounds much better this morning. I admire her strength, for deciding to come with the kiddo to this country, for deciding to embark on a long road trip to the Mongolian bush with nary a day to recuperate from her day of fevers and chills.
Her fortitude is about to be tested, because soon the highway will end, and we’ll be forced to drive on dirt. For the next eight hours.
Although G was technically correct in his synopsis of the road conditions out of UB, I would have perhaps used a slightly more robust word than ‘dusty’. What the cars are churning up as they speed by, and as the picture here shows, is soil by the ton. Sun-blockin’, lung-fillin’, dinosaur-killin’ dust that slips into the air vents and between the window seals until it cakes you and everything else in the car. I feel like we’re in a mobile tandoori oven.Filed under travels | Comments (2)