July 22, 2006 GMT
Across Mongolia

I’ve got a new Chinese visa since yesterday and I’m going to be able to go back to China, as soon as I leave Mongolia, to pick up my motorbike at the border near Vladivostok. The plan, after I have my bike, is to cross Russia all the way to Europe.

After arriving in Mongolia from China on July 8th, I took a night train and went directly to Ulaanbaatar. I wanted to see the Naadam festival which was just starting three days later. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook: “Part family reunion, par fair and part Olympics, Naadam (meaning ‘holiday’ or ‘festival’) has its roots in the normal assemblies and hunting extravaganzas of the Mongol armies”. It’s like also like a Chinese New Year, meaning that almost everything is closed.

It’s the biggest event of the Mongolian year for foreigners and locals alike. Small Naadams are held throughout the country but the one that competitors as well as spectators want to attend is the one held in Ulaanbaatar for three days starting July 11th.

After the festival was over I went back south into the Gobi desert to restart my itinerary where I had left it. I started in the small village or Irdin and slowly headed north by train from one station to the next. On July 16th I arrived at around 10:30 pm in the small town of Sainshand which is supposed to be one of Mongolia’s most dusty, dry and windblown aimag (provincial) capitals.

Outside the station, I met a businessman from Ulaanbaatar who helped me found a small hotel. As I was beginning to take a shower, I got electrocuted inside the bathroom and my journey almost ended there. I still don’t understand how I managed to extract my body, which was violently shacking under the 220v electric current, from that bathroom.

I remained half unconscious on the bedroom floor for a while where the receptionist found me. She called that businessman who had brought me there and he arrived soon after with a doctor who gave me an injection to revive me. They had to carry me to my bed. I couldn’t walk. They left at around two o’clock and at three o’clock the police woke me up to check my passport. The receptionist told them what had happened and that I couldn’t get up. They managed to take my name and my nationality and left.

The next morning I was feeling a bit better although my entire body was still very painful. I needed to do something somehow intensive and positive in order to put that awful experience behind me. I decided to go into the middle of the Gobi desert to visit a confluence. The closest was less than 20km away from the city. I called that businessman again and asked him if he’d be interested to join me.

We rented a Russian jeep with a driver and we made it across the desert directly to the point with the help of my GPS. We found the confluence with the skeleton of a cow lying less than ten meters away. Except that carcass, there were just a few plants here and there which are made into a concoction by nomads to ease stomach pain.

The same day I left Sainshand late at night; again by train. Finally, on the 19th, I found a car in the village of Airag that took me directly to Ulaanbaatar where I’m going to stay for a couple of days.

Posted by Fabrice Blocteur at July 22, 2006 04:51 AM GMT
 


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