We left Ulaanbaatar at 6.30 in the morning when the roads were still relatively quiet. We had a 12 hour drive ahead of us so it was best to beat the rush hour and gridlock gripping the city, where all avenues are choked with honking cars. The van we were traveling in is an old Russian vehicle, a bit like a VW Camper crossed with a minibus, and the inside smelt like a Second World War museum; petrol, tin and perishing leather. Combined with the smell, the hum of the engine and the rattle of the axel, I thought it might be a little like flying in a C47 over occupied Europe, every pothole was another barrage of flak jolting my bones which were trying to sleep. The main difference being the fear of death was replaced with the excitement of travel and adventure.
I spent the first part of the day dozing in the back of the van, I was tired and the bumpy unmaintained roads were uncomfortable, so reducing my levels of consciousness seemed to be a good way to decrease the discomfort of travel. We drove through an emerald wilderness of soft green velvet draped across gentle hills. Isolated gers were scattered like discarded buds of cotton wool in the distance, and countless herds of horses roamed freely like zebra on the Savannah. We stopped for lunch in a very small town; I was introduced to the cuisine, if you could call it such, and had mutton and noodles, which tasted dirty and sweaty, as everything I have eaten so far does.
|Rural Mongolia - gers, horses and hills.|
|A lonely tanker on the road to Bayankhongor|
|We only passed a handful of people all day.|
|Preparing the 'whore-hog'.|
|Mongolian drinking games - fermented horse milk.|
|A boy out herding his goats.|
I wanted to get some shots of the van driving through landscape for the film I am making, so set up my tripod in a shallow river to film the vehicle crossing. As I was wading out, my flip flops were sucked into the sediment, and as I pulled they both snapped, so I spent the rest of the day barefoot, much to the amusement of the few locals we met. I left my flip flops in the desert, to be discovered by irate environmentalists or delighted archaeologists. The clap-trap van rattled across the arid landscape; we were constantly tossed up in the air and clutched back by gravity as we hurtled towards the horizon. We stopped in the small settlement by the lake, which consisted of maybe 20 gers, a couple of brick buildings and a single petrol pump. The outskirts of the outpost were littered with rubbish, plastic, broken bottles and baked toilet paper. It was actually just like Tatooine from Star Wars, not that I've been there. We opted to have some lunch in the single cafe there, we had the mutton noodles again, which were dirtier than before, and they would come back to haunt me like a violent poltergeist in my stomach. Four hours later, and 15 minutes after we arrived in Altai, I was violently sick and this would continue all evening. I assume they mixed some of the dried shit they use for cooking in with my meal, I felt awful and could not keep anything inside me. The other end started later on, and I was spurting evil from both ends of my axis; and then my nose started bleeding. Leaking from three holes at once. At least I didn't piss myself.
|A herd of camels were the last thing we passed before bones littered the way.|
|Giving fuel to some who had ran out.|
|Our driver and two of the girls on the trip in the cafe at the end of the world.|
|One of the few signs of life we passed.|
|The Gobi road.|
|Three unwashed children playing outside the offending restaurant.|