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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

France - the Pictures

We've spent one week on a houseboat in Burgundy, France. We had fantastic weather, almost no clouds and very hot.
Most of the watergates were operated manually and we helped wherever we could.
The Food was a dream come true, I tried snails, salmon, terrine, quiche and many more things.

The best pictures.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Back in Switzerland

My last day in UB was pretty long. After a very good dinner we went to Strings one last time. The police shut the place down at 3am and I had to kill a couple of hours before going to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. The journey back was uneventful but very long. I had to wait 8 hours in Moscow airport.

The day after I came back I left for a one week vacation in France. We had fantastic weather and a great time. Pictures will follow once I have some more spare time.

Right now I'm back at university and just started my third and final year.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More pictures

Pictures taken between 28.8. and 5.10.2005:
all the pictures

My time in UB is almost over. I'm busy packing and finishing my work. It's amazing how fast the last two weeks have gone by...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Gobi Marathon

On Friday I left to return to the Gobi desert one more time. The night we stayed in a monastery which we could explore the next morning. They had the biggest Ger in Mongolia, it was really huge. Inside there was a smaller golden Ger which was used for ceremonies. Next to it was a very nice temple which looked brand new. No wonder, the monastery was opened just one month ago.
From there we drove south, before reaching Dalanzadgad we turned west and ended up at the Ghenghis Bulls Camp. This was a first class Ger Camp. They even had showers with hot water, real toilets, stoves in each Ger and a Ger which served as a restaurant. For dinner we had Spaghetti with a dream of a sauce. I haven’t had such a good sauce in a long time...

Sunday morning was the big day. Originally I just wanted to do the half-marathon (21.1km), but after speaking with the other participants I thought: “What the heck, I can do that!” We drove 30 minutes to the starting line, which was in the steppe. We were 14 participants: 10 runners trying for the full marathon (42.195km), 2 runners doing the half-marathon and two walkers.

The first 10 km went through pretty flat steppe. After 5 km I already had stitches in the side, but I ignored them and ran on. Around km 12 we ran through a couple of sand dunes. One of them was hedged! Afterwards we came to the conclusion that it probably was an experiment to stop desertification, because there was a grid of stones at the base of the sand dune.
The running was quite hard at times, because the way was sandy and it wasn’t easy to find firm footing.
Then the steppe returned and it stayed flat till I reached the half-way-mark. It took me 2 hours 30 minutes to complete the first part and I was running almost the whole distance. By then my thighs were hurting quite badly, nevertheless I went on. From then on I ended up walking most of the way, because I was way too exhausted to run.
Soon after the half-way-mark I ended up following Joachim, the organizer of the marathon, and not really looking at the markings, he should know the way after all. Suddenly a jeep came up to us and the driver pointed wildly to the right. Joachim was pretty sure about his way and only slightly adjusted the route. After we reached the next hill we saw the refreshment station way behind us further to the right, we had done a detour!
Around km 28 I could stop the van which had my backpack and I took the iPod out. That gave me another burst of much needed energy. Labia, System of a Down, Taproot and P.M.T. helped me to forget the pain and to get on with it.
After km 36 it got sandy again. Fortunately I could see the Flaming Cliffs on the horizon and so I went on. The Flaming Cliffs were a sight to behold. Even though I was very tired and the road got hilly again, I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful rocks. After a steep incline I reached the top of the cliffs, I realized that they were the same cliffs we had visited on our first trip, the ones where they sold the precious stones. Next to the place where stones were sold was the finishing line. I reached it after 6 hours and 6 minutes. I was totally exhausted, but extremely happy that I had managed to complete it, without any training or special preparation.

The next day we started at 8.45am to drive back to UB. To my surprise we headed to the Flaming Cliffs again and ended up going the same route we took on our first Gobi trip. But this time we did it in one stretch. We finally arrived in UB at 9.30pm.

Now, two days after the marathon, my thighs are still hurting. But I wouldn't have wanted to miss this unique experience.


Goodbyes

After the Gobi trip I went back to work. I will write about the most exciting things that happened:

I applied for and got an Exit-Visa, which allows me to stay ten more days in Mongolia and take the plane I already booked. To do this I had to go back to the registration office 4 times...

On two nights we cooked ourselves. First Pako cooked a Thai dinner for us and then Miquel cooked a Paella and bread with tomatoes, I made another Birchermuesli as a dessert.

Burmaa who works in my office helped me to find a good tailor and translated for me. Together we went to the black market again to buy textiles. In addition I bought traditional Mongolian boots and a hat to complete my outfit.

For three days I only had cold water in my apartment; that was a very refreshing shower...

On our way to the Hash we passed Zaisan, to the left of which they had built a huge Buddha statue.

On Thursday was the big goodbye dinner for Evelyn, who left to go back to Switzerland on Friday, and Miquel, who went to China for one month. We went to a very good Thai restaurant and afterwards to Radio Club. There they had a live band which was excellent, unfortunately they only played for half an hour...


Gobi

All the pictures of our Gobi trip (16. – 20.09.):
http://http://www.im-spycher.ch/scrappy/Mongolia/gobi/index.html

Shortly after returning from the Ger to Ger adventure we started planning our second excursion, this time to the Gobi desert. The planning stage ran extremely smooth, everyone who wanted to join could get free time, for some it took a little more effort to convince their superiors, and we even got official backing and some financing from IAESTE. Mije agreed to accompany us as translator.

On Thursday afternoon, it was windy and around 20 degrees Celsius, we met some students who told us about an approaching storm maybe even with snow... Honestly, we couldn’t quite believe them. But that was due to our missing experience with the Mongolian weather as it turned out.

Day 1 (79km):
Next morning 7.30am I got an exited message from Mije telling me that it was snowing outside... I quickly went to the window and couldn’t quite believe my eyes. Everything was white! Suddenly we weren’t sure if we could go to the Gobi or not... After a couple of phone calls the matter could be cleared up, we were definitely going, but without Mije! Her parents didn’t allow her to leave UB in this weather; they thought it was far too dangerous...
To our relief UB Guesthouse could organize a translator for us. So with an hour delay we started on our trip to Gobi. In UB the snow barely made an impact. The streets were wet and that was it. Outside of UB it looked different. The roads were covered in snow and together with the heavy wind we could only see 2 to 3 meters! Our driver drove extremely careful and only 20 to 30 km/h.
Suddenly we saw a figure standing at the roadside and waving to us. The poor guy lost his way in the heavy storm and he didn’t know exactly where he was, so we gave him a lift to the next restaurant. There we stopped for a late lunch.
Through Saka, our translator, the driver told us that it was better to stay here for the night and continue to Dalanzadgad, the planned stop for the second day. Because the storm was still going strong outside we quickly agreed with him and got a room in the restaurant for the night. It was completely empty, but we got a couple of thin mattresses and some blankets for the night. To while away the time we played Chicago and then tried to sleep on the hard floor.

Day 2 (553km):
During the night the snowstorm fortunately came to an end and we saw a beautiful white landscape. The first couple of kilometers were pretty long; we couldn’t drive very fast because of the ice and snow. On the way we saw a couple of cars stuck in the snow. Fortunately for them there was a big truck passing by which could pull them out. Then we saw an amazing sight: Camels in the snow! It didn’t take long till we left the snow behind after that. Our road brought us past Mandalgovi, where we stopped for lunch. A couple of hours out of Mandalgovi our driver suddenly started to ask people for the way and drove cross-country. After a while we found out why. He wanted to show us Tsagaan Suvarga, the beautiful rock formations just on the border between Dundgov and Ömnögov Aimag. Afterwards it got dark pretty soon. Our car had only one working headlight, and even that was flickering all the time. Nevertheless we found our way to Dalanzadgad, where we arrived at 10.10pm. Overnight we stayed in a Ger with real beds, but no heating and it got quite cold during the night...

Day 3 (282km):
Our first stop was in Yolin Am. A very nice valley where they have lots of small animals, we even could get a couple of very nice close-ups. This valley reminded me of the Swiss Alps, because these were real mountains, compared with the hills I found in Mongolia so far... We even saw a mountain goat, way on top of one of them. After cooking spaghetti for lunch we continued westwards towards the sand dunes. For a short stretch we had to walk, the road was so steep that our Russian van couldn’t carry us over that top. Next we came to an extremely narrow passage through the mountains; the car almost didn’t fit through. One corner later we were out in the plains again...
The sand dunes were pretty impressive. Especially the plants which were growing on top of them...
From the sand dunes we headed north to start our long journey back to UB. This night we stayed in a much simpler Ger: No electricity, no heating, no beds, just a couple of mattresses...

Day 4 (~240km):
Camels brought us to a place where they found dinosaur bones. A couple of fragments were still lying around, however, most of them immediately turned to dust when touched... The camel was a smoother ride than a horse and safer than on a dromedary, because we could sit between the humps and hold on to them.
Our next stop was at a rock formation where precious stones were sold and found. From the top it didn't look too impressive and so I didn't venture further.
We stopped at a small restaurant for lunch. There we met a Mongolian family which was celebrating the day after the full moon. They promptly invited us to a round of Airag.
Somewhere on the way the speedometer suddenly stopped working and we had no clue how fast or how far we were going.
Today we arrived at the Ger early, around 5.30pm and so found some time to play soccer and go horse riding. In this Ger we found two beds, we played Chicago and the winners got a bed. I was lucky and won the first round.

Day 5 (~300km):
We got up early to get back to UB in the afternoon. The road was very long and bumpy. In the hills close to UB we still found some snow and the road was in even worse condition than normal... Nevertheless we made it back to UB around 5pm.


 
 
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