We’re spending four nights in Ulaanbaatar (UB for short), the capital of Mongolia. For most of the trip, we don’t stay in one place for more than two days but this was a scheduled break following the long drive across Russia and an opportunity to get the Defender checked over before we push on.
We’ve now travelled as far east as we’re going. The trip has taken me through 12 times zones, putting me 12 hours ahead of Bermuda (7 hours ahead of Berlin, for Klaus). But now, we will be heading back east and will gradually reclaim those ‘lost hours’. Here in UB, we are now 11 hours ahead of Bermuda.
On arrival in UB, we checked into the Oasis Guesthouse which is known as a gathering place for overlanders. As such, it is a handy place to meet other travellers and share tips about the places each has visited.
During our stay at the Oasis, we met Justin and Jennifer Lewis from Australia, travelling in their Nissan Patrol ute with a camper body, designed by Justin. They shipped the Nissan to Vladivostock and are now making their way east to the UK, after which they’ll drive down through Africa to Capetown (http://www.globatrol.com).
We also met Caroline and Stephen who are travelling from Australia to Belgium in their Land Rover Discovery. They’ll be taking a similar route to us for part of the way, so we may bump into them again (http://travels.caroline-and-stephen.com).
Whilst the Oasis is certainly the place to meet other travellers, it wasn’t working for us. Our room was like an oven so we had to sleep with all of the windows open – but with all of the neighbourhood dogs barking constantly through the night, it affects your sleep. The ensuite bathroom in our room was out of order, so we had to use a different toilet and the downstairs showers. The kitchen stops cooking food about 6.00pm and it’s a fair way from the city centre, with no restaurants in the immediate vicinity. After the first night, Klaus and I agreed to find somewhere else. As luck would have it, a better option fell into my lap later that morning (see below).
The Defender was scheduled for a full service that morning at Wagner Asia Automotive in UB – the official Land Rover dealer, so I drove her there immediately after breakfast, leaving Klaus at the Oasis. We had a few challenges getting the specific fluids that I required, particularly EP90 which Wagner doesn’t stock, but Service Manager Mr. Batsaikhan took the extra steps to ensure I got what I needed. He took me to a nearby auto centre so that I could see which oils and fluids were available and purchase what I needed. With EP90 in hand, we returned to the service centre so that work could begin. The mechanic gave the Defender an overall inspection whilst it was on a lift and I was taken into the workshop to discuss a couple of minor issues and agree on the work to be done. The fluids were changed in the gearbox, transfer box, both diffs and the power steering. The engine oil wasn’t changed as the appropriate oil wasn’t available (and it was only changed about 2,000 miles ago). The brakes were checked. The wheel bearings on both rear wheels were adjusted. And a blown rear light bulb was replaced!
I spent a good part of the day at the Land Rover dealership, checking in with the manager occasionally whilst using their wifi to update the blog. I also met one of the dealership’s employees who has a nice Defender. We looked around each other’s vehicles and pointed out the modifications that we’ve had done.
Just when I was beginning to think about getting some lunch, Mr. Batsaikhan and colleagues came to get me and took me to a nearby restaurant for lunch, where we had some typical Mongolian food – a noodle dish with meat and a bowl of green tea with milk and dumplings. I don’t drink tea and I don’t drink milk but I felt honoured to have been invited to lunch and I was happy to be able to sample the local cuisine. And the tea was quite nice (you pick up the bowl and drink from it – but the dumplings are eaten using a spoon).
Whilst speaking with Mr. Batsaikhan during the day, he told me about an apartment that was available to rent. Having already decided that we would leave the Oasis, this was music to my ears. A two-bedroom apartment, centrally located, with secure underground parking, wifi, washing machine, etc. The rent for the apartment was about the same as we were paying for the room at the Oasis (about $55 per night). After the work on the Defender was completed, Mr. B took me to see the apartment and the deal was struck. I drove back to the Oasis, picked up Klaus and our luggage, and we moved to the apartment for the remaining three nights.
What a difference it has made being so centrally located. There are scores of restaurants within a short walk of the apartment. We have a quiet apartment to ourselves (and our own bedrooms). We can do all of our laundry in the washer/dryer before heading off for more camping. We’ve been able to walk to the nearby supermarket and stock up the Defender with food ready for the next leg. Best move we could have made!
The prices in UB are very good, especially when compared to Russia. I got my first haircut of the trip today in a salon (I usually go to a barber). My hair was washed with shampoo and conditioner and then blow-dried. Then it was cut. Then washed again with a head massage and blow dried. Total cost = 10,000 MNT (about $6). Awesome.
I then spent three hours walking up and down Peace Avenue, the long main street through UB. I was trying to find a print/copy shop as I needed to print a document, sign it, and then scan it back onto a memory stick. This was a requisite in the procedure to obtain a Letter of Introduction (LOI) for my Uzbekistan visa. Having the LOI will allow me to get the Uzbek visa on the day of application in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), rather than wait 5-10 days for it. A bit of messing about, but three hours spent today is worth it if it saves me up to 10 days of waiting later in the trip. Anyway, I finally found a small shop that did the printing and scanning for me.
With all of the little ‘jobs’ taken care of, tomorrow will be a day to explore some of the city and see some of the sights.