Sunday, January 8, 2012

Journey back to Ulaanbaatar

After a few days by the lake, I headed back to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. I packed up my tent and hiked back toward the town at the souther tip of the lake. On the way I hitched a ride from a wealthy Mongolian family who spoke English. They took me to a Ger (Yurt) and fed me. The family consisted of two sisters, one of which had lived in New York City. Her son was into American rap music, and he asked me about smoking weed. They dropped me off in Khatgal, where I walked through town in the rain until I met these people...

I paid about 20 bucks for a ride to Moron. The group was from Ulaanbaatar, and all worked at a TV station there. They kept handing me beer and making frequent piss stops. We arrived in Moron, and they helped me find a hotel, which was a lengthy process.

The next day I got on a bus bound for Ulaanbaater. The trip started off nicely enough.

Around 4:30 in the morning, I awoke in my seat. The bus had stopped on the road, and it was raining. It pulled off the road, behind a similar bus. The driver shouted something and everyone got up and exited the bus, and I followed suit, not sure what was going on. We stood in the mud and watched our bus quickly pull forward, only to immediately become stuck in the deep mud. We hopped across small streams to seek shelter in our now stuck bus. The reason we pulled off the road was due to a bridge that had recently collapsed. We found large flat chunks of asphalt to place under the bus's wheel.

At one point I counted eight vehicles in a similar situation.

While gathering rocks to place under the wheels, I heard screaming. I assumed it was people yelling to warn another vehicle about crossing the mud. I looked over just in time to see this truck flip over into the gap where the bridge once stood. I stood there in shock at what I had just seen, while people ran toward the downed vehicle. Two people were pulled from the truck, a man and woman, and brought into our bus. She was bleeding from her face, while her husband was shivering and wailing uncontrollably. I had an emergency blanked with me which I gave to them. Most people around seemed unfazed by the injured people and continued to gather pieces of road to place under the wheel. After a half hour, the two people were put on a truck and taken to a hospital. We were able to get our bus unstuck, and around 8:30 we were back on the road. It was one of the strangest and surreal morning of my life. An hour or two later we stopped at a roadside stop for some food, and an English speaking Mongolian kid told me that there had been a third person in the truck who had died, a son of the two injured people.

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