A New Dawn

Nicholas Quirke was disappointed that the start of his trip through Mongolia on 26 January 2020 was in the dark. Peering into the shadowy gloom of the landscape, when he woke at 5.30,  he could make out some distinctly rolling dunes, only imagining what secret sights they contained. He experienced another pang of disappointment that his journey on the train was to finish in 1 hour and 20 minutes though he also found it in himself to enjoy a feeling of pleasure that he could now say he had been to Siberia. He packed silently to avoid disturbing his sleeping roommates, and as ever with change he felt a growing unease. Now he had reached Mongolia there was an additional hurdle to overcome. When organising his trip and buying the rail tickets for his journey he was unable to purchase an online ticket for the next stage;  Ulaan-Baator to Beijing, his next destination. It was a ticket he could only purchase in Ulan-Baator. A major complication as westerners can only buy if they are residing, temporarily or permanently in Mongolia, the ticket can then be delivered to the residence. It was also Chinese New Year and buying tickets to China once he was staying there could be difficult and the train potentially fully booked. He really couldn’t wait till he was in Mongolia, and to add further to his headaches, to get a Chinese Visa, he had to have proof of entry to China and if he couldn’t get a ticket, how was he to provide that proof. This was a conundrum he had needed to resolve back in December. At the time he had diligently researched online and eventually discovered an answer to his puzzle. He located an individual in Ulan Bator, the wonderful Mtt Gabna, who would purchase the ticket for him, send the scanned proof,  which he would then be able to submit to the Chinese visa office and for $140. He would deliver the ticket to Nicholas at The Azara Guest House, where he was a staying,  at 1pm. This meant all Nicholas needed was $140 Dollars which he had purchased in Brighton before he left. And here was where the anxiety started, as not only did he not possess any local currency when he arrived in Ulan Bator, to get a taxi to his Guest House he also thought he was short of Dollars. Disembarking for the last time, knowing he would not get back on board really made him sad and he hugged his friends with whom he had shared this extraordinary journey. They said their goodbyes and he went off on his own. Slava was very concerned but he said he would be alright. It was still dark and very cold. He found An ATM but he could only get Mongolian Togrog and he completely lost his confidence in understanding the conversion rate without a link to WiFi. He initially withdrew the equivalent of £5. Adding to his mounting frustration was being beset by taxi drivers trying to get his business. Finally he got some peace and was able to work it out. A taxi driver did help him and once in the car and discussing the price he got into an argument as the driver wanted about £20 Nicholas finally agreed on £14 but he was not happy All this had taken an hour and he was relieved to be at the Guest House and greeted by the charming Haji, who immediately asked him for $111. Now,  he definitely didn’t have enough dollars.. He wasn’t aware until he came to shower just how dirty and smelly 5 days without proper washing facilities could make you. He was also relieved to be using a hygienic toilet. He had a rest and caught up with emails and text messages before going out to buy Dollars for Mtt Gaba. At 10.30 he went to the Sate department store where Haji had told him he could get dollars. Of course, it was just a money exchange so he had to find an ATM. He found a bank, which surprisingly was open on a Sunday  but they Didn’t have an ATM and couldn’t sell him dollars but he did work out with them where he could get money from an ATM and exactly how much he needed. He walked back and forth., He withdrew money, he exchanged money and he got to the Guest House just before Mtt Gabna arrived. Typically he had got the wrong amount and now he was now well over the amount of dollars. He had the ticket in his hand and on the 30th, no matter what was happening he would start on his journey again into an ever increasing drama in China. He could finally relax and enjoy the experience of being in Mongolia, in Ulan Bator. It was very cold but he was armed with his thermals and face mask, serving a dual purpose now the threat of Coronus was around. It was also very sunny and bright, which meant he needed his sunglasses. Because of the mask his glasses kept steaming up and he couldn’t see  through them as he headed along Peace Avenue to one of the major sights in the city, Sukhbaatar Square, where he embarked on a frenzy of photographs. The Statue of Genghis Khan was so inspiring, particularly as the view of the mountains in the background were spectacular. It was not so good an outlook for Marco Polo’s statue, whose view of the mountains was now obscured by High Rise Buildings. He was amazed to see that there was an Ice Rink built entirely of ice in the square and Ice sculptures and that it was it was cold enough for them not to melt. He felt buoyant and confident and set off back to the guest house via a supermarket for water and some snacks. Back at the Guest House he met Rainbow , a Hong Kong national and her girlfriend Lisa, from The Netherlands, but living in Hong Kong for five years. ‘Don’t go to China’ they said. He could now finally settle down and start to catch up on 5 days off grid. He had plenty of messages to read and he also did some research on the deadly Virus. He contacted his sister who had messaged of problems within his flat and he was pleased to speak and get those sorted. He still felt that heading to Beijing, and being ultra careful was still his best option. He also discovered that there was the possibility of a teaching job looming which was even more incentive to keep on going. The day started in darkness but ended with a light heart and a sense of satisfaction. He was in Mongolia. 

5 Comments

  1. How thrilling to be there Nick. I think you’re right to push on. Your health is good and with the promise of a potential job. Hope that bears fruit. Your train pals will no doubt remain in touch.
    Here is grey and damp, with bonus Brexit fun today, so you can imagine the mood in your home town. Best out of it and enjoying dentures, something refreshingly different. I too am sampling pastures new…oil painting going well and now making lampshades (how very gentlewomen’s guild). Anyway, it’s fun. Alright, ‘It’s not Ulaan Bator’. Thus, a new byword for calm fun is born. Eat well and rest lots to fight flu. X P

    Like

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