- City: Kanpur
Day 25 We had to stay an extra day in Tsetserleg, since we couldn’t get the morning bus to UB. Since the capital is 500 km from Tsetserleg, we couldn’t possibly think of riding there in time for our flight back. So we stayed put in the city buying bus tickets for the next day, not knowing whether we would be allowed to carry our bikes on the bus! We went around the town looking for lunch and it was a very weird town. It is small and deserted and gives you the creeps as if it were a ghost town. Most of the restaurants were shut, and finally we found something to eat and I got horse meat to eat which made me very happy. The first time in my life i was eating horse, it was a momentous occasion of my life!
Another day of doing nothing meant that I sat and watched more Japanese anime. And if you were wondering why i would rather watch movies on my phone instead of going for a walk in the town, well the town was rather small and well weird! And there was no question of going for a small ride on the bike, because hell, we had been in the saddle for many days and were just happy to do absolutely nothing and laze around like a bunch of useless sods!
Day 26 23rd August. We woke at 530AM, the first time in the entire trip that we woke up that early. We packed our bags loaded them onto our bikes and rode to the bus stop. We reached the bus stop and it was completely deserted. Half an hour later the bus drove in and a few other passenger vans also queued up. Slowly people started trickling in. The bus driver showed us the available luggage space and told us that the bike wouldn’t fit in there and that posed a massive problem for us.
The luggage space was limited and Mongols tend to travel with lots of luggage! So there was no chance of us carrying our bikes in the bus. A van guy told us that we should keep our cycles on the van and he will drop it at the same bus stop where we would get off in UB. This was not the best plan we had heard, travelling separately without our bikes didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in us. But when in Mongolia do as the Mongols, and that means trusting people to be by and large honest!
Finally we left our bikes in charge with the van driver with a small prayer of hope! The bus journey from Tsetserleg to UB was surprisingly comfortable with more than adequate leg room in a Kia manufactured vehicle. In fact we got more leg room in that bus as compared to our Air China flight! The 500km journey was covered in around 8 hours. We finally reached Dragon Centre in UB and with the help of the bus driver we located our bikes, loaded it up with our luggage and rode in the direction of the bike shop which was 12 km away. We had paid 40000 Tugrik for the two bikes to be transported.
In UB we had got a room to stay through AirBnB, which is a system where people can rent out a bedroom in their apartments. We reached the place and called up the owners, unfortunately they weren’t at home and we had to wait for a bit before they showed us into the apartment and gave us a set of keys to the place. We left our luggage there and rode down to the bike shop to return our bikes. Joel the store owner, was happy to see us back safe and sound from our trip and sat and chatted with us asking us details about the route, as he planned to start guided tours for people who want to do a supported trip. He was very receptive to our many ideas and suggestions for planning such rides. After that we went to the town centre and hit Delhi Darbar, where Prakash once again ate tasty vegetarian food after a very long time. I stuck to the local food, though it turned out to be a Korean dish called Kimchi.
Day 27 The penultimate day of ours in UB. We spent the day visiting the bike shop to say hello and then walked down to the town square to buy some memorabilia and send postcards to various friends in India. After a good lunch we returned to the bike shop to meet Joel and discuss a few more cycling plans with him. There we met a couple of Belgian guys who were even madder than us.
They had just finished travelling Mongolia on horseback. They had been hit by bad luck, a horse of theirs had try to run away and in the process of catching it they had dropped a bag with all money, passports etc. And were running around to get all the necessary paperwork done before they left the country in a couple of days. We returned to the apartment and had dinner with our very gracious hosts, finally packing up for the long journey home.
One of the two Belgian guys had spent a month in Mongolia working at a horse ranch. He went through a portal called https://www.workaway.info/ You can work without being paid in a foreign country, in return they give you food and lodging, a good cheap way to travel and experience different cultures. In fact anyone who has the time should give it a try!
Day 28 The last morning in Mongolia. For the first time on our trip we made a plan! And that was to visit the Winter Museum to get a glimpse of a small part of Mongolian history. It was a good decision as it was a lovely place with many small stories painting a giant picture for us to see and appreciate.
After that I had my last supper in Mongolia, where I hogged as much of the awesome food as I could. Anybody watching would have thought that I was being sent to the gallows immediately after. Prakash on the other hand suffered through another tasteless vegetarian meal! After that we took our bags, walked down to the Bike Shop who called a cab for us and went back to Chinggis Khan International Airport. After all the unnecessary formalities created by political humans, we were on our way in the air. As I looked out of the aeroplane it was with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to this beautiful country and not for a moment looked forward to going home!
In fact that made me question the very concept of home. Was i really going home? What is home? For a month in Mongolia, home for me was the saddle of my bike, where i really lived. A far cry from the filthy, crowded uncivilised city i live in.
We landed at the Beijing Airport somewhere in the evening and our connecting flight to Delhi was 23 hours later. If it was more than 24 hours, then we could have gotten a temporary visa and gone and visited the great wall of China. We were short by an hour! So we had 23 long hours to sit and kill at the airport terminal. More movies, books and no Facebook, Twitter and Google. We walked around the massive terminal looking for empty comfortable places to chill and watched people come and go, waiting for out turn to board, instead of getting bored! I don’t think i have seen as many flight take off and land in my life as i saw in those twenty three hours!
One thing that i noticed was that the airport was spotlessly clean. Not in a single place did i see a mess, until we went to the gate where we had to board the flight to India. The one corner where Indians were sitting was littered with packets, empty cans, spilled food and drink and generally cringe worthy garbage. It was disheartening and exceptionally irritating to see the filth that we Indians leave wherever we go. It has gotten to a point where our reputation precedes us.
A non-event flight later we landed in Delhi 30 days after we had left. 15 minutes in the city and i choked up. No not with tears and emotions, but the bloody pollution of the damned city. Yes, welcome back it was!