08-Mar-2004 -- International Women’s day may be new to you but all over the former Soviet Union it is an important day when men are obliged (for once in a year) to recognize the contribution of women to everyday life. In Mongolia this year, 8 March was a national holiday and for those less interested in such things, an opportunity to bag a confluence point seemingly within grasp of Ulaanbaatar.
We set off at 10 expecting to be back by lunch time but life in Mongolia is not like that. The confluence point is 65 km west of the capital of Mongolia. The point seemed to lie within a fork between two roads. The main road led south of the confluence point and at the closest point was 11.5 km from the confluence. This would be no problem in summer but in snow it would mean a long walk or ski. At that point we were not mentally or physically prepared for the 23km round trip so we retreated.
We then found the other, much smaller, road leading north of the confluence. This was a typical Mongolian road – unsurfaced and covered in snow all winter. Our Russian jeep was up to the job and we eventually got to within 2.7km of the confluence. After a walk of 1 hour, skirting a hill we eventually came to the confluence. David arrived first and after some doubts and wandering in circles Sylvia’s GPS found the same spot +/- 5 metres. Nice to know that these machines tell the same story – right or wrong!
We decided to return by the direct route over the top of the hill (250m above the confluence). Fine views of typical Mongolian scenery – snow, brown earth, Mongolian gers (the round tents used by nomadic herders), and hills in all directions.
The Twix disappeared soon after arrival at the first stop but the Snickers was saved until the return to the car. Nothing could go wrong now! Well we made it safely back to the main road along the snow track but then promptly ran out of petrol. Mongolians keep fuel levels to a minimum to discourage theft. There are sensible limits to this strategy - I got it wrong! Anyway all you have to do is find a passing car (not always easy) – wave an arm and with a few words buy 10 litres of fuel (via a siphon and old antifreeze container etc). Many thanks and we are off home. The petrol lasted to within 20 metres of home but we had completed our mission.
Sylvia’s first confluence. We decided not to tell too many people about the project yet so that we can bag some of the easier ones first!
Despite promises to be back in town for 2pm we were back by 7pm. Not bad by Mongolian standards – in fact just like my promises before my sailing trips! That is another story. Next time assume a whole day – or weekend even! And take a packed lunch.