South to the border, and Darkhan
Friday morning found me packed and on the way to the Consulate by 9.30am. It was only about 2.5km, but the traffic made it seem far longer. This time I was allowed to park the bike close to the gates, in the shade, as it was already quite hot. It was the same gate guard as on Wednesday afternoon, and he came over and we "chatted" about the bike and my trip. I discovered he wasn't a Mongolian as I'd thought, but a Russian Police officer.
Above: A pleasing building close to the Consulate.
Below: The Mongolian Consulate building.
Others began wandering through the gates before 10am, so I went in too and joined the queue in the Visa office. Offer the passport for scrutiny, have it given back with an application to complete, return it to the official, pay USD$95, take a seat and wait.
Hyunchul arrived as I was in the queue, and he fortunately was able to speak with another lady who was Korean/Mongolian, so we learned what was necessary, and a little about the journey south to the border. We waited a little while, then were handed our passports with the visa attached. Only 1 hour and 10 minutes since entering the door. Not too bad, I reckon.
I hadn't yet managed to get a photo of Hyunchul, so he took a selfie of us, then I took one of him ogling the stickers on my pannier.
It was quite hot riding south into the sun. I had a quick fuel stop and a cup opf tea and an icecream, then headed south again, to the border.
The truckies are wonderful. Two drivers shepherded me through the various stages by gesturing where I was to go. Then through a "quarantine" wash, of what use I am still wondering, as it was just riding through a couple of inches of water at the bottom of heavily ridged ramps. For this procedure, I paid R100 - A$2!!
One of the Mongolian Customs officers in the parking area escorted me upstairs to a chap who spoke the merest of English, but it was enough. Finally, I was finished upstairs and it was back down to the bike. Ride a hundred metres or so, stop and go inside to the Immigration areas. Fill in a form, hand over the bike registration - and decipher it for them, as they really only wanted the registration number - through a security check for whatever reason, fill in another form then outside to the bike. However, I got called back over into yet another office where more stampings and data entry happened and I went back to the bike. The lady from the last office came running out. I needed yet another stamp. Off to the guy in the parking area, get the form stamped and give it back to the lady. I was free to go, at last.
Well, for about 200 metres, till I came to the Customs/Immigration areas exit barrier where my passport was checked yet again, then off to another barrier, sort of on the road itself. Hmmmm, this must be where Shoi said I should get insurance. Oops I have no Mongolian tugrigs. Never fear, the guard calls over a lady selling/exchanging currency. I changed USD$50, as that was well sufficient to pay for the insurance with enough left over to refill the tank soon. (It's rarely possible to pay for fuel with a card here and in Russia). So the insurance cost me T15000, about A$8 for a month.
I waited as a quite heated exchange became almost a full on brawl between frustrated travellers and the Customs guards on the street gates, as they only open a one way lane at a time. Eventually a guard took pity on me, and I squeezed through the small opening he offered.
I was on my way in Mongolia at last! Hopefully the roads would improve, as the Russian A361 had been pretty rough in patches, rather large patches.
It was still incredibly hot, and the stress of the border procedures and the heat was taking its toll. I selected Darkhan as the night's rest stop, about 150km south of the border.
I couldn't find the actual road entrance into the first hotel I chose from the GPS, despite riding around it a couple of times, so chose another, the Comfort Hotel. This was apparently the "in" place to be, as it was filled with youngsters out for a good time, by the sounds of things. The corridor to my room was strewn with bodies on chairs and sprawled on the floor, trying to get some fresh air from the window as relief from the heat. The hotel had an outside BBQ dining area, complete with band and female singer, who was actually pretty good, although I didn't understand what she was singing about, of course. Naturally, the stage was just under and around the corner from my window, open to catch the slightest of breezes. But they finished early, by about 9.30pm, thankfully.
I wandered downstairs to the cafe for some dinner, and was offered a menu with both Mongolian and English descriptions, thankfully. I mean, I'm glad that I didn't accidently order one Traditional Mongolian menu item, as I found out it was "Horse Rectum with vegetables". OMG!!!! There was "Liver with Lamb's tails" etc etc etc. As it was still hot, I ultimately chose icecream with blueberries. An easy choice, and very nice it was, too, sitting in the direct cooling blast of the airconditioner.
The bike was parked in the bicycle rack, and covered, although I was a bit concerned about some homeless people hanging around that parking area. But a staff member said there was CCTV, and it would be safe. Next morning, I checked, and the camera was pointing straight at the bike.
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