Checking the time/distance remaining on maps.me every half an hour for the duration of a 42 hour bus journey is not advisable. It does NOT make your bus move any faster, nor does it make it any more comfortable.
I’d managed to get myself from Möron to Tariat to Bayan Olgii spread over 4 days, and after 5 days sitting in a bumpy jeep across Western Mongolia to pay the eagle hunters a visit, the last thing I wanted was another long road journey, but that’s what I got. Had I have had the money to fly, I would have done. I’m no stranger to a long uncomfortable journey but this was something else.
I’ve written in an introductory post to Mongolia how I admire the Mongolians caveman like attitude to life, not wasting anything. This journey begged to differ. For fear of wasting a millimetre of space, the bus was loaded up like a cargo ship. Bags and boxes, spare tyres and people, there wasn’t an inch to move or even rest your feet on the floor for there was luggage under each and every persons seat, over their heads and throughout the aisle.
Quick toilet breaks became complex assort courses and considering the countrywide rough terrain and the only way to travel around, had four wheels or four legs – you’d be surprised at how many Mongolians get motion sickness! More pitstops.
Despite reasonably frequent 2 minute pee breaks (where the only toilet was the natureland in front of you and your only cover was a shirt tied round your waist), we only stopped twice in 42hrs for food breaks. Tiny little tea house type restaurants offering gueiltai shul (noodle soup), noodle stew (tsuivan) and boiled meat dumplings (buuz) amongst few other things. There was always a cup of warm, salty, predominantly milk tea on offer.
We broke down 2hrs in, the tyre was changed pretty quickly, but that too ended in the aisle of the bus.
Having booked our seats a week in advance, from the bus station office in Bayan Olgii (opposite Tavan Bogd hotel – look for the eagle statue). I thought I was winning with a window seat. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. See, Mongolian women, with a hearty diet of meat and carbs – well needed to see them through the colder months, don’t tend to be the smallest of ladies. I was trapped in between the window and an unfriendly Mongolian lady who took up the whole of her seat and half of mine. I could barely move my arms.
At least I had the window to rest my head on right? Not unless I wanted my skull in two pieces. The windows have a lower section about 7 inches tall which can be slides open, this, however needs a frame, and a razor sharp one it had. Every time I tried to doze off, my head lolled towards the window and I was agastly awaken by a fiery piercing pain down my head. I must have done this at least 4 times badly, each time in the same bruised place, I’m surprised my skull didn’t crack actually.
I’m usually an advocate for over land travel as opposed to flying, but I would definitely make an acception for this gruelling journey!!