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Friday, September 28, 2012

UB or Bust!

The next morning we started on our way to Arvaikheer. On the way we stopped at temple devoted to horses – an essential animal for most rural Mongolians. The temple had a number of stupas, horse carvings and horse bones as homage and was an interesting stop.

Sebastien imitates a statue at the horse temple

horse bones

stupas and prayer offerings
It was at this temple that we were also informed that it was only 400km to Ulaanbaatar and it was all on paved roads! That energized us, although we realized later that sometimes no roads are better than paved roads that are poorly maintained!

Mongolian pigeons
We stopped in the town of Arvaikheer and ate at a Korean karaoke bar restaurant. Of all the restaurants in that town, we found out it was the same restaurant the Roos had eaten in the day before. We saw their clever entry when we signed the guestbook.

Reliable way to transport horses
At this point, we knew that we could get to Ulaanbaatar that day and were excited by the prospect of a hot shower and a decent bed. There had been talk of taking it slow and camping close to Ulaanbaatar, but we were not interested in that once we realized it was possible to reach Ulaanbaatar before it was dark.

 Solar powered ger

The realization that this was truly our last day of driving was a surreal feeling. After driving for so long, and so far, it was really hard to comprehend that our time on the road was so close to ending. We were sad, but at the same time we were excited to actually accomplish our goal. And shower – did I mention that?
A road sign! Very novel!

During this last day on the road, Sebastien and I spent time debriefing about our trip. Despite the hours we had ahead of us for discussion, it was impossible to remember everything, everyone we met or to even really process the trip as a whole.

 Horses out for a swim

Our car was also ready for a break -  during the last 100km we noticed that every time we went over a big bump there was a weird smell like the tires were burning and figured the back shocks were giving out. But, our car made it! And so did we.

Herding by motorbike!

After roughly 10,000 miles we rolled into Ulaanbaatar thinking we were going to make a triumphant entrance. We were soon confronted with the realities of Ulaanbaatar. Not very pretty and a TON of traffic. It took us over an hour to go the last 10km.

We made our way to “downtown” Ulaanbaatar and stopped at the Ramada to see if there were rooms available or if they could recommend other hotels. There was a conference in town, so many of the hotels were booked up. The other teams were looking forward to some 5 star action, which we were not quite ready to pay for, so Sebastien and I found a perfectly adequate and well-priced hotel down the road from the Ramada and basked in the luxury.

We called the Roos and made plans to meet them at a bar where they were at a trivia night with their friend Gaby and some of her other Aussie expat buddies. At this point we were pretty exhausted, but felt like we needed to still go out for a bit and more than anything really wanted to hear how the Roos had gotten on for the last few days of their trip.

We traveled to the Irish pub for a joyful reunion with the boys. It was so great to see them, and hear about their crazy journey which ended up taking them really off the beaten path (because they listened to Ed’s directions). Sebastien and I were planning to go home after a drink or two, but were convinced that we should hit the town. During our search for the next bar, we ran into a bunch of other Ralliers – including some of our favourite people from the trip! Many hugs ensued and we realized that Pat from Australia was freakishly strong when he picked me up with one arm and Sebastien with the other one. 

We ended up going out to a bar that had private karaoke rooms and really got into it. Rhys showed his prowess as a crooner, and Sebastien put on two exceedingly spectacular performances of his karaoke go-to songs. The boys were in awe and kept wondering aloud where the hell Sebastien had come from. They then kept telling me how lucky I was that I got to marry him! It was hilarious. Sebastien pretty much had the most hardcore fan club ever that night and the bromances that were already strong reached another level that night. Sebastien’s singing talent was a recurring topic of conversation for the next few days! 

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