As of the time this entry is published, I’ll have been on the road for over a day. The Embassy arranged an outreach trip for the the Fulbrighters that will take us through Arkhangai and Zavkhan aimags. We’re starting in Ulaanbaatar, then heading west to Tsetserleg, Tariat, and Uliastai, looping back up to Tosontsengel, and then making the long trek back to UB.
Google maps puts the trip at around 70 hours, which might be too much, but which also might not be enough. I have no doubt we’ll cut across the country between Tariat and Uliastai instead of going way out of our way to take the actual roads that Google thinks we should – but while that will certainly cut our distance, it might not make the trip much faster. I certainly hope we’ll take the roads back the way we came during our return trip, as driving cross-country is, to put it lightly, a rough experience.
I’ve discussed the difficulties of travel in Mongolia previously, but mostly they boil down to this: nothing in this country is well-made. Cars are usually shoddy imports, shoddily maintained; roads are practically potholed out of existence if they exist at all. The drive from Tariat to Uliastai will probably mean following the tire tracks of those who have driven that way previously; in most of the хөдөө, or countryside, those are what pass for “roads.”
I do not do well when driving through the backcountry even in the states, as my family will readily attest. I can handle hills, or I can handle switchbacks; I can’t handle both at once. The next week is likely to give me plenty of both, probably simultaneously, along with a healthy helping of bumps and jolts from the lack of pavement. I can hardly wait.
To make matters worse, I don’t have any motion-sickness medication. And I can’t buy any, either; apparently it just doesn’t exist in this country. I asked the medical officers from the Peace Corps as well as the ones at the Embassy, and this was the closest thing I got to a helpful answer:Actually Meclazine should be available but, Valium 5mg tablets one or two tablets every six hours works pretty well. It is the preferred drug of choice for Labrynthitis and I just used some on a patient this week who loved it. I think you can get a prescription for Valium and try it. Scopolamine is an excellent drug for motion sickness and it is sold as a patch but, I do not think you will that in UB. But, I am sure you can find Valium and that will help a lot.
Valium? I’ll pass, thanks all the same.
So I’m headed off to the wild this weekend, with only peppermint gum and candied ginger to settle my stomach. But we’ll be giving presentations at schools and playing games and making crafts with kids, which ought to be lots of fun. And apparently there are hot springs somewhere along our trajectory. Now that I am looking forward to.