(My first cup of tea when I arrived home, it has never tasted so good)
I arrived back in Buxton 2 am on a Thursday morning. I was knackered and pleased to be finally headed to my own bed. After an hour or so sleep I woke up really hot, I wasn’t used to sleeping inside, so opened the window and fell instantly back asleep. The following morning I awoke with the window open to a warm, damp British summer. Looking from the window out over the green hills of the peak district was like sensory overload!
Taking it back a week, from Moron where I left my bike I travelled some 2500km over around 45 hours on busses to the city of Ullistai, in the south west of Mongolia where I lived with a nomadic family. I was totally immersed in Mongolian life and really got a feel for things, the hardships faced, what makes people tick, where the food comes from, where people wash… everything. Its an experience that was very far from what I’m used to, but I realised that this type of immersion into different cultures is what I loved most about this trip, and with that in mind that experience deserves a blog of its own, so bear with me!
From Ullistai I headed back to UB where I had a day or two to spare before heading home. It was nice to be in the city and be able to relax, which I hadn’t done when I was initially there before starting to ride, and I spent my time wandering round the lesser seen areas enjoying the things that I came across. Ulaanbaatar is a totally unique city; a perfect compromise between traditional Mongolian culture and modern city life. Huge areas of the city are ‘Ger District’; very similar to the ones I had come across in the towns and cities in other parts of the country, but on a much larger scale. It struck me that even here, the capital, less than a mile from the city banks, high rise business towers and government buildings, people were living in tents, with no sanitation services and no access to running water. You have to travel to a pump station with your buckets.
At 5am, local time on Wednesday the 15th Jun, I set off via taxi to Mongolia’s only international airport. After a few tense moments in an interrogation room where they thought my tripod was a gun, I flew to Moscow. I had a 10-hour lay over in Moscow and then flew to Heathrow, landing just after 10pm local time. Although I had also lost 8 hours through time difference. It felt good to be back in England, and the fact I had a small welcome party at the airport gate made it even better. The drive home was all on dark motorways so I didn’t see anything from the window.
Which takes me back to waking up on Thursday morning and looking out of the window, I was and still am finding my self totally taken aback by the deep greens and vivid colours. We live in an incredibly beautiful country and it’s easy to take that for granted.
The other thing that strikes me is things, possessions… We all have so many things, do we really need them all? Do we really need that new scarf that matches the jacket, or a new phone or whatever it might be? The conclusion that I have come to is that in some instances we do, in the society that we live in realistically it is nice to have some luxuries, but we don’t ‘need’ them. And it’s important to remember that certain things are luxuries, and think ourselves lucky that we have access to them. We also need to be selective about our possessions and we need to think about where they are coming from. We also need to think about what the ramifications of our consumer society have else where in the world. It’s up to us to take responsibility!
Its great to be home, great to be back with my friends and family and doing the things I love at home, but there is certainly a part of me that wishes I was still out on the bike, in the middle of nowhere with the wind for company. I miss sleeping under the stars, battling for food and water and constantly moving on. Whilst I was out there I was living a very simple life, and coming back to the complexity that we are used to have their pros and cons, but a part of me longs for the simplicity.
My over-riding thoughts on Mongolia are that it’s an incredible country. It’s the most amazing place to travel, a beautiful landscape and I think a very up and coming country. We will for sure be hearing much more about Mongolia in the next few years, and I think that is a great thing. If anyone gets an opportunity get yourself out there, I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
(The cup doesn't lie, I love riding my bike even more than I did before now)
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