Kultuk and Slyudyanka are remembered for there are no one knows anything. I spent three hours riding buses from Kultuk to Slyudyanka and back, guided by the directions of the locals, and eventually found out that a bus to Mondy simply doesn’t exist and I’ll have to hitch-hike at least part of the way.
A couple of tens of kilometers on the school bus, and I went to sleep in the autumn woods away from people.
I woke up completely frozen under a larches somewhere in Buryatia.
A sip of water from a stream instead of breakfast and I went to the bus stop. Place for some reason seemed unfriendly to hitchhikers, and buses were still running. Part of the way was made with a shuttle bus to Arshan (it’s aside from the road, but most of the traffic goes there). Looking out the bus window I could not understand for a while what was that things hanging in the air, seemingly not at all like rain. Then my brain still refused to accept the existence of the snow, as it was, of course, snow.
From the turn to Arshan I rode with an extremely anti-Chinese driver, who claimed that the rest of Asia – Mongolia, Japan, Korea – think the same. A staunch nationalism, and experience tells me that he was right, and at least the Mongols do not like and despise Chinese. We rode together to the outskirts of a small Buryat village, and while I walked to its center (10 minutes), not a single car passed. Then was a long wait, accompanied with intrusive but friendly Buryat drunks which was 20 rubles short for the next bottle. Alcoholics wandered around, asking for money, thoughtfully looking up and said, “there’s some snow already in the mountains, in a couple of days it will be here” I did not believe them.
Just as I began to lose hope, an UAZ stopped with Mongol numberplates. Stopped quite far away and probably because of small problems in the car, the concept of hitchhiking was not very clear to the Mongols, and they didn’t really speak Russian. Who cares, they will bring me to Khankh! The next 20 or 30 km road to Mondy was reminiscent of the Himalayan roads, a ledge cutted through the mountains along the shore of Irkut. In Mondy we made a stop to eat a belyash. Behind the counter Buryat-looking auntie, cheerfully talking with my companion in Mongolian (or Buryat? They sounds alike), I (still in Russian) bought belyash and tea for 33 rubles. “Tea”, without clarification, was with milk. Mongolia is close! Immediately after Mondy there was a checkpost – frontier area starts there.
A border guard scrutinized both my passports with an apparent distrust, drawled “Moskvaaaa city”, but allowed us in with the warning that the border closes at 5 and if I do not cross it on time, I’ll have to go back and issue a pass.
From the checkpoint to the border 10 kilometers in length and about one kilometer of ascent of quite a decent asphalt. Going into the cloud, I sincerely hoped that we will descent a little in Mongolia.
Although we drove on the territory of the border-post at 5.20, we crossed the border on that day. The border passed as usual, “gunsdrugssomethingforbidden?pleasepass”, but for the first time in my life I’ve been asked about the “forbidden literature”. Paper books I have not had, and customs was quite satisfied with it.
Mongolian border guards have helped me to fill out an immigration card, charged 50 rubles for some unexistent service (as 50 rubles are quite a money in MN) and let me in.
Mongolia! Landscape was very different from Buryatia, but this time I realized, what has changed – every piece of Mongolian land trampled by sheep, and in Russia, just abroad, tall grass grows.
Ten kilometers to Khankh and as we approached it, Mongols asked me – “a hotel?” “Yes, I said, the cheapest, if there’s any, and if not, then not.”
“My house OK?” – they asked me, I agreed, and we went there.
The house was a log cabin with an extension (cold), in the only warm space kitchen separated from the room by a “wall” made of scrap, in the middle there was a self-welded stove.
I’m trying to read a little Mongolian primer. Unsuccessfully. I can hear the difference between Ө, O, У and Y, but still cannot pronounce.
Dinner consisted of boiled potatoes fried with mutton fat.