To the end of the world…Ölgii and beyond

After landing in the makeshift attempt of the airport of Ölgii, I thought I’d come to the end of the world because that is the only way Ölgii can be described.  Desolate, dry and snapping cold whispers of air beckoned from the surrounding Altai mountains.  I didn’t know what to do or where to go or why I was in this rugged,windblown final frontier of western Mongolia.  In Ölgii you could sneak away and disappear forever. It’s one of those places that makes you close your eyes, cover them with your hand, peek through your fingers and wince.  Wince at the feeling of being at the absolute back of beyond.  The only other time in my travels I felt so beautifully isolated and secluded,  at peace and serenely free was in the pamirs of Tajikistan.

The first thing on my ever-worrying mind was where to find/borrow/steal a fabled flight ticket to Kazasktan.  In utter secrecy, I was taken off to the Government House off the center square.  The most interesting sequence of events followed.  A burly Kazakh gentleman with the most surreal blue eyes ran after us across the square and into his “office”.  He knew right away that I wanted a ticket.  Bearing in mind I was told in UB that the next ticket available would be in around two weeks, I didn’t have high hopes of getting one sooner.  But alas! There were flights, regular as well.  Every Wednesday and some Saturdays there are flights into Ust Kamengorsk and Almaty from piddly Oglii.  Ticket sales for the following Saturday hadn’t commenced after some battering of eyelashes he said he’d sell it to me anyway. I was issued a real old fashioned ticket, an ATB(Automated Ticket and Boarding Pass).  The thick booklet instantly took me back to my childhood when I used to keep such tickets after family vacations and pretend be an air hostess and issue them to my sister.  No email, internet, printing or fax in the makeshift office.  The ticket was filled in by hand, I paid in cash and over some chai I was asked why on earth I was in Olgii, how I planned to see the Altai mountains and that Almaty is “very good”.  To be honest, part of me (a large part of me) wondered if this wasn’t some hoax, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that this flight was ever going to happen.

That topic was left avoided in my mind until it came to flight day the following week and a half.  The next problem was that I had no clue about where to stay.  I stumbled across the Bastau Hotel, they had the cheapest rooms in town…Cheap for a good reason too.  I got a room on the first floor, which becomes a raving mad discotheque at night.  Desperate men and ladies of the night gather here for drinks and some action.  I had the unfortunate displeasure of being mistaken for a prostitute (a label I grew very tired of in Korea).

The door of my room didn’t have a lock, nor did it shut fully.  This meant that the drunken slob who was staying in the room next door kept on trying to break down my door during the night.  I eventually had to put a chair against it to stop him from coming in and pleading with me to sleep with him.  He even had the audacity of offering me a couple of tenge, which equates to $4.  Shocked that he judged me to be so cheap, I stormed to the reception/disco bar and demanded they tell this oaf I wasn’t his prostitute nor was I willing to comply with his vulgar use of body language.  The pits was when I realized I had to share a toilet with this creature, his (real) prostitute and the rest of the staff on the ground level.  That’s right.  The bathroom consisted of a door which didn’t close or lock, inside the room were 2 squat toilets separated by a short wall.  These squat cubicles were completely doorless.  So basically, anyone could walk in on you doing yow thang and watch….which was what this

creepy oaf did.  That was one crazy-ass sleepless night, the walls were paper thin so I could hear everything from the rather busy room next door…Including smashing of bottles, and a women being beaten up by this ogre.  Needless to say, I moved on and out very quickly…



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