Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A bold plan

I cannot continue much longer without warm clothes. I have explained why in my previous article about my travelling philosophy. I kind of expected someone to offer them to me in China. After all, it is the country where they make them, where they are the cheapest and at where people have a higher living standard than the countries that I visited before. But that was before I discovered what was China and I quickly understood that there is no room for charity here. The kind roommates in Beijing where a bright exception in the darkness and I got even got a coat from Chun Su. I like it very much, it makes me look clean and civilised which will be of the topmost importance when hitchhiking in Japan. However the little additional warmth it provides is not enough to face the cold on my path. That is why me and my girlfriend made a plan. Janela managed to get days off in the beginning of January. She will take the trans-mongolian train to Ulanbataar and we will see each other again after a long wait. And she is bringing me warm clothes.

From my end, I need not only to make my way to Erenhot only with my only slightly improved summer equipment but I need to go all the way to Ulaanbataar. I can't afford to sleep outside for a single night, I would freeze. I can't affort to wait oustide for long periods of time in the early morning or evening, I would freeze.
Mongolia is a hard country to hitchhike. There is next to no trafic and so far, the hitchhiking situation has only been documented during the summer. There is just no information about hitching in Mongolia in winter because nobody has been crazy enough to try it. Yet.

"Expect flat tires, overheating jeeps and not much more than 100km a day, due to the lack of traffic, and extremely poor condition of the roads." says the good old hitchwiki.

Overheating jeeps, I guess that is one problem that I don't have to worry about, it will be -30 degrees for most of my way. The description goes on.

"There is next to no traffic on the major thoroughfare across the southern part of the country. People are mostly, quite willing to pick you up, but there just aren't that many people. Walking sometimes staves off the boredom of just sitting and waiting. There are just a couple hundred km of paved road from Ulaanbaatar in every geographical directions (exactly one per direction) and that's it. No roads, no signs."

I guess walking won't only be useful for boredom but for much needed warmth for survival.

It is ironic that in order to get warm I need to go into the coldest capital city in the world. But you know what? I really think I can do it.
I spend the day planning everything. The student appartment has everything I need for my preparation, most importantly, internet. First I need to plan my hitchhiking spots. I am in Zhangjiakou now, I need need to get to the border and I need to get there fast. The border is 500 kilometers away from here and the main traffic flow doesn't go my direction, unfortunately. Actually it goes back to Beijing. It is almost the winter solstice, I only have a little time. 500 kilometers, that's 8 hours of hitchhiking if I am lucky. After looking at satellite imagery over and over again, looking for gas and toll stations, I come out with the following plan:
I leave from home at 7 AM. I get to my hitchhiking spot, 1 kilometer east, on a big road going out of the city. From there, I try to hitch to the highway about 5 kilometers south. There is a toll station there. This is my second hitchhiking spot. From that toll station I try to hitch the intersection. Four highways go from there and only one goes into the right direction.
When I get to the intersection, I walk 5 kilometers west, there is a gas station. There, I try to find truck drivers to Jining, next big city on my way. I will be dropped south of Jining. I have to cross it, about 10 kilometers in the northern direction. I don't have time to walk, I have to hitch through it. That means I have to hitchhike inside the city. It has worked before. Once I get to the north, I have to hitch the highway and when I am on the highway, I just catch a ride to Erenhot and that's it. I am out of the woods. At lease until I arrive to Erenhot, I have no idea where I'll sleep there but that's in a long time.
Seems hard already? It's not finished.

"Most Mongolians, in the south, don't speak English, and only have the slightest understanding of Russian, but you can get along with hand gestures."

I've seen how the hand gestures work in China. I need to find a mongolian dictionary. I spend some time on google play. Not done yet. Temperature is -29 in Ulaanbataar, I need a place to stay there. Permanently. I need to wait for my fairy.
I send a million messages to couchsurfing. Precisely twenty people. I need hosts for almost two weeks, a single person is not going to cut it. But my request is not completly usual, I am looking for a couch for a reunification. I hope this can move some minds? Three replied. Two negative and one positive.
But the one who replied solved everything.

"I hope, if you want and if you can, you can live with my family until you meet with your girlfriend?"

Begz lives in the Yurt camp, a huge residential area in Ulaanbataar where people still live in Yurts. I will be living in a traditional mongolian home for two weeks until my fairy comes. There is still the problem of how to spend my night on the border which needs solving and also how the hell do I get to Ulaanbataar but I'll figure out on the way.
Now I am really tired, I just have to lie down and sleep. Tomorrow we will see how everything turns out.
Preparing signs