When it’s -15° and you’re hitchhiking Mongolia

Mongolia

We stayed in the cabin in Hatgal for one more night because there was another snowstorm and it would have been difficult and dangerous to hitchhike. Our original plan was to head to a village called Khankh, in the north of Lake Khovsgol, and then see if we could climb a mountain called Munku Sardyk (3,500 meters). This is a pretty popular trek among Russian hikers, that’s how I knew about it. But, after the second snowstorm, we realized that not only did we not have enough equipment for such a trek at this time of year, but also that it would probably take us weeks just to get to Khankh because the only road going north is a small dirt road- meaning snow-covered road with nobody on it.

So we gave up on that plan, stocked up on groceries ($7.50) and prepared to hitch back to Moron ?

It was a good thing that we didn’t even try to hitch to Khank, because it was quite difficult just to get a ride to Moron- on a paved road. The road was covered in snow and there were hardly any cars going by. After about an hour and a half of hitching in the cold, one couple agreed to drive us to Moron for 15,000 tugrik ($3/each). We were quite cold so we took the offer.

The couple dropped us off at the Moron Bus Station ?, which was close to the eastern exit out of the “city”. From there, we walked down the road for a km or two, then started hitching east.

Basically, at this point we decided to go to either Central Mongolia or the Gobi Desert, but in order to get to either one of those places, you basically have to go through Ulaanbaatar (the capital). There are a few dirt roads going through other parts of Mongolia, and I think that hitching through them would be doable, but we didn’t have enough camping gas left to risk being stuck in the middle of nowhere for weeks (which is a risk you should account for if you plan on hitching through those roads in October/November). Plus, it was getting real cold. Like -15, -20° cold.

It was so cold that as the driver approached the village he planned to stop in, we started scouting out abandoned buildings where we could possibly pitch our tent. We figured that an abandoned building could at least protect us from the wind, and offer a tiny bit of extra heat if it had a roof. It was getting dark too, and we were quite far from any city, so we didn’t want to continue hitching.

The small village where we were dropped off is called Tosontsengel. We walked around the village and checked out a few abandoned looking houses, but everything was locked. Eventually, we ran into a Buddhist temple. I had heard of people sleeping in churches and temples before, so we gave it a try and asked the monk if we could sleep there. The monk said no, but pointed us in the direction of a dodgy looking motel.

The motel looked like something you would find in the Wild West 150 years ago… or maybe today in a dodgy area in Reno :). There was no reception or anything, just a small grocery store on the first floor. We weren’t 100% sure that this actually was a motel when we first walked up to it, but we figured that the people in the shop would tell us. We asked the cashier about the hotel (by signaling the “international sleep sign”), and she opened up a dusty looking drawer and found a set of keys. One for the building (the hotel), one for the room. Looked like we had no neighbors.

The sheets were dirty and it didn’t have running water, but at least it was warm and only cost about $5.

We cooked dinner and breakfast on our camping stove in the motel room, and did some great people-watching in the morning :D

Total expenses of days 9 and 10 in Mongolia:
$8 cabin + $5 motel
$7.50 groceries
$3 ride to Moron
= $23.50

All food was cooked.

Total expenses so far of 10 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):
$91.00