<photos: from top left clockwise: 1) Love at first sight, meeting the Russian UAZ van for the first time after landing at Ölgii Airport 2,3,4) The 7-hour journey from Ölgii Airport to the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park 5) Taking a break to stretch the legs 6) Sunrise 7) Moonlight 8) Parked at basecamp 9) How the van works 10) Inside the van with the right beverage supplies
The Altai Tavan Bogd National Park 🏕is about 180 km from Ölgii. The journey to the edge of the national park takes about 7 hours due to non-existent roads, high mountain passes, and lack of bridges. This harsh terrain can be crossed by using horses (totally so Genghis Khan💪🏼), camels (a Genghis Khan roll eyes moment 🙄) or the Russian UAZ van. 🚌
Given our lack of horsemanship, and that it was going to be extremely uncool riding on a two-hump camel🐫 (plus sniggers 😒from the Mongolian guides), the Russian UAZ van was the obvious choice of transportation to get across the vast grasslands and mountains of the Bayan-Ölgii Province.
And so began our love affair 😍with the UAZ van. It was love at first sight when we first set eyes on the fleet of UAZ vans waiting for us at the the Ölgii Airport🛬. The UAZ vans were unpretentious looking, without the usual trimmings of passenger vans. But over the next two days, we witnessed the awesomeness 😲of the UAZ vans. They cruised at high speeds along the flat grasslands, muscled their way up steep slopes and splashed across deep rivers without a pause. Needless to say, we were tossed about like salad inside the vans, but the experience far surpassed any theme park rides🎢. And the extremely affordable local beer🍻 helped to enhance the experience.
Life is like the rough and tough Mongolian terrain. You have some idea of your destination but the way there is never a straight road. You just have to choose the right mode of transport (it's ok to use a camel) and enjoy the ride. You'll get somewhere eventually. That's life.
Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it? - Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland