There are moments in life that are slow in coming. Moments, that perhaps, one has been looking forward and even yearning for days, months or years. Moments by which one learns to cultivate patience, while every day putting a little of oneself in order to eventually make them real. So I've waited for years the moment to get to Mongolia, a country that I have been wanting to visit for longer than I can remember. As time goes on, the more I tend to believe that there is an intrinsic intelligence in how fate sorts the events of life, because I could have chosen many other opportunities to travel around this country but they would have never been the right time. This time it was, at least so it felt and the experience was one of those who sublimate the soul and overflow the senses.
Entering through the cave
Judging from its main city (and the just passed "front door"), it is impossible to believe that something beautiful can happen in this country. Ulaanbaatar is a horrifying city. An urban error in a magnificent setting. An agglomeration of sordid Soviet architecture concrete blocks near collapse mixed now and then with modern aberrations. Traced by broken asphalt and dirt streets, on which cars in extremely poor condition are driven by people who, following the legacy of Mongolia's great hero, Genghis Khan, seem to want to take over the world while driving them as untamed horses. The Mongolian automotive fleet rarely includes new vehicles but is rather a mixture of leftovers; crappy used vehicles coming from Japan and Korea. This generates an essential problem: if in Korea the steering wheel is on the left and, in Japan is on the right, where should you drive in Mongolia? Officially on the right but in reality, such as riding a horse on the steppe: on all sides and in every direction. After all, until a few years ago, it was completely normal to find people horse riding in the very heart of the city.
Almost half of the entire population lives in the city, leaving the rest of this vast country practically empty. About 1.3 million people stick together in small dwellings and, a majority coming from impoverished regions, settle in improvised gers on the outskirts of the city. Wrapping around the urban center, the scarce country industry encloses the city and pollutes it in a highly toxic way.
We spent two days in Ulaanbaatar adapting ourselves to the country, researching the options for a new diet and getting used to the climate a bit. Mongolia, even in midsummer, reveals his famous extreme weather with days averaging 27 Cº, and nights that can get as low as 7 Cº, and a climate with such a dryness that leaves the throat feeling like sandpaper. From here, with our clean and shiny brand new bicycles, we would finally leave towards an unimaginably beautiful world, a tale world, a world out of this world.