Day 2 in OlgiiNorthern and Western Mongolia Tour Day 16 of 33
We debated with Uemaa and Sereg about moving on at noon, after Sereg had a chance to replace his radiator (he was quoted $300 for a new one). But it was Sunday the day before and the permit office was closed. Sereg's brother would not be able to pick up the permit and start to Olgii until Monday morning. And what could we do while we waited?
The Olgii museum would take an hour or so. And then we could go to the craft market. And then? Dave wanted to move on. Michelle wanted to let Sereg have time with his family. Pancho was firmly on the fence.
We all slept in. At 9ish, Sereg drove us into town to the Olgii museum.
Electricity in the city was out to prepare for winter so we could only see the 3rd
floor of the museum. We started with the gift shop. Colorful Kazakh Embroidered wall hangings and wild animal skin clothing caught our eyes. Fine rugs and tapestries they put out for us to examine, Some extremely nice work and we would have loved to buy, if we had a house. So we took pictures and posed with it and keep it in our memories.
We marched up to the second floor where we could see the displays by the natural light of the door way. The displays were on the barbaric actions against Mongolians by cruel Chinese despots. The Russian were depicted as protector of the helpless Mongolians. The whole floor appeared to be dedicated to such propaganda. We marched up to the third floor where the displays received natural light from a row of windows. There we saw Kazakh ethnic clothing, saddles and traditional silverwork. We learned why Mongolians cherish owl feathers (Serek has a few bunches hanging in the front window of his van). It is believed that the color patterns in the feathers resemble ancient Mongolian sacred scriptures.
Sereg did talk to friends and discovered a home where ladies meet and sew Kazakh purses and other items to sell in the Altai Woman’s Craftstore. The ladies have the option of making a half dozen different items. The piece rate for each is displayed on the wall of the mini-factory. The women were mostly tatting and lightening fast. The piece rate scheme resulted in less detailed, less precise, less detailed patterns. Nothing was truly made "by hand". It reminded Dave of a good old American quilting circle. We left the factory house and walked over to the shop where the items were on sale. Like many small shops we've seen in Mongolia, the shop was in a storage container, It was mostly the stuff we had seen but it also had some other, more complex, items. Still nothing we could not pass up. Michelle felt she had to contribute to the process and bought a small iPod purse, embroidered on just one side. She negotiated a dollar off the price which still left a couple of dollars for the retailer and a dollar or two for the actual makers of the item.
Kazakhs are traditionally Moslem. The men wear the small skull caps and the women long skirts and head scarves. We saw many dressed in the traditional style on the street of Olgii.
We tried to track down a wireless connection. The local internet café had cable, but no wireless signal. Dave went inside and met Bob of 'Bobs Away’ Mongolian rally team. The three team members were all named ‘Bob’. Little Bob, due to his age rather than any physical attributes, flew ahead to Olgii after his passport was lost by the Russian Consulate. He got his US passport replace but could not get all his Visas in order. He had to fly over Russia while his teammate drove the car. He expected the other Bobs in a day or two. The Mongolian charity rally happens annually with team driving from London to Ulaan Baatar Mongolia in July. Big celebrations are schedule for the beginning and end of the rally. The vehicle and any and all equipment must be left in Mongolia to fund a children’s orphanage as well and any other charity the participants may choose. It is a rally and not a race and the team can go any way they choose. Estimate range that it ends up costing the participants $12,000 to $15,000 per team member after all is done with. Donations, Visas, travel expenses and the vehicle cost can be offset by sponsor donations. It sounded like a great adventure and great fun. Bob had four day to get to UB before he needed to fly home to San Francisco. He was resigned to the fact that he would not be able to get to UB in his car. He needed to fly the rest of the way and leave the car somewhere for the rally organizers to pick up. Check out bobsaway.wordpress.com for more of their story. Someone in their group is an excellent photographer. But be forwarded that the picture of their hotel room in Romania is not for the meek. Or better yet, skip past that post.
That is it for Olgii. We found nothing else of interest for the visitor. We joined Uemaa in a search for groceries in the tiny, poorly stocked, shops around town. Much of the stock were items imported from Russia. The limited selection of vegetables were battered or bruised. The cabbages she picked for us seem ready for the compost heap and not in our soup. It was hard to conceive that Olgii is the main city of the province.
The new radiator was not installed in the van. Sereg wasn't willing to pay the $300 quoted for a new one and he wanted his wife to try to find a cheaper one. We planned to come back to Olgii in 3 days after our visit to the park. He could install the new radiator then, we were told. Uemaa still proposed leaving at 11:00 and arrive at camp at 5ish because it wasn’t a long drive from Olgii to where we would camp and Sereg wanted to leave as late as possible. We had done everything there is to do in Olgii and we wanted our usual early start to allow plenty of time in the day for dilly-dallying, stopping to take pictures, etc. Plus we thought we had given Sereg enough paid family time already. Uemaa expected to have both the China border permit and the Russia border permit in hand by 9:00AM so we urged Umeaa and Sereg to get going at 9:00. With no real reasons not to, they finally agreed to a 9:00 departure.
We stay a second night in Sereg’s ger while Uemma, Sereg and his family stayed in the white stucco block house. Repairs of the Olgii electrical grid left us in the dark from 9PM to 6AM followed by an hour of two of power before things were shut down again. We had the foresight to get our camera batteries charges for the expected two day off the grid in the Altai Mountains. While Sereg’s house and ger are nice, they do not have running water! They fill bucket at a nearby well. Flush toilets are foreign concept. They have a rickety pit outhouse in the farthest away corner of the compound. And boy, you don’t go there until you have no other choice. If you are like me, you hold it until it hurts.