"How Sick is He?" We Asked

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Where I stayed
Uliastai Hotel

Flag of Mongolia  , Dzavhan,
Friday, September 2, 2011

September 2nd, 2011
Northern and Western Mongolia Tour Day 27 of 31
Teeliin Gol (bridge) to Uliastai City (pop 19000)
289 KM 9:15AM to 5ishPM


After breakfast, we took down our tent and put all our stuff next to the van. Pancho had eaten his breakfast then returned to his tent and laid face down. That was it. Pancho had become a virus on our trip and on our blog. We needed to bring it to a head. Pancho is indeed sick, but 1) Does he have a bug? He hasn't missed a meal yet which rules out food poisoning or other bug. 2) Is he off with his blood sugar levels? Pancho is diabetic but said he doesn't take insulin. But he is taking something. Michelle took a look at one of his packets, it was hydration powder. And Pancho insisted that he is taking his medication. 3) Is he a hypochondriac? A strong possibility, or 4) Is it all psychological? a) Depression? Probably. He was happily singing early in our tour before going silent. or b) Is it all a ploy to force an early end to the tour? This would be like him. He has a problem with addressing problems head-on. He was incredibly gung-ho to join us. Perhaps this is his face-saving way of telling us he wants to stop.

Dave told Uemaa to give Pancho two choices; A ride to the hospital or a ride directly to the nearest airport. With only a little hesitation, Uemaa said okay, "There is a town, Urgamaal, 60 km from here" Then Dave went to Pancho’s tent. "Get up, we are going" he said sternly. Pancho staggered to his feet and began to grab at his sleeping bag. “No, go lay in the van, we will get your stuff”, Dave told Pancho. Uemaa helped Pancho to the van while the rest of us picked up Pancho’s tent and his belongings. 5 minutes later we were driving. Where are we going?, Dave asked of Uemaa. Pancho chose the hospital, she replied. Good. First priority has to be taking care of your sick client, he said. Uemaa was not happy. But she wasn’t overly worried either. None of us believed for an instant that Pancho was in any eminent danger.


Sereg and Uemaaa talked in Mongolian. There might not be a Doctor in Urgamaa, Uemaa said after the discussion. The closest hospital is in Ulistai, 260 km from here. Can we get there today? Yes. Does it have an airport? Yes. “Let’s go”.

We had to drive southeast. Our planned route was due west to Bayan Nuur (another Bayan). It was a pity because our guidebook said the route to Bayan Nuur has some of the most interesting scenery in Mongolia. And now we would miss it. The highlight of the day turned out to be a huge Golden Eagle (wild) that stood at the side of the road and stayed there as we went by.

Pancho continued to lay there as if he was comatose. His bandanna continued to cover his eyes. When he thought nobody was looking, his face would look relaxed and normal. More often, he kept a pained look on his face. Once in awhile, Sereg would hit a big bump and Pancho would let out a pained moan. Sereg would whip his head around to see what happened. Pancho’s reaction to the bump was way over the top. “No, we are not killing Pancho”, we thought to ourselves. “We just feel like it.” We were indeed upset that Pancho was putting a damper on an otherwise great trip. We made light of it. “I wonder if they would notice if we opened the door and threw Pancho out?”, we joked. “Maybe we should tie Pancho to the roof”.

Then a stench filled the van. Pancho had farted. Yes, he smelled sick. Pancho was not fighting fair. Two farts later, we agreed that one more fart meant Pancho was going to be put on the roof or out the door..... The farts ended but the moans and burps and grunts continued.

Sereg stopped for a smoke break. There was an oil truck parked on the side of the road. Sereg asked for directions to the town he had never been to before. 'Just follow the 'shiny road’, in two hours turn left. By then, you should see traffic from Uliastai. You’ll be able to follow the traffic to the city’, they said. Uemaa explained this to us and that the ‘shiny’ road would be the dirt track that was stirred up by a car most recently. It will look a little whiter than the other trails. And it was 2 hours before we saw another vehicle or living soul.

We pulled in to Uliastai at about 5:00. Uemaa helped Pancho out ot the van and led him by the arm into the 1950’s Russian style block hospital. Uemaa checked Pancho in and had to stay with him to translate. After about an hour, Uemaa was back. Pancho's blood was already taken for testing. He would stay the night.

Uemaa went to the 2 cheapest hotels in the town and fortunately, they were full. We got her to take us to the nicest place in town, the Uliastai Hotel. This one was over her budget but she agreed to the lowest price room in the place ($20). She had to get Pancho an air ticket for flight to UB and go back and translate between Pancho and the hospital staff. We were on our own for dinner. The hotel was the nicest we have stayed in since arriving in Mongolia. We ate a simple Mongolian meal in their fine dining room. That put a 15000 Tugret dent in the budget ($12).

We phoned Uemaa later in the evening. The plane was full and Pancho did not want to wait three days for the next one. So Uemaa had put a hold on a seat for him for the next day from an airport in another town.  Dave suggested she ask Pancho if wanted to take a shared jeep (cheaper than flying) for the 26hours, 986km trip to UB. To our surprise, Pancho agreed.

In the morning we learned that Pancho’s blood chemistry was ‘normal’ The doctor found nothing wrong with him. Uemaa didn’t tune into why they suggested the antibiotics.

*Pancho’s cost for the hospital: Zero. It is free public health care for everyone. There are private doctors who have thriving practices in Mongolia.
*Pancho’s cost for the doctors: free
*Lab costs: free
*Pancho’s cost for the pharmacy: 1500T ($1.33) for antibiotics

Dave and Michelle were now free of Pancho (almost)
Slideshow Report as Spam


Jodean & Hans on

We are in suspense to hear the rest of the Pancho drama. The "almost" in your last comment conjures up all kinds of possibilities. You could write a movie script about the trip with Pancho, probably along the line of “What about Bob (Pancho).” It’s bound to become a cult classic.
Have fun, J&H

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