Cabin Fever In Mongolia
Cold and sniffling, I slowly woke up and looked around the room. Empty. I’ve had a 6-bed dorm all to myself for almost 5 days, 4 of which I have been sick. The beds are wood and the mattresses are just your basic sleeping bag mats. The sheets are too small and don’t cover the mats, but the duvet is heavy and the pillow is soft. On a regular night, falling asleep comfortably can be a challenge, but on a drug-induced night, sleep comes a little easier. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the small amount of gravol and sudafed that I brought with me from Canada.
I started getting sick on the bus ride from Beijing. My throat was sore and raw and I sucked milk candies like they were going out of style. A bag that should have lasted me months, lasted about 3 days. When I crossed into Mongolia and awaited for the train to Ulaanbaatar, a cough settled in my chest. I tried to suppress it as much as possible, but it was no use. I spent the night tossing and turning, coughing and sucking on milk candies, all while trying to not fall off my top berth.
When I arrived at the hostel in Ulaanbaatar, I should have taken the rest of the day to lay down and catch up on my sleep, but I was wide awake and antsy. Instead, I opted to travel by city bus to the black market -which was not the healthiest decision- and wander through the stalls for a few hours. The market was uncovered and the air was crisp. Although I became accustomed to the cold fairly quickly, I started to loose feeling in my fingers within 60 mins. When I finally decided to leave -a few hours later-, I was unable to find the bus stop and ended up walking the 6kms back to the hostel. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but in -20c weather -wearing an outfit meant for yoga- it was a mistake. I was chilled to the bone by the time I arrived at the hostel and I had no plans to step outside again. Ever!
Since then I have been mostly inside. My body aching and cold. I developed a bad case of travelers diarrhea and found myself hovering near a bathroom all day. I stopped eating normal food and stuck to things like water and crackers. When I wasn’t online looking things up, I was either watching a movie or sleeping. I’ve been doing this for 4 days now. Which is about 3 days too long.
Mongolia has been a dream destination since I was about 24. I was so excited when I picked up my Mongolian visa in Bangkok. I couldn’t wait to get here. I knew it would be a wee bit cold. I had no idea it would be -20c. Some of the towns I wanted to go to are too out of reach now. There is too much snow and the rivers are not frozen enough to drive over, plus I’m seriously under-dressed. It’s a disappointment, but I refuse to let it get to me. I’m still in Mongolia. I can still experience some of the culture and get to know the people here.
This morning, despite my new semi-sexy rasp voice and exhaustion, I decided to get dressed, grab my bag and camera and go outside. There was snow falling around me, but the air was a little warmer than before. The sun was out and I could breathe without too much difficulty. Being outside was like a dream. After a few days inside, I needed some time for my eyes to adjust to the sunlight. The ground was dusted with snow, which cleverly hid mounds of ice. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know about my history of falling in Thailand. You’d think that while walking through slippery snow and ice, I would be on crutches by now, however, I’m not. I had many -and I mean many– close calls this morning, but I remained upright. Thankfully!
I’m slowly starting to feel better and my time in Mongolia is coming to an end. I’m in the process of figuring out a 3-day tour before my train ride back to Beijing. I’ve already decided to return to Mongolia during the summer months when I can tramp all over the country, go camping, ride camels, climb sand dunes and sleep in gers. Sure, I’ll be here during peak tourist season, but it will be worth it.