Not getting on that bus to Ulaan Baator about one month ago has been the best decision ever.
I have lived on a Siberian farm, met the wonderful people of Altay and got to see one of the most beautiful driveways in the world.
Novosibirsk is directly connected with the Western border of Mongolia thanks to the Chuyski Trakt. It leads through the wild landscapes of Altay and its beauty is absolutely stunning.

My host from Askat almost literally moved mountains to find me the perfect Blablacar all the way to Tashanta.

We got up early in the morning to miss our bus and hitch-hike our way to the meeting point.

I cannot repeat enough how helpful locals me have been to me. Without them, I would not be where I am now. Not only have I paid almost the half less than the guidebooks indicated, but on top of that I got a private driver in a very fancy car (red, the car was red).

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He was a very smiley, though somewhat shy person who took detours to show me beautiful places and informed me about the changing landscapes and the villages gliding by.

The hours passed like it was nothing and I could not hide the excitement of loving my actual situation.

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Better safe than sorry, so I wanted to stock up food in Kosh-Agash before entering the land of meat and cheese. The driver dropped me off at a supermarket and went for a walk. I took my time to assemble the perfect survival-kit because there was a possibility of not having any vegan options after crossing the border.

I reckoned the driver would probably already be waiting for me for some time now, but when I exited, there was no car in sight.

There was I, standing in the middle of a crossroad, cursing to myself that I had done something incredibly stupid. I started revising in my head how the drive had been.
Maybe his kindness has been a whole theatre in order to set off with all my stuff. Would he do that?
What did I know about this guy?
What do I have on me? Nothing really.
Insulting myself I was anxiously looking around me, thinking about what the hell I was supposed to do, here, at the end of Russia.
Would there be a police station around?
Will they be able to understand me?
Will I go back home? Or will I keep on travelling and learn out of my mistakes?
I had to admit that I had done something fabulously naive.
At the moment I really had no more idea where I had it, the car arrived. I started laughing nervously - the snorky dorky way - and with shaking hands I opened the door.

Lesson learned.
Dumb move, Marie.
Of course, I have trust in humanity, but better stay alert than doing the same thing with the wrong people. Thank you, universe.

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We arrived around 16h at the border and considering it is forbidden to walk from one country to the other, I needed to find a ride.

Although helping me to find a hitch was not included in the price, this man did everything in his power to help me. No luck today, because everyone was charging way too much when they looked at my diva-like-appearance: long coat, sunglasses and waiting in a expensive car.

It was a very fortunate event, because my stay in Russia got extended until the bitter end.
I took my very last Russian banya, right there, 100 meters from the end of this big chapter in my travels.

After spoiling my host with my famous oat-meal breakfast, he found me almost instantly a ride all the way to Bayan-Olgii.

Inside the border control, everyone seemed to know each other and I was pretty much the biggest attraction wandering around the offices. The drivers needed to answer the same questions about me all over again: yes, I was a tourist from Belgium going to Olgii. Some people even tried to steal me, by trying to offer me better rides when the chauffeurs turned their backs.

Finally entering Mongolia, I needed to push my hands together not to scream of joy. I was thrilled to have managed to be where I was now.

Funny enough, as soon as we passed the “Welcome to Mongolia”-sign, the once paved and perfect M52 changed into a bumpy road penetrating a moon-like landscape. These kind of roads make you understand why there are handles above each door in a car.

There was no water, no trees, no houses. Only bare mountains and dirt as far as you could see. Once in a while a car tyre decorated the eternity of vegetation and bridges were crossing nothing at all.

When I wanted to pay the driver for the ride, he refused and drove me around a little bit more to find me a place to stay.
I am pretty sure my host from Tashanta had a lot to do with this, because in remote and scarce areas like these, nothing is for free.

 

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