Saturday, 7 July 2012

Saisan and Sukhbataar Square

It rained last night again, and on and off again this morning. The weather seems to be a bit ropey at the moment but it is very humid and we are at about 1200 metres, and surrounded by mountains, so I guess stable weather is not really something that can be guaranteed.

But the amount of water that ends up in the streets is a bit of a hazard because not only does it wash soil and gravel onto the carriageway, and fills every pothole and crater so you can't see how deep they are, but UB is famous for its missing manhole covers. That means that there are just huge manhole sized holes in the road, particularly near the kerb, and these of course fill up very quickly. That makes walking – crossing the road or filtering up lines of traffic a very risky business, but it has to be done because the traffic here is so disorganised and gridlocked, you would never get anywhere unless you did, So far, we have avoided any disappearing road incident sough.

Rode out to Saisan this afternoon. It is a huge Russian memorial on a hill to the south of the city. I went there last time I was in UB but it was in the winter, and the thing I remember about it most was how remote it was. But not now; there is a huge amount of building work going on – high rise flats, offices and even large town houses. The memorial has almost been swallowed up, and you can't even see the Winter Palace from the top like you could before.

The memorial is to soldiers of previous wars and it is very Soviet; a tiled panorama depicting scenes from the Russian empire, which of course included Mongolia although on paper Mongolia was only being 'looked after'. But it is now very graffittied which I found a bit disturbing; it never used to be so, and the people it commemorates are still dead.

 The stone ovoo that used to be immediately behind it is no longer there either, but rubbish is scattered in its place. Not nice and a real shame that such an impressive place has been trashed. We spent a while up there though, looking out over the city - until a thunder storm started. So back into the city for some lunch until it stopped.

My bike is running very badly and can only be bump started. Hopefully it is only a dodgy battery, and it is smoking badly too. It is a bit of a pain in traffic because it conks out and I have to push it and then kick it into gear. That amuses gridlocked motorists though and works off some calories for me. For a while, Nadine was push starting me by sticking her foot on the rack and shoving me; that lasted until she ran over my foot and leg, which light as a Chinese scooter is, still hurts and I now have a bruised foot to add to the catalogue of marks and scars from this trip.

Spent the afternoon looking ( limping in my case) around Sukhbataar Square area. It is a huge open paved space at the end of Peace Avenue, sporting the Parliament Building, a central statue of old Chinngis himself, with Marco Polo and Lenin nearby. Unlike Saisan, Lenin has not been scribbled over. A local told me that when the Russians left Mongolia back in 1990, mass opinion was that it would be more effective to ignore the statue and disdain it that way than to draw attention to it by pulling it down.

We took the engine out of my scoot this evening and pulled it apart. It looks like several gaskets have disintegrated, which might account for the oil leak and the smoking – the oil splashes. onto the exhaust and makes white smoke. Lots of it. It is currently laid out on the ger floor on a tarp, waiting for a bit of TLC in the morning. Lets hope we can remember how it all fits back together