Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Labyrinth

Walking in a western Ulaanbaatar ger district at night defies photography and for me epitomises the experience of navigating a labyrinth. I start by walking along the road from the college and walk off the rocky verge onto the petrol station tarmac, where I notice fuel is at 965 tugrik (965 MNT = 0.40GBP) per litre. As I leave the main road, shadowy figures come towards me and follow me, in pairs, threes and singly, sometimes two men or women, sometimes with children. Some are carrying things, or pushing trolleys or barrows laden with firewood, coal or water. It is as I imagine the fogs of previous centuries in London, with coal fires and pollution in the cold air. There are few lights, but those of factories a few hundred metres away provide an ambience. I walk towards 'Kombinat', a factory area, via a familiar pipe bridge across a dry waterway. The spotlights of the factories cast long shadows along the disused rail siding along which I am walking. The ger areas spread before me have no street lighting but the array of gers, each with its window alight appears like a sea of lanterns stretching up the hillside into the fog. There are occasional rubbish fires and fires in drums adding to the dim light and the smog.
The sounds of countless camp dogs barking from each compound blends together and is more discernable than the crunching footsteps and occasional tooting traffic in the distance. The ground is uneven as I avoid the remains of earlier rubbish fires, but fortunately few dogs stray beyond their camps at the moment. I do not dare pause to consider being injured or mugged here. My daytime forays enable me to remember a route through an empty drain culvert, around a hillock and across a gappy bridge, back to the reassuringly gridded surroundings of the soviet apartment blocks. People are alighting from tightly packed minibuses for the evening and walking toward the ger district, one carrying a large roll of linoleum, presumably for his ger.

2 comments:

Wendy and Alex said...

Greg,

Really enjoying reading your and Clare's blogs, as you get more settled into the UB we only skimmed over. I'm quite jealous of you, now we're back in London and back to the same old daily routine. Hope you continue to enjoy!

Wendy - we met on the train from Warsaw to Moscow

samraat said...

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