Monday, 9 August 2010

driving mad in Ulaanbaatar

There are a lot of cars in Ulaanbaatar. This is a new thing. Ten years ago herds of horses were driven through the centre of the city. Now obscene Hummers, ridiculous Mitsubishis and other assorted calamitous vehicles choke the roads. It can take an hour to travel 5km. Some cars are left hand drive, others right. This is Mongolia, there are few rules. Mongolians are proud as punch of their cars. Despite the dust they are washed in the river and polished with frightening regularity so that they look dandy on the roads. 'Roads' is an overstatement. Driving more than 100m without swerving to avoid a moonscaped crater is a luxury. Most 'roads' alternate between shattered one-track concrete and rocky dust. This has as much to do with the extreme weather that fluctuates over 80C during the year as it has to do with infrastructure that offers great opportunity.

Driving is a relatively new phenomenon too. As horses are traded for 4x4s the average driver does little to change their transportation strategy. Space is sought out and taken despite the danger. Being first is all-important. This photo is a narrow one lane road. I am sitting in the middle. I was watching the car in front to the right as it stradled the pavement. Normal enough for these parts until the No.6 bus came hurtling down the centre of the pavement. Passengers laughed; pedestrians scattered; we just got out of the way.

Mongolian of the day:- peace :: enh taivan