My world is in ruin right now. I have just been kicked out of Mongolia.

In all my years of travelling I have never felt quite so deflated as now. I’ve been in the air for 24-hours with hardly a wink of slept, wasted $1000 on a flight to a country where I only touched down for 30 minutes, been denied a temporary visa into Russia, lost my luggage with only a vague chance of seeing it again, and now sit in the airport back where it all started.

I feel as though the angels that seem to have been keeping me out of harms was on this trip to date have gone on a coffee break and the devil has swooped in for 10 rounds in the ring.

I don’t quite know what to do next. I should be out exploring the sites of Ulaanbaatar right now and instead I’m sitting in a bar at Olso airport wondering what the hell just happened?

The last 24 hours is a blur. My flights to Mongolia were text book. I don’t think they bothered to do a safety briefing as we taxied to the runway but beside that the flight from Olso to Moscow was on-time and the plane clean and modern, allaying any concerns I had about it being on a dodgey old cargo plane. In fact I remember smiling to myself as it pulled up to the gate because its paintwork glistened in the sun.

Moscow airport was like any usual transit; A few security checks and within about 15 minutes you’re sitting back with a coffee using the airport’s free wifi. The only strange thing about Moscow airport is that there are more smoking rooms than departures gates so every few metres you walk through a haze of smoke as people walk in and out. From what I saw of Russia I loved it.

My second flight was just as routine. The plane has not entertainment features onboard but I managed to get three seats to myself so I just sat back and watch a couple of movie on my iPhone. The flight was so quick – only six hours – so I didn’t even bother to take a nap.

When I got off the plane at UB I was so excited by what was to come. Even the bus they shuttled us from the tarmac to the terminal had me excited. (It was so old and rickety you wouldn’t even use it on a farm in the Western world – brilliant!) Tanya, my friend who once lived in Mongolia, had organised for her friend Tuul to pick me up at the airport and I was to stay with Chris, her American friend before heading to Bayan Olgii on Monday for the Golden Eagle Festival. Even if they do let me back into Mongolia which I’m hoping they will, I think the festival is now lost. Bayan Olgii is only 70okm or so from UB but it takes about four days to drive there because there are virtually no roads. If you try to Google Map the journey it doesn’t even give you a result, that’s how difficult the driving conditions are.

Before I left Australia I had attempted to get a Mongolian visa but couldn’t because they require you enter within three months of it being issued. I’ve been away for five so they told me to apply for it on the road. Norway doesn’t actually have a Mongolian Embassy but I was told after several phone calls, backed up by several websites and friends, that if you enter from a country where you can’t physically get a visa you can get one on arrival. When I spoke to the guy at the little immigration office adjacent to the passport control booths that appeared to be the case. He told me to sit back and relax on their fake leather sofa while I filled in the application form and stuck a passport photo on it. I had been told I should expect to pay around $30USD so when the guy told me $100USD I knew he was trying to fleece me. “Come on,” I said all jovial. “It can’t be that much, surely? I was told $30USD.” He gets his calculator out. “113,000 Mongolian Tugrik plus $3US. $100 USD” Ok, I thought, so got five $20 US bills out of my wallet.

Then a different guy comes in and I hand him the form. I get all the usual questions. Why are you here? Where are you staying? Do you know anyone here? He takes down Tuuls number and gives her a call to verify that she is there to meet me. “Where’s your money?” “Right here,” I say pointing. He then puts down my paper work and attends to two other people both doing the same as me. Both leave the office in minutes with the first guy happily printing the visas and sticking them in the passports. Then the guy comes back to me and I ask, just to clarify, what the price is and why there was such a difference between what I was told two days ago and what they were quoting now. FOR THE RECORD – I was NOT in any way rude or confrontation or demanding, which many of you I’m sure are assuming that I was. Trust me I would be feeling a lot less devastated by these events had I have actually done something to piss this guy off!!!! He then said the price changed on Tuesday. “Oh that’s real convenient,” I was thinking in my head “Of course the price just happened to change the day after I rang to check it.” I’ve been down this road before so I didn’t respond. He then mentions something about Russia and leaves the room so I text Tanya asking if that’s an indication I need to bribe them.

A minute or so later and another man comes in and takes my baggage claim ticket. I ask what’s happening and the all three of the men – even the first guy who had been super nice until that point –  ignore me. The guy with the luggage tag then rings someone else and even though they are speaking Mongolian I can understand they are taking my luggage off the belt. I’m starting to stress by this stage.

“What’s the problem? Here is the money,” I say holding it up to the first guy who continues to ignore me.

Then the second guy comes back, throws a boarding pass at me and simply says: “Go, get out.” I knew exactly what he was saying but couldn’t quite believe what was happening “What do you mean? I don’t understand.” “Go back to Russia.” “Why would I want to go back to Russia?” ” You Westerners are always in such a hurry…” “But I have the money. Here, I’m in no rush.”

The dude was a pretty big guy and starts to pull at my bag. “Go on, go.” and points back to the boarding gate.  “But I don’t want to go to Russia.” ” You can get a visa there.” “But you can give me visa. You just gave those other people one.” “Your friend (Tuul) and you are  too pushy. She said I give you visa too.” By this time a small crowd of personnel has gathered and the only thing I can think of is to call Tanya. She tries to speak to one of them saying in Mongolian:  “I don’t understand”. He just tells her he doesn’t understand and hands the phone back. By this stage we are in a corridor and the airline people are hurrying me. The plane is late for take off. One of them speaks english so I ask her to go and speak to the man again. We go back and he starts shouting at me in Mongolian then says something in English about me having to pay $5000 for delaying the plane. I just had no idea what to do. The woman just shrugs as if to say “I’m sorry I can’t help you” and then the security dude is back pushing me down the corridor again. “But what about my bag?” I ask. “It’s on the plane,” he says. “I want to go to China then,” I say, thinking well at least that’s not so far to go back. “No you can’t”. Tanya rings back as I’m at the cabin door. She’s just spoken to Tuul and he told her I was arguing with him about the price. If that was arguing, the Pope isn’t Catholic! I think I would have been hung, drawn and quartered if he has actually experienced the full wrath of Christie. Whether I had a look on my face that said “that’s a load of crap” when he said the price only went up last week, I don’t know. It’s the only possible thing I can think of that may have triggered him off. But the rest was no more than a conversation seeking clarification. And as for saying Tuul was arguing with him, I think that was a complete fabrication too.

I basically had to make a split-second about whether to stay and try and fight him or jump back on the plane. I could see it ended really badly for me if I stayed so I told Tanya to call my parents and jumped back on the plane.

As we took off, I thought I should have called the Australian embassy or the Mongolian consulate or Ally and Layton the people I stayed with in Hong Kong who lived in Mongolia for years but there was seriously no time. They just kept pushing me towards the plane.

The next six hours back to Russia was basically intolerable. I couldn’t sleep because I kept playing what had happened over and over in my head. I just don’t know how it could have gone so horribly wrong and why the guy would be so mean? With about a hour to go I thought, shit, I really have to pull myself together. Russia isn’t going to love the fact I’m coming there without a visa either so I needed to start planning a strategy for that. Such is my luck, by this stage it’s Saturday in Russia so I was already thinking about accommodation etc because I’d have to wait at least two days before the Mongolia embassy opened again. When I got off the plane, I had messages from Tanya saying she had people in UB on the case trying to help me and that she had organise for me to stay with a friend of hers in Moscow while I sorted it out. God bless the kind people of this world!!! But she also said Tuul had spoken to the man again and that in order for me to come back in I will need a letter of invitation from someone in Mongolia two weeks before coming!!!! That basically means I can’t go back, at least not for this leg of the trip!!!

As always happens when you least need it, my phone battery was starting to die so I had to stand in the toilet at the airport to charge it while giving instructions to my dad to look up flights and embassy numbers.

About 15 minutes later I went to go through Russia passport control and start the process of getting a temporary visa and a completely broken down crying in front of the poor immigration kid who was looking at me like I was a alien as I blubbered out my story. He then passed me on to another woman who after I told her my story, scoffed as if to say “typical Mongolia”. When I told her I wanted a temporary visa for Russia she gave me another look as if to say “I’m from Russia. You think you’ve got problems,” and then took me back to the Aeroflot desk where they had a boarding pass waiting for me to go back to Oslo. Now I was getting annoyed. “I don’t want to go to Olso. There is no embassy there. What do I need to do to get a temporary visa for here?” “You can’t.” ” Well that’s what I need so who else can I speak to.” ” No one, you need to go back to Olso go to the Russian embassy, get a temporary visa for Russia and then you can come back here to apply for a Mongolia Visa.” There has to be a better way than that I was thinking. “Ok well can I just stay here for a couple of hours so I can work out my best option is?” I was thinking flying to Sweden might be a better choice because I know they have an embassy there. “No you must go now.” Bugga. So at basically the same time I left yesterday I have touched down in Olso, minus my luggage, which really just caps off  a nightmare day. I certainly don’t do anything by halves!

I have alway said my ability to speak is my greatest asset yet my greatest liability. Today was irrefutable proof of that. Monumental life lesson learned… 🙁

  1. Ainslie says:

    Sitting waiting for my morning work train and catching up on your news. I know you feel pissed right now, but re-read your Malta job blog. It always comes good in the end x x x

  2. Linley says:

    Oh no Christie, I thought I had a tough week, that tops the day of all days! You poor thing. I hope things work out soon! xx

  3. KT says:

    I’m sure no one will believe you weren’t too talktative! It’s all part of the journey Crust. If Mongolia doesn’t want you, some other country will embrace you with open arms.

  4. Vez says:

    Geez CP… I was almost in tears reading this!!! I’m sure you’ll make it work in your favour but look after yourself. I’m sending big hugs xxx