Galloping With The Hordes
The time for applying for visas finally arrived for Adam and I’s epic trans-Mongolian train ride home from Thailand. I was initially a little concerned about the Russian visa since I’ve heard it’s notoriously complicated to get one but I’d done my research and was pretty sure we were good to start putting things in stone and making them official. In order to get a Russian visa you must effectively provide the embassy with your life story, a detailed itinerary including all your train tickets and hostel bookings, insurance print-outs, invitation letters from Russian consulates – all that jazz. You also need to apply from your home country; unless you’ve been in the country you’re applying from for longer than 6 months. No Problemo; been here 13.
So, the day arrives, I walk up to the counter with my lovingly compiled tree’s-worth of paperwork that I’ve spent an entire year organising and planning and pass it over the counter with my passport to a lady with a face like a pissed-off stork. Clenching my sweaty palms I try and stop the excited grin from spreading over my cheeks as she flicks sullen-faced through the pages of my passport before closing it, placing it back on my pile of paperwork and pushing it back towards me. “Can’t give you a visa” she says and starts filing her nails (she doesn’t actually start filing her nails but in my head she is actually now Ghost Busters’ Janine Melnitz but Russian and evil). The room seems to have gone very quiet and there’s a buzzing in my ears.
“Why?” I whimper nervously.
“You’re on a tourist visa.”
I grab at straws; “but look, you can see I’ve been here a year on work visas – I’m only on a tourist visa now because I’ve just left my job so that I can travel… to Russia!”
“We don’t issue visas to people on tourist visas.” Then as an afterthought she adds, “your country and Russia have a… difficult relationship.” Well shit now we do! Daydreams of Russian ballet, tzars, Siberian tundra, lakes, palaces and vodka bubbled up in my head and unceremoniously popped. I stood there dithering for ten minutes unable to accept that the dissertation’s worth of work I’d put into organising that trip could be invalidated that quickly and easily.
In the end Adam and I spent an afternoon crooning into beer bottles and trying to work out an alternate fun way home that doesn’t involve Russia. The two options were; all the Stans and the middle east (not wildly appealing at this particular moment in time) and going the old Raj route and taking a boat around India, Saudi Arabia and through the Suez canal before crossing Europe by train (wildly appealing but also wildly unaffordable). Game over.
One of the things I’d been most looking forwards to was horse-trekking in Mongolia and I started to plan going as far as there and then flying over Russia to Europe. However – magic happened; Captain Planet never closes a door without opening a window etcetera. Whilst researching places to go trekking I stumbled across a job vacancy in Mongolia that called for horse-riding experience and teaching English as a second language experience. My little ears pricked up. Tentatively of course, didn’t want to get burnt again. There was a Skype interview and flights to sort out and… shudder… visas. However (drumroll please), I am very pleased to finally announce officially that as of this week I have obtained all of these things and am moving to Mongolia for a month! Ta-da!
I will be living in a proper Mongolian ger (tent) right out on the steppes, riding horses all day as an instructor for trekkers, drinking round camp fires in the evening, fresh air, no internet, no mobile phone, no nada – just me, my trusty steed and nature. Can’t wait! Eira Morgan-Jones: winning at travelling right now.