If the journey to Mongolia was anything to go by then this race is going to be a tough one. It started off fairly well with the flight from heathrow to moscow leaving on time. I was travelling with Al, another competitor who didn’t tell anyone he was racing again. He did the race last year but decided he would surprise a mate of his who is also racing.
Our journey to Moscow was fairly uneventful.
Once we arrived at Moscow I asked a lady behind the desk which way it was to the connection for Ulaan Bataar. Bearing in mind she was sat behind a desk with a name badge and airport ID I thought it was safe to assume she would be able to help. It seemed I was wrong as she looked at me strangely and said “I don’t work here” ummmm then why are you wearing an airport ID? Not a good start.
We met Duncan, the race medic here, who was also waiting for a connection. We were due to leave at 8.20pm local time but that time came and went without any announcements. Eventually they told us it was delayed until 930pm so the crowds that had been queueing dispersed – it turns out they love queueing here even more than the brits do.
By 930pm the queue had optimistically formed again, we were sat down though, there was no sign of any Aeroflot staff so it wasn’t looking good. Again there were no announcements and the flight actually vanished from the departure list. First thought was that it was going to be cancelled but it was frustrating now as if we had known there would be such a delay we could have had time to get something to eat. By 1010pm we were told the flight was delayed til 1045pm, hmmmm I’ll believe that when I see it. Amazingly it did start boarding at 1030pm so it looked like we would actually be leaving.
When queueing to board some poor lady in front of me was fishing about for her boarding pass, holding the queue up for a nanosecond and one of the crew shouted at her to get her to hurry up – like it was her fault the flight was nearly 3hrs late. The poor woman scurried forward looking petrified. I can’t imagine I’ll be flying Aeroflot again in a hurry.
The flight itself was an hr longer than they said it would be. Not sure how that happened, must have taken the scenic route, and the inflight entertainment was ok if you understood Russian.
Eventually we arrived and were picked up by the lady running the hostel which is pretty nice.
After a bite to eat we went back to the hostel for a siesta and went to the local Irish bar to watch the England v Germany game. The Mongolians have really got into the world cup. There was a massive big screen set up outside the bar under a pretty permanent looking “World Cup” Marquee. It was an amazing party atmosphere with the the locals switching between supporting England and Germany depending on how the mood took them. Some were genuine England fans and were gutted when they lost though. It was an incredibly surreal way to watch an English match, outside an Irish bar in Mongolia surrounded by locals who had their faces painted with the St George’s flag, quite the experience. One I doubt will be repeated.
We fly out to the desert tomorrow and the race starts on Wed morning, I’ll report back after the race.