Rough Night in Tsetserleg

We left Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur on foot heading to the closest village, Tariat, 6 kilometers from the lake through the National Park. The landscape is covered in volcanic rocks, with very little vegetation and dotted by several extinct volcanoes including the Khorgo Uul Volcano whose crater is open to visitors. We detoured from the main road to make the climb and take in views of the lake behind us. In Tariat, we attempted to hitchhike onward to Tsetserleg but ended up negotiating an overpriced ride with a local man who found us waiting around in the empty village. Tsetserleg is the tiny capital of the central province of Arkhangai. Its hills are covered with neat rows of colourful wooden homes and the occasional ger sitting on equally-sized lots divided by wooden fences. Its centre is made up of wide, tree-lined avenues and a large public square complete with Soviet-style monuments. Tsetserleg holds a special place in our memories because it is where we spent the worst night of our Mongolian trip, perhaps the worst night we've ever had on the road . Our first night we spent at an expensive guesthouse hotel catering to foreign travellers who can't spend a month without an Italian espresso. It was exactly the place we don't like to stay, but it is where our driver dropped us off, late at night. We begrudgingly accepted the extremely comfortable beds and the first hot shower in weeks (not our worst night of the trip).

The next day we explored the quiet capital, visiting two of its active monasteries and a former temple complex (turned museum) featuring some great anti-clergy communist artwork. We finished the afternoon with a stroll up the stairs of Divine Enlightenment Achievement Lane leading towards a large Buddha statue overlooking the city. There wasn't a huge amount to do, but the town was extremely pleasant. Our second night's accommodation, directly across from our first evening's luxury guesthouse was the type Yann likes to stay in. It was run-down, pretty gross and a little bit too expensive for its level of cruddiness. We hesitated a little bit before agreeing to the filthy room with a single bed but we fell asleep fairly content with our money-saving decision, leaving the windows open to let in the cool evening air.

A few hours later we were both awake. The wall of our room were speckled with black bugs. The bugs were appeared to be some type of small beetle and they moved clumsily and didn't fly very well. I picked several out of my hair and out of my ears which was especially disgusting. We closed the window but we were doomed, the beetles had completely infested our room. Even with the window closed, the crumbling, drafty hotel had many other places through which the bugs could infiltrate and they were doing so at an alarming rate.

We were calm at first, pulling our stained bed sheets over our bodies and attempting to sleep. But the sheets proved no barrier to the beetles - we both continued to pull bugs from various orifices (they even got under our clothes). We increasingly became more panicked and agitated.

We felt that the light was attracting the bugs, but we couldn't stand feeling the bugs crawling on us in the dark. We alternated between dark and light until we resigned ourselves to a night without sleep. We left the lights on, sat up, and began taking shifts killing bugs with our guidebook. I was furious for moving hotels, I angrily speculated that we had purposely been placed in the hotel's most vulnerable room. And why the hell hadn't someone told us to close our window?

I stormed to the front desk to demand a new room, it was about 2a.m. In the lobby were three dejected employees, one sitting on a couch holding a broken fly swatter. They couldn't speak English but I knew from their faces that there wasn't another room in the hotel that was bug-free. They directed me to the front door from where I could see that the white hotel had turned black - a seething mass of beetles. We were trapped.

Somehow we got a few hours of sleep. We woke up to a room littered with beetle carcasses. We were at the bus stand at dawn.

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