Steen Holck's 2002 Trip of a Lifetime

Ok folks here it is the trip of a lifetime.

Left the hotel nightclub at 2AM after a short spot check of the cashiers (excuse to have a drink- maybe anyway), drove to Casablanca Airport a 3 hours drive from Marrakech. Arrived early for check-in (5AM) with the departure scheduled at 7AM. Check-in went smooth - fantastic I have now begun my journey to wonderful and magical Mongolia the land of the great Chengis Khan land of no fences and blue skies…

Shritssssssssssssss scratch in the LP (for the younger portion of my readers that is the media we use to listen music from that's pre-CDs and MP3… yeah what the DJ's use to sometimes… it was actually common once … well back to the story) went through the security check and the officer sees that I have 3000us$ in cash…. boom… can you prove this is your money… well it was in my pocket - what about your wallet is it full of your money? - No, I did not ask but it did cross my mind… anyway Morocco has very strict foreign exchange rules which I of course know as I am a FC (stands for fxxking clown in this case)… well good old Steen left the bank receipt on the fridge back in Marrakech…. here it starts.

Police report - Police officers one then two then an inspector more reports and off to the ROOM (I call it a cell) steel chair and desk no window peeling paint bad air - all that was missing was the toilet in the corner. Stuck there as I watched the time pass and the check-in time, boarding time and finally the departure time… shoot I had 3 connecting flights Casablanca to Paris to Moscow to UB to Hovsgol and then the boat to Toiloght. Strange how time can sometimes seem so long … well then the entertainment appeared - two cockroaches did a series of sprints across the steel desk (you could hear the little feet on the metal - sorry for the squelchy stomach)

After 4 hours of baking and a total fascinating National Geography feature "secrets of the cockroaches" the door opened and off to the customs officers who also do a new report - let me make a call to the bank who then sent the proof that this Danish guy actually has the right to have foreign currency. Once proof was at hand a fine of 5% was handed down (with a receipt) and additional I was "let go" to try a find my way back to my travel plan.

Got a seat to Paris but no one ever heard of Mongolia let alone how to get there. At this point I just wanted out. Took the first available flight to Paris and went through the security check and costumes (again) and was asked to show the money which I did as a law abiding foreign resident of Morocco. Hand goes into the wad of money and out comes a 100$ bill for the coffeepot - or rather into the pocket of mister uniform with a big gun. Brain racing should I make a scandal and get my 100 bucks back or just get the hell on to the plane. He calculated correctly I was fried and ready to give to the coffee collection box. Smiled thinking you …..very bad word… hope you rot in hell. Finally airborne for Paris … slept till touch down.

Oh Paris (must be read that with the French accent) - well Charles de Gaulle 2 - sweet lady in transfer trying all options to find a way to Mongolia. 25000 EURO via Beijing stand-by to Mongolia 2800 EURO via Seoul no connecting flight…..anyway after lots of computer consulting the best and only real solution was to stay in Paris for two days and then pick up the same route as originally planned… which would have me arrive at race site in just in time guess like 5-6 hours before start.

Paris in summer fantastic saw friends and revisited my home, local cafes & bars of seven years, so this turned out to be not a bad thing.

Travel day came and of to the airport - easy- everything is working arrive in Moscow connecting flight is on time - like Swiss clockwork at it's best. This is you captain speaking our arrival time in UB is 10:30 local time … what that is 30minuits too late here we go again… Was greeted by the race operators and found out that I had indeed missed the only flight with the next one being the following day 10:00 meaning after race start (4:30am).. But with a jeep I could get there..

Dam after all this - I will try - rented the jeep and off we went trough UB and then out on the only paved road up north… well after 50 km that was the end of paved roads and this started to become a venture into undiscovered territory (or at least that is the way it felt due to the very varied state of the dirt track). 21houres of non stop bouncing around in the jeep, a flat tire, beautiful planes & mountains, rain sunsets and sunrise - we arrived at 7:30 on the race starting line and an empty camp… shit, I did not make it - never mind - changed into my running gear and set off at 7:45 (first the wrong way - you know where the runners would arrive from).

I'm actually running - it's great - I'm here - It's raining. Luckily the track is well marked with green dots in this green setting (just joking Nicolas you can see the markings clearly) and having been there last year also helped. Hungry like hell - thank god for sports junk food (called energy bars). Race as beautiful as last year but a lot less follow runners - like non…. This is a spiritual journey now…. Meet the park rangers who look at me like what the …. Where did this one come from… are you a runner… well again Steen sarcasm sneaks in …blue Brooks running short, Montrail running shoes, Nike Coolmax tee-shirt (with extra sweat management system) Camelback hydration pack, Suunto heart-monitor… no I'm with the tax collecting agency did you hand in your tax return on time? By now this guy now really looks like a question mark… wish I could understand what was being said but then a "walk talky" finds it way into my hand and I hear English - Hi it's Tyler welcome to the race / see you back at finish line… off into the beauty of the trail, attack the first climb and I get into the rhythm.

After about 3 hours I surprise the sleeping sweeper (the horseman that follows the last participants and yes, the Mongolian horsemen can sleep on a moving horse by sitting just behind the saddle and leaning forward using the saddle as pillow). Passed two wonderful ladies from Hawaii (this fact I only found out later). What a moral booster (better that the energy bars) run run yes this is it…..passed an additional eight people (this is not to brag but each person I passed the faster I could go)… made it back to Camp and the 42 Km finish line in 6:30 hours but by then I was done- little dots, white dots dancing in font of my eyes and a stomach that claims it's first real food since the wonderful in-flight dinner specially prepared by Aeroflot, six bananas, a multitude of energy bars.

Food was served but I gulped it down faster than the plate was placed on the table. I was a goner needed sleep sleep sleep…Nicolas and I planed that we go again early next morning finishing the course. Gave in to the basic needs and let myself sleep ….beep beep the cruel sound of my watch, did I really plan to do the remaining 58 km… got to do the full 100 km … that's what I can for right.

Nicolas and myself set of to conquer the last loop. Legs ache, but so did the rest of my beaten, shaken, and run down body… once on the road things get better…. The beauty of the lake, blue skies, raising sun and just being in this wonderful place.
Shin pin sets in - forgot to eat enough salt… salt pills, yes, they will help to get back in action…it is incredible when your salt balance goes pain sets in, but 10 miniuts after eating salt it goes away.. the salt tablets saved the day and we made the 58 km in 9 hours15 minuets for Nicolas and 9 hours 30 minuets for myself. Technically speaking we did the 100 km in 30 plus hours by I will still for the sake of my ego add the 6 ½ and the 10 ½ to make it 17 hours. The best time and course record was set by Nuuren a Mongolian at 11hours and 12 minuets what an exceptional sportsman, runner and person.

Celebration night was a blast with food, beer, wine, and last but not least sharp Mongolian vodka… and dancing till the early morning.

The next day we set off for a 7-day horse trek following the lakeshore up north and then a loop in over the mountains and back to the lake. My horse was called Ian or something like that but this was promptly changed as he was missing a piece of his left ear - Hollyfield - was his new name. The trek was again a sublime experience of beauty, pristine nature, and a world without the electronic ball and chain - the mobile phone. We were so out of touch that we only knew who won the world cup till 4 days later. I so enjoyed the wildness and simplicity of traveling through the landscape on a horse.

Got back in camp ending a fantastic time with another party. Traveled to UB this time by jeep to Moron and then a small plane to UB. Going home was at least easier than coming. Spent the night and off to the airport for the Moscow flight… hey here come the people bound for Beijing, they board … see ya. We're still in UB airport 5 hours after planned take of time… please leave the airport and come back tonight…. The 3 of us Dirk (whaz up doc), Nick (Harry Potter) and myself, what to do - lets have a drink - oh here is the bar "Casablanca" ….spent the evening there and then off to the airport again but this time quite drunk.

Checked in at 10 PM and waited till we all passed out. 4 AM the call came go back to town and find a hotel, we will only fly at 5PM… back to UB got a room. Next morning the doctor (Dirk) was down and out with serious stomach problems - fixed him up with a six-pack of Imodium while Harry and I went sight seeing. 5 PM came and we actually took off and made it to Moscow 36 hours late.

Moscow a total madhouse nearly all flights were late, staff had no idea what to do, the manager was hiding, no one to call the shoots. Finally after 12 hours we were sent off to hotels at this point not the same as my travel companions as I was bound for Paris and they for London and Frankfurt. Checked in to my 12 square meter room with distinct 1940's look.
The TV could only remain on for 3 minuets before turning itself off. Never mind took a shower and opened the door to go to the bar for a drink. Was greeted by a skinhead gorilla, who pointed back to the room. No Visa - Stay in Room…. Guess it was reading time then - Harry Potter had given me a book an autobiography of Frank Skinner an English comedian that I have never heard of, actually quite funny to read a book about some one written assuming that you know who you are talking about.

Was woken up at 4 am and told to come down had a seat on the first flight to Paris…super… well not yet… got to the airport waited 2 hours and was sent back to the hotel to wait till 4 PM in the company of my personal gorilla.

By now I was totally aware that this was a journey into personal reflection and patience. At 4 PM off we went again this time flying and connecting with out problems to Casablanca and on to Marrakech where my bed greeted me… yes, I was home.

You may think that going to Mongolia sounds like a hassle - it was, but I would do it again cause it is the last frontier of modern man with all that it in tails.

Steen Holck
August 2002


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