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As a child I remember some places were out of reach: places of mystery, places where great and dreadful deeds occurred, where dragons roamed and witches brewed. Places like Timbuktu, Coventry and Outer Mongolia.
 
Coventry, as I found out later, is not too far from Manchester where I grew up, but Ulaanbataar, the Mongolian capital is a long way from anything I have experienced hitherto.
 
After arriving at Chinggis Khan Airport we hit the road. Our driver, a former member of the Mongolian Special Forces, informed us that the city was gridlocked and we needed to take a short cut, so we veered off the road and headed into the snow and up a small mountain.
 
Once we reached the summit I got out and waded through the white stuff. The slope looked a bit steep to go down, even in a jeep, and by the time I’d trudged to the bottom it became clear just how cold Ulaanbaatar is; my ears were burning.
 
It took close to three hours to get to the UB Hotel, an impressive edifice of Soviet grandeur, a distance that would normally take 35 minutes to travel. 
 
Ulaanbaatar city centre is a mix of the modern and the not so, state-of-the-art construction stands side-by-side with the traditional Girs, Buddhist temples, Soviet realism and strip clubs. 
 
Mongolians are as warm as the weather is cold and it was a pleasure to be in their company, their hospitality merits a mention.
 
We took a trip out onto the steppes to meet a very impressive individual called Galbadrakh Dambiinyam, a nomad who trains horses to race in gruelling 30-kilometre marathons across the Mongolian wilderness.
 
He spoke to me about the recent changes in weather and how it was hurting the traditional, nomadic way of life.
 
He was proud and strong and invited me into his home along with his neighbour, a gnarled and ancient nomad. We sat down and drank vodka as the wind whispered across the great plains. It was a memorable drink.
 
Chris Cummins 
 

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