Unless you are attempting to cross the border in a vehicle between Russia and the Mongolian Altai mountains at Tashanta….
We arrived in plenty of time at the border having camped quite close by and there were only a few vehicles in front of us in the queue. There were a few mini buses and cars with Mongolian families looking to get back into the country for the Nadaam festival which is a great tradition in the nomadic culture in Mongolia involving horse racing, wrestling and archery. We got out to get our bearings and find out what to do with documents etc and waited and waited and waited ….everything seemed to be going very slowly and the Russian border guards were only letting one or two vehicles though the gates at a time and (not having a lot to do) we timed the intervals to the guards opening the gates and it was approx 40 minutes…….so we waited and waited and still had not moved….6 hours later. G then went out to take a walk to see what was happening and it appeared that Russian mini buses were just driving straight up to the front of the queue and barging into the front. The Russian guards did not seem to care what chaos was going on at the border they just took the next car that was at the gate…..
We got together with a Mongolian group in the mini bus in front of us and they could see what the Russians were doing so they drove up to the front of the queue and took out an old granny from the back of the van and placed her on a plastic chair just in front of the gate to stop the Russians cutting in….it got to be a bit of a stand off and we just kept very close (as in inches) from the bumper of the Mongolian car in front of us…….and were within reach of the border gate. Then there was a tricky manoeuvre for the family to get granny back in the car without letting the Russians jump ahead again….it was all going well until the car in front of us stopped and the back door opened and an old man got out and wondered off (very slowly) to the edge of the road for a pee…….and we could see the Russian border guards heading towards the gate to open it to let the last few cars through……we knew if we did not get through now we would be stuck behind Russian mini buses for hours and the border was due to shut shortly for the night.
Having waited for nearly 8 hours at the border and moved almost nowhere it was excruciating waiting for the old man to get back in the car again as the whole family…..mum children and the heroic granny all had to get out to get him in again…..meanwhile ahead of us the Russian guards were opening the gate….the Russian minibus drivers were revving up beside us ready to cut us up again..G and I were yelling at the car in front to get a move on…and we were now millimetres from their back bumper and …we all lurched through the gate as one chaotic unit….just as the Russians shut the gate probably for the last time that evening.
So you can shove your granny of a bus and indeed it is the only way to get across the border (if Russians are involved) and get into Mongolia for the Nadaam.
Thank you heroic Mongolian granny!