Sorry about the long silence. I thought, rather than just leaving the blog hanging with no ending, I’d update this despite what has happened to me.
Today, we woke up to a “candle light” breakfast. Which was strange, given that candle light was usually something associated with dinners. Anyway, the hotel we were staying for the night in Ulaanbataar put up a really nice breakfast setting for the 12 of us.
After breakfast, we then took off on a 2 hour mini bus journey to the Trelj National Park. The distance was not that far, only about 60km, but due to the condition of the road, it took us that much longer.
At the entrance to the park there is a collection of rocks, which is known as “Oovoo”, where each visitor goes around it once or three times and throws another rock to the pile. This was meant to bring good luck and a sign of respect to the spirits. We all did our bit before we got back on to the minivan for the rest of the journey to the Ger camp.
After a rather shot distance, we reach the Ger camp. It was a nice experience to stay in a nomadic Gar. Had a good lunch hosted by the camp owners. Food mainly consisted of meat, meat and more meat – in all shapes and forms. Fruits and vegetables were hard to find in these parts of the world. We then went on a short hike up the hills behind the camp. The view was magnificent. I have not posted the photos here but take a look at them on the side panel to the right.
It was a great photo opportunity and everyone was clicking away and so was I. Unfortunately for me, I slipped on some loose gravel and fell. Due to the rocky conditions and no trees, I lost my balance and fell on the rocks below. I was later told that it would have been a meter below and due to the lay of the land which was not flat, I was dragged further down. When I finally came to a stop, I could not feel anything below my waist and was in excruciating pain. I seriously thought that was the end and I have never felt such pain in my life.
The people I travelled with were extremely helpful. As my spine was injured I needed to be laid flat on the ground. There was no phone coverage there and it was impossible to call for help. The tour guide who was a doctor in a previous life was really great. Somehow, he got hold of a bus. Tore one of its seats off the bus and brought it to me. A few of them carried me onto the seat in a flat position despite me screaming in pain. Next was to get me onto the bus so that they can transport me to the hospital in Ulaanbaatar.
I don’t know how but they manage to get me onto the bus and then it was a torturous drive to Ulaanbaatar. The driver was really good. He took extreme care to avoid the millions of potholes. Despite that, the slightest bump on the road was transmitted to my back and I would scream.
Once we got to within mobile phone coverage, the tour leader started calling for an ambulance. Mongolia does not have the kind of search and rescue we have in New Zealand. All they had was an ambulance. No helicopters. An ambulance was finally despatched but they had jurisdiction apparently and could not go beyond a certain distance from the city. So we drove to the end of the jurisdiction hoping that we will meet them halfway.
I really don’t know how long it took, but it felt like an eternity! My tour guide gave me pain killers which did not really help. Finally we caught up with the ambulance. They decided it would be too painful for me to be transferred so they decided to use the bus to transport me to the hospital but the ambulance crew gave me an injection which helped reduce the pain a little.
We finally reached the trauma hospital. I was glad but that was short lived. The condition inside the hospital was no different compared to the roads outside. The floor tiles were broken and uneven. The ride on the stretcher inside the hospital was no better than the ride on the bus. This is third world country!
The tour guide wanted to get x-rays done but the queue was so long, we had to bribe our way. Despite my condition, no one at the hospital really cared to give me priority. So it was either “money” or wait your turn. Due to the fact that my tour guide worked there before, he knew who to see and ask and got things done a lot quicker.
The hospital said there were no broken bones, just a fracture of the spine. After all that commotion, they said there was no free beds available and that I had to go back to the hotel and come back the next day. That was no good! My tour guide sprang into action again. After some frantic phone calls and money passing hands, he managed to secure a place in an apparently prestigious hospital usually reserved for government officials and expatriates.
When we reached that hospital, the inside was no different. Again broken tiles. But the hospital was quieter and more importantly, they had a bed and the staff there were a lot better.
They had no immediate cure or treatment for my back and all I had was morphine shots every few hours, until I have decided what to do. I then called home and the insurance company to see what can be done next.