Showing posts with label travel prep. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel prep. Show all posts
Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mongolia Packing List & Advice


A year ago I embarked on a two week trip to Mongolia. This post has been sitting in my drafts for almost 8 months now and I thought it was fitting to post it now.

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Before my trip to Mongolia, I wrote a packing list of what I was bringing. I thought it was best to write another packing list for those who are going to Mongolia and to prevent you from making the same mistakes that I did. I went in August which was the tail end of summer therefore my list and advice is only relevant to the warmer months in Mongolia. During my two week stay in Mongolia, temperatures ranged from 10 - 25 degrees C.

This is not an extensive packing list as I have not included all basic items such as shirts, shorts, socks, etc.

Clothing

  • Underwear - bring underwear for more days than your tour. There is no running water and cleaning your underwear on the trip is unlikely. That is unless you don't mind wearing your underwear for more than one day, to each their own.
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Sports bra/s - I am not large chested, however I was told that they are a life saver for the bumpy off-roading
  • Pants / Trousers - especially if going horse riding and also for the cool mornings / evenings
  • Hiking boots / joggers - any sturdy shoes really. I don't think hiking boots are a necessity. I brought semi-casual combat boots and they were an okay choice.

Accessories

  • Sleeping bag - I think this is crucial! Your tour operator will supply you with sleeping bags most likely, however, they will have been used by countless people before who went days without showering. And who knows when the sleeping bags were last washed properly. Even between your tour members, you will inadvertently end up rotating your sleeping bag as they all get bundled up and randomly distributed at the ger. A little bit gross. If you don't have a sleeping bag, I would strongly to see if any family or friends have one. My sleeping bag ended up being my "home" and it was comforting to know it was only mine as everything ended up being shared on the trip. Even my lip balm! Luckily I brought an extra lip balm as some people were using mine. In the end it grossed me out too much and I just gave that one away for communal use.
  • Bandanna - offroading = dust / dirt / sand. I used it extensively when I was in the van as they had open windows. When I washed it halfway through the trip, the water was brown. Yuck, I would have breathed that in.
  • Hat - coming from Australia, I always advocate for people to wear hats.
  • Sunglasses
  • Car charger - the van may be able to charge your electronics via the cigarette lighter outlet, however do not rely on this. The first van's outlet didn't work.
  • Mosquito net (if you are scared of bugs) - if I could go back in time, I would have definitely purchased a mosquito net to place over my bed. I am terrified of bugs and there were quite a few nights where bugs and spiders were all over the ger walls. Brrrrrrrrrrrr. I ended up getting my tour mates to kill them for me, but I knew there were still many more around. There was one night where there were so many spiders and I literally curled up in my sleeping bag all night and too scared to turn over and face the ger wall. At one point in the middle of the night, it was so warm and I needed to take off my jumper and pants however I was too worried to unzip my sleeping bag and ended up stripping in my zipped up bag. It was very difficult.
  • Wet wipes - they were the best alternative when showers were not an option
  • Tissues / toilet paper - always useful and best to carry it with you at all times!
  • Own utensils / mug - this is probably the grossest part of the experience. I am not the biggest clean freak, but knowing that plates / cutlery were not cleaned properly (except with some water and wiped down with a tea towel that probably never got cleaned) was slightly ... uncomfortable to accept. I think I would have had greater piece of mind if I had brought my own cutlery, mug and plate. That being said I did not get food poisoning at all!


Food

I'll be honest, the food in Mongolia is not great. It largely comes down to the fact that supermarkets have limited supplies, it will need to be quickly cooked by the tour guide and transported in the van without refrigeration. If you are not a fussy person then probably ignore this section. But below is what I did and what I would do differently if I had the chance.
  • Buy fruit at the supermarket - firstly it's healthy, especially since the rest of your diet won't be. Secondly, it won't melt in the van.
  • Don't buy too much chocolate - although chocolate feels like a treat, it isn't very glamorous when you end up licking it off from the wrapper as it has melted in the van.
  • Instant oatmeal / porridge (pre purchased in Ulanbaatar) - breakfast usually consisted of bread and jam / butter / nutella. If anything was left over, you would eat it the next morning ergo a lot of dry / stale bread. In hindsight, I should have brought instant porridge and made it with the hot water.
  • Museli bars
  • Hot sauce / condiment - food wasn't always great and having a condiment like hot sauce a) makes bland food taste better and b) it masks the taste of any food that doesn't taste good

Technology

  • Don't bring a laptop, chances are you won't use it and the chances of it breaking are quite high - I brought it and although I used it back in Ulanbaatar to edit photos, I really could have done without it. I ended up stressing a little about my laptop breaking as luggage was constantly jostled, thrown on the ground, etc
  • Bring spare camera batteries- you will not have a chance to charge your electronics. And, on the odd chance that there are powerpoints they will all be occupied
  • Powerbank - life saver! I used it to charge my camera
  • Camera of course!
  • Don't bother bringing a power adaptor, all places have a wonderful multiplug powerboard which is great! That being said, if you are a little worried you will be caught out then bring one just in case.

Luggage

  • Do not bring a suitcase unless you are happy to roll your suitcase over dirt / sand / grass.
  • Pack light, the vehicle does not necessarily have a lot of space and luggage will be packed in snuggly along with the food and other supplies.

Entertainment

  • MP3 Player / Ipod - Chances are that you will be in a vehicle for an extended period of time and it does get a little boring
  • Books / Audiobooks - I brought my Kindle which was a lifesaver! I read probably 5 novels over my 12 day trip during the downtime. I also had one audiobook loaded onto my phone for the car rides. I can't read on a moving vehicle (trains are the exception) as I get motion sickness. In hindsight, I should have loaded more audiobooks!

And most importantly, you definitely need to go with an open mind! Go with the flow because things won't go to plan and that is okay! You will most likely get to know people very intimately, moreso than the average person. You will be living and breathing the same air in a smallish enclosure for an extended period of time!

By the way, that camel from the photo is from camel hair handmade by a family in rural Mongolia. So cute!

If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email at dignifiable[at]gmail.com.
Friday, 17 February 2017

My Experiences: Car Camping

A bit of a disclaimer: this post is to talk about my experiences and some questions that people have asked me. I am not an expert and this is not something that I do for extended periods of time. Hopefully this post will be interesting / useful to someone on the internet!

New England Roadtrip

What is Car Camping?

Simply the act of "camping" in your vehicle as opposed to a tent! Alternatively, sleeping in your car / vehicle. I believe it is also referred to as urban camping.

When and Why Did I start Car Camping?

I first slept in my vehicle in June 2015 on my Flinders Ranges trip in South Australia purely to save money. There were two options I was presented with: (1) Pay for accommodation for $250 p/n; (2) Pay for an unpowered camping site for $13 p/n. Naturally Option 2 was more attractive.

These days, I car camp on all my roadtrips for a few reasons:
  1. Save money on accommodation where motels are easily $100+ p/n. I am - and have always been - quite a frugal traveller and really want to stretch my dollar as far as I can.
  2. Sense of freedom and being able to wake up and leave at the crack of dawn and generally not being as restricted
  3. Being able to see the stars when I am lying down before I fall asleep
I have now car camped for 5 separate instances with the longest being 4 nights.

New England Roadtrip

How do I Car Camp?

I don't own a car so all the cars I have slept in have been rentals. I rent the Toyota Corolla hatchback or equivalent on all occasions (due to cost) and always hope that I get a free upgrade. Of course if I had my own vehicle, things would be a lot simpler as I could make the space infinitely more comfortable over time. However every car model is different and subsequently some experiences are more comfortable than others. Nonetheless I have made do!

New England Roadtrip

I am 5'1" or 1.55m and therefore not the tallest individual. I fold back the two seats flat, lay out my sleeping bag and when I lie slightly diagonal, I can stretch out completely. Although it is not the most spacious vehicle (obviously) it doesn't bother me too much since I am a side sleeper in a feotal-esque position meaning that I take up less room anyway. The downside to this position is that my hip digs into the floor and at some point, I will invest in a sleeping pad. I was at a campsite once where there were four girls simply sleeping in their seats upright / slightly reclined in their compact SUV. If that is how you can sleep - I cannot fall asleep in any position apart from being horizontal- then that would be infinitely better!

New England Roadtrip
My latest addition has been a solar powered string of fairy lights. Although it is very Instagram-y, it is quite practical especially when I am staying somewhere with no / minimal lighting. My torch is often too bright / harsh and the lights from the fairy lights effectively means I am not sitting there in complete darkness at campgrounds.

New England Roadtrip

I use the passenger seat as the equivalent of my "living room"; this is where I will lounge in the car when I am not ready to sleep. I'd usually be in that seat reading my Kindle or eating.

Where do I park the vehicle?

I originally stayed at low cost campgrounds and have slowly transitioned to free campgrounds. I have stayed at the outskirts of suburbia once and also at free camping spots / assumed camping spots. I recently downloaded the app WikiCamps which lists all campgrounds in Australia with reviews which has been super helpful. I have also used CaravanCaravan in the past.

As I am staying in an everyday vehicle and not a campervan or refurbed van (you know the ones I am talking about), I have the factor of stealth and I could definitely stay in the suburbs. In the future, I would see business parks / industrial areas / streets close to parks as possible overnight locations.

New England RoadtripAdmittedly, it can be a slightly messy affair. I had already picked up for this photo - haha. Here you can see where I sleep, where I put my luggage. Usually I keep my food on the floor of the passenger seat when I am driving.

But is it safe?

At paying campgrounds, yes probably. At free campgrounds, yes probably. At another location, possibly. It is definitely very reassuring to see other people (usually in their campervans) at the campsite although arguably that may also be a sense of false security. I must admit, it can feel a little daunting being the only person there (happened to me twice), but it all boils down to common sense / gut feelings. If it doesn't feel right or you experience the heebie-jeebies, simply move onto the next location.

But what about toilets / showers / facilities?

This isn't an issue at campgrounds as there are often facilities such as toilets / showers / BBQs. However, these are generally only available at paid campgrounds; depending on the location, prices range from $5-$30 for unpowered sites. Prior to Mongolia, I had stayed once at a campground without showers for one night and survived. After Mongolia, I realised that I can mentally go by without showers for a lot longer than one day. I have read that you can pay a small fee to use showers at paid caravan parks / hostels and there may be showers at petrol stations (used by truckies). Toilets are everywhere! Shopping centres, parks, public toilets in suburbs / towns; there are more toilets than you realise and there is also a directory which I find slightly amusing.
I am still refining my approach but if you have any questions, please leave them below!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Packing List for Mongolia

This weekend I will be flying to Mongolia via Hong Kong. I will be in Mongolia for two weeks and Hong Kong for 2.5 days in total. A question that I get asked every time I tell people that I am going to Mongolia is, "Why Mongolia?". A very valid question and one that I don't really have an answer to. Mongolia was almost a whim destination .

This is the first packing post that I have ever written in the 5 years I have had this blog. I will be in Mongolia for two weeks and on a tour in a Russian van for 11 days in total. We will be driving around to nomadic families and staying at gers. In short, I will have limited facilities (such as toilets and showers) so hopefully the clothing I have packed will be sufficient.



Luggage
I will be travelling with two bags. The one pictured is a 40L backpack that I purchased from Kathmandu. I actually dislike the colour pink but it is a bright colour which will mean a) it will be easy to spot at baggage collection b) I can easily keep track of it if I put it down anywhere. I also have a Country Road tote bag as my carry on. I wanted an extra bag for any purchases that I make in Mongolia or Hong Kong therefore on the flight there, that bag is almost empty.

This is the first time I have used packing cubes and they are amazing! In the past, I have used compression sacks which are great (!!) however I thought it was time to "upgrade" myself to a life where I didn't permanently have crumpled clothes. That being said, I do have the compression sack for my outerwear that I am bringing.

Clothes
1 x lightweight rain jacket
1 x lightweight long pants
1 x shorts
1 x swimmers
2 x summer dresses
4 x t shirts
2 x long sleeve shirts
1 x flannel
1 x leggings
1 x cotton long sleeve
1 x jumper
1 x set of PJS
2 x tanks with built in bra
10 x pairs of underwear

Shoes
1 x Roc Boots
1 x thongs / flip flops
5 x socks

Other 
1 x sleeping bag
1 x sarong
1 x towel
1 x packet of baby wipes
1 x kindle
2 x cameras (digital and film)
1 x laptop

Something I do when I travel is that half the clothes I tend to bring are ones that I will also get rid of throughout the course of my trip.

Apologies, the photos are out of focus. I purchased a new camera with manual lens and clearly need some practice still! Electronic viewfinder does make things a little harder for me.