Under normal circumstances, making a wrong turn or two and getting a bit lost isn’t that big of a deal. All you have to do is plug your destination into GPS or stop and ask someone for directions, and you’ll easily get back on track. But attempting to drive across Mongolia - a country with few people and even fewer paved roads or signs - isn’t exactly a “normal circumstance.”
After getting stuck crossing a shallow river, my brother and I feared the worst when we saw yet another river crossing ahead of us, so we made the fateful decision to veer off the main path onto another trail that seemed to go parallel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we realized we had made a terrible mistake.
There didn’t appear to be anyone around for miles, and even if we had had cell service, we couldn’t exactly call AAA. So after exhausting all of our other options, we used our satellite device to text the U.S. embassy in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, to ask for assistance.
While waiting for help to arrive, we sought refuge in an abandoned building nearby.
And had a chance encounter with a local Mongolian guy who appeared out of nowhere, stopped by to visit, and then disappeared just as quickly.
Eventually, we heard back from the folks at the embassy. We didn’t have an emergency. All we needed was a tow truck to come pull us over the rocks and up the hill, but their response alarmed us and made us feel guilty for getting ourselves into this predicament in the first place.
Listen to the latest episode of Far From Home to hear the whole story and find out what happened!
Some of you who heard this episode have asked for details about the satellite device we used to get help when we were stranded. It’s called the DeLorme inReach SE (note that after we took our trip, DeLorme was acquired by Garmin, so this exact model is no longer available, but you can find used ones on places like Amazon or Ebay). If you’re curious about some of the other essential gear we brought with us on our trip, check out the top ten list at the end of this article my brother wrote for Geographical magazine in the UK.
Thanks for listening!
Photos by Drew Gurian