Tuesday, 10th November, 2015
- Day 70/298
After a cold night outside, I warm up with more Mongolian hospitality from a local family.
It’s a relief to see the sunrise.
Next time a family invite me to stay inside their heated ger, I think I’ll take them up on it!
I’m not imagining the cold, either. My tent and bike bags are coated in a thick layer of frost, and the water has frozen in my plastic bladders. Brrrr!
While their wife and mum prepares breakfast, the two men and little girl pose for photos.
It’s hard to pick the mens’ ages. They’re the same height, so I assume that the one with the more weathered face and conservative garb is the older of the two, while the one with the bright purple attire is the younger.
The little girl is only half their height, but she wears the same type of shin-length, wrap-around cloak, secured in place with a cloth belt. All three wear tall insulated boots, the men wear brimless hats and the little girl rocks a loose braided ponytail.
They ask to see my pics, but respond with general apathy. I guess they’re not very good!
I forget that I have a really interesting Dr Seuss book in my luggage, and write a short thank-you note to the little girl instead. She crouches down in the dirt and studies it seriously, prodding at the English words with her pencil. I wish I knew enough Mongolian to explain it to her properly, but what I do know seems to be constrained to the pages of my school books.
After this, we all head inside for breakfast, which is a repeating theme of bread and dairy.
I’m not so fond of the anaemic pancake served in a puddle of milk, but I really heart the thick slabs of melt-in-your-mouth creamed cheese, lavishly spread on to slices of baked bread. Yum!
As usual, packing up takes me ages. The adorable family donkey takes an interest in the elongated proceedings. It cruises over to say hello and gives my tent a good sniffing. Licking a frosty wall, it then busily licks its mouth as if to say, Boy! That was cold!
Meanwhile, the men give up on me and go off to do their man work, and soon after the little girl starts crying. There’s no sign of them or her mum and it seems that everyone has abandoned her!
I feel quite helpless to cheer her up, being as I am the strange man who speaks in tongues. Thankfully her mum is nearby milking the cows. She calls the little girl over, and I’m free to leave.
Three or four hours later, I arrive at Delgertsogt.
I do a loop around the deserted dust bowl masquerading as the main street. Feeling quite self-conscious, I’m glad to find shelter in a small cafe.
It has a rustic interior, a hinged wall and a large mirror separating the proprietor from her clients. She warms me up a plateful of buzze and a cup of milk, while I peruse the wall art. A poster shows a baby goat sized child, playing with baby goats, in a wooden pen. Perhaps it’s for an upcoming Agriculture Field Day.
Pushing on, at five o’clock I come across a couple of gers, but not listening to my little birdy, I decide to press on. When the sun starts to set there are no gers in sight and I realise my mistake.
Thankfully the monocular reveals some buildings on the far side of the road which I head towards. But the light is fading rapidly and I can’t compete with the sun. Checking the monocular again, I identify some large flax bushes and head towards those instead. Up close and personal they are just small clumps of wild grass, but they will have to do.
With limited storage, I have to ration my water and gas.
Tonight, I’ve heated enough water to cook my dinner, filling my thermos for evening drinks and my breakfast porridge.
Dinner is a couple of packets of instant noodles. I add extra water, as I enjoy drinking the hot salty broth from my aluminium pot.
But even boiling water cools quickly at this temperature. So, after cooking my noodle soup, I fire up the burner to get it piping hot again. Expertly balancing the pot on top of the burner, my attention is drawn elsewhere, and when I turn around my noodles are lying in the sand.
I’m so pissed off. It’s easy to make mistakes like this when you’re a bit cold and your brain isn’t working at 100%. Emptying half of my thermos into the pot, I’ll need to forego porridge tomorrow.
I consider using my camping spade to dig the burner in, so that it’s more stable and wind proof. But the ground here is often hard, and sometimes I can’t even get a peg in. Maybe I should just be more careful.