Friday, 13th November, 2015
- Day 73/298
Still off the main road, power pylons keep me on track but suck the mystique out of back country navigation.
It was a cold night in the hole.
Perhaps holes are where cold air accumulates, a n00b mistake which I walked right in to.
And I had the chills again, the cold clawing its way through my $250 inflatable down mat. Zipping the tent doors shut didn’t make an ounce of difference, the cold air laughing at the thin nylon walls.
Although I still feel half-asleep, it’s much harder to patch together my fragments of vodka dreams today. I had a ticket to L.A. but couldn’t use it as I was stuck in Mongolia. Then there were firemen in the church, but my parents chose to ignore them. Perhaps I’m subconsciously pining after the general lack of heat.
Getting up, I’m treated to the pinky hues of a future sunrise. It’s no warmer out of bed, but it’s damned beautiful. I break camp and cook my porridge on a small ledge which seems fit for the purpose.
Daytime is friendlier to my senses, with an abundance of warm sunshine to offset the cold breeze.
Following my smartphone map, I ride 7km to the map road. It’s the track I was on yesterday, rather than the main road, but it feels loosely comforting to be following some kind of path through the void.
The 4WD track is hard packed clay with little pebbles. Every now and then it washes out to sand, requiring some vigilance. Life is sparse, but now and then I pass a few animals, or forearm wide shrubs, reminding me that I’m not alone.
In olden times, it might have been difficult to navigate out here. It’s pretty much just horizon, everywhere, except in the distance there’s a little bit of a mountain, and over there a few hills. Luckily the track is now marked at regular intervals by power pylons. The elevated power lines aren’t of much use to the tented nomads, but their stands make a good substitute for Google Maps. They do tend to suck the mystique out of back country navigation though.
Twenty kilometres later, I stop at a ger to enquire after some water.
Four men live here, three brothers and their father. They invite me inside for tea and hard cheese, before the brothers take their rifles out hunting.
As I sit and watch, the father slaves away, painstakingly handcrafting attractive dumplings. A TV babbles away in the background, delivering a Mongolian variety show and a German documentary about Indian yogi, overdubbed into Mongolian.
Then the news comes on, and there’s a disturbing report about someone spontaneously erupting into flames. Perversely, it’s the guy next to him who gets all the coverage, I guess he must be someone important. In the right hand corner of the screen, a tiny woman motions busily with her arms. I’m impressed that sign-language is supported here.
The brothers return from hunting, proudly displaying a dead sheep. Hanging it from a hook in the shed, the eldest rips the hide from its back, before coming in for dinner.
The dumplings taste a bit odd, but are very satisfying. After I’ve eaten a few of them, the chef proudly tells me that the filling is horse meat and then invites me to stay the night. Wiser after my foolhardy attempt to brave the last ger backyard, I don’t hesitate to accept.
It’s warm and cozy inside, and there’s plenty of room for the five of us.