Day 74: Ger 1 to Ger 2 , Where the animals go

Sheep, goats, horses and yaks congregates around a power pylon.
So that’s where they go!

By the light of a new day, we take turns to leave the comfort of the ger.

Checking their kill from the night before, the boys are annoyed to find that their dogs have already had a go at it. The carcass now lies on the ground, its broken stomach providing a leisurely breakfast for those that would eat it.

Scolding the hungry hounds, the boys put the bloody remains away for safekeeping. Perhaps they’ll taste better as buuze.

The water supplies on my bike haven’t fared much better. Frozen solid, we leave the bottles defrosting over the ger stove.

Some of them are empty, and one of the brothers offers me the use of his motorbike to ride over to a nearby well. Not wanting to call in my travel insurance just yet, I settle for a spot on the back. Safely there, they start a noisy petrol pump to draw the water up, and soon my remaining water vessels are filled to the brim.

The boys are keen to ride my bike too. But it’s not as easy as it looks. The heavy Troll struggles in the sandy soil and it’s the younger of the two who has the most luck in keeping her upright. The older admits that it's difficult and I sense a sibling rivalry at play.

Waving them goodbye, I head on my way.

The scenery is vast, but my fresh start on the pylon-marked track quickly gets old.

So when I come across the shell of an old car, it feels like an adult playground. But, try as I might, I can’t get the damned thing to start! So I settle for a spot of car surfing, before heading on my way again.

On the other side of the track, a herd of curious camels watch me come and go, oblivious to my car troubles.

The Troll is super sturdy, but she lacks any form of suspension.

The steel frame soaks up some of the bumps but clearly not enough for my panniers. One of the plastic clips comes loose, causing its charge to jump off the rail. There’s nary a bike shop in sight - luckily I can duct tape it back together again.

A bit further on, I pass a shrine, a pile of stones topped with a wooden stake, wrapped in blue and yellow scarves. The scarves are wrapped in plastic or rubber tubes and I wonder if, like my masking tape, it’s some sort of DIY repair stand.

This shrine is a money-free zone, whereas the Russian versions were surrounded in small coins. Perhaps that’s because people are worse off here, but it’s equally likely that they’re just worried that their paper-based currency would blow over the border to China.

The sky is blue and the sun is shining, but the wind hasn’t gone anywhere.

It’s a cold, cold headwind. In my simplistic Dan-way, I’d imagined that the wind flowed North to South, from Siberia down to the Chinese coastline. And so I’d planned my route to ride away from its frigid source, running from the approaching winter, with a cool tail wind to aid me.

In reality, it’s not like that at all. My trajectory is southwards, but a bitterly cold wind is blowing directly in my face, slowing rather than speeding my progress.

I can’t complain, I mean the scenery is amazing and I still really do want to be here. It’s just that head winds suck in general, and cold head winds suck even more.

Luckily, there are a couple of highlights.

Firstly, my first tumbleweed! At least, I think that’s what it is. Popularised by The Simpsons, I’ve been waiting years to see one tumble past.

And then I spot a large herd, but this one is comprised of sheep and goats and horses and (I think) yaks! I’ve been told that herders here don’t actually know where their animals go between breakfast and dinner. Well I know - and it's obvious really. They just meet at the pylon and hang out with all their other four-legged friends.

At lunch time, I pull off the track and cook up some hot noodles on my futuristic Korean stove.

This allows me to save my expensive Omnifuel gas for the colder nights. It’s a small win, as my previous attempts resulted in it flaring up like a madman. It’s better behaved today, but despite the burner’s built-in windbreak, it just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of lust for life as its more expensive counterpart. Perhaps there’s a reason why it was so cheap.

Still, we get there eventually. I crouch with my back to the breeze and breathe in hot steam from the noodles. They go really well with the expensive dates which I purchased in Ulaanbaatar. The cold makes the dates delectably chewy, so it’s not all bad news.

As the day progresses, the blue sky clouds over.

Doing my usual trick of passing up a perfectly good ger for a well-timed one, sunset finds me admiring a rich sunset, while nervously scanning for a place to camp.

Watching the blood red sunset from the top of a hill, I snap off pictures using the Canon G1x which my former Creative Director gifted to me. He was also a photographer and it was his backup camera, but I'm disappointed to find that that even it can’t reproduce the stunning colours on display.

But it does force me to take a closer look at the landscape. My gaze rests on a ger above some stables, and I quickly make my way around the hill.

Entering the ger with the intention of asking to camp nearby, I nervously find myself in a dark room. Quickly apologising and backing out, the tolerant inhabitants instead switch on the lights and get out of bed. I feel terrible! It’s barely 6pm and I didn’t expect anyone to be in bed by now!

My intrusion leads to the sinking realisation that my recent ger stays have left me feeling somewhat entitled. It’s my new normal to just barge into people’s lives in this country.

While I’m busy beating myself up, the husband and wife are busy prepare a welcoming feast for me. There’s hot tea, hard cheeses, fingery biscuits and more hand-made buzze. They then repeatedly offer me a space on the floor, to which I finally agree.

The wife, Dankaar, is a lot of fun and her husband, Didlich, is pretty laid back too. After dinner, they offer me the sheesha pipe (declined) and the snuff jar (atishoo!). They’re a cute couple, giggling to each other when it’s bed time (again). Maybe I'm just a romantic at heart, but it seems that compatible company is the number one priority when you're marooned out in the desert.

I ask them whose job it is to fuel the fire in this relationship. They respond by stoking it, then Dankaar tucks me in, cinching up my sleeping bag and liner until only my face is exposed.

It’s a kind and loving gesture, but the ger is warm and I wake up later in a crazy sweat. Removing several layers, I drift back to sleep only to wake up again when the fire goes out - now I'm freezing!

By myself I'm either too hot or too cold. Snuggling up with the one you love is surely the best way to create a temperature that’s just right.