Day 75: Ger to House of bones , Tasty cheeses

Looking down into an orange plastic bag containing chunks of yellowy-white cheeses.
Tasty cheeses.

In the morning, my hosts have the radio on. The station plays a great mix of styles, from orchestral, to singing, to new age beatless pieces, replete with the vocal flavours of The Orb.

After breakfast, I sketch out a poor rendition of their house and a stamped envelope. My hope is that this will elicit their postal address, which it does. But their written response doesn’t seem to include nearly enough information to guarantee Rural Delivery. Dankaar asks for mine too, the request being easier the second time.

Despite the awkward start, my stay here feels the least foreign of my ger encounters so far.

For a start, they seems pretty well off. Outside, there’s a stables, a Russian jeep, a Toyota type van, at least one motorbike, and a cool oil drum caravan. Somehow they’ve found time to have five kids as well, possibly during times of less interruption. They proudly show me pictures of each.

They’re also the most overtly domesticated, with washing outside, an old-school iron, a two-planks toilet box complete with toilet paper, and an enforced regime of teeth brushing in the morning.

Perhaps it’s just the absence of their family. It’s easier for me to relate to people of a similar (im)maturity, those that aren’t curbing their natural instincts in an attempt to coddle their children.

Before I go, I write a heartfelt thank you note in their diary-cum-guestbook. The last entry is from the 6th of September. It contains phone numbers and I wonder who the last nomad was, to cross their path.

Dankaar hands me a bag of bread, and I reciprocate with my last bag of dates. It seems like a bum deal, and it’s not until later that I realise that the stale chunks of bread are in fact hard pieces of cheese, an edible goldmine.

‘Outside’, it is cloudy and much colder than usual.

The landscape offers none of the appeal of sunnier days, the infinitely long line of power pylons promising only a prolonged kind of purgatory.

It’s bad for morale and I stop often to snack. Thank God for the tasty cheeses.

After 40km of this, I’m ready to call it a day.

My daily hunt for a campsite leads me to a loose cluster of buildings, the first of which appears to be a well.

A rubber hose emerges from one wall of a concrete brick shed. Hanging down like a parched cartoon tongue, it comes to rest on a neatly stacked pile of leftover bricks and old tyres.

An adjacent metal trough is surrounded by flat concrete tiles, and, viewed from the correct angle, the tidy scene feel like an ancient oasis.

What lucky animals, I think. Not only are they treated as first-class nomads, their owners even care enough to landscape the place.

Peering over the top of the shed’s steal door, I can barely make out its contents. A suitcase-sized diesel pump sits on the floor, the same kind as the brothers had used a couple of days before.

Carrying on to the larger buildings, it looks they’ve been bombed by the Russians.

Fragments of roofing tiles and animal bones litter the adjacent field and the interior of the first building.

But then I remember that independence was won peacefully, so if it had been bombed it was probably a harmless security measure by the departing armies.

Whatever the reason, the presence of the bones is quite disturbing. I’m unsure of the purpose of the small rooms, so I decide that it’s a stables of sorts. It’s the least sinister explanation that I can think of.

The second building is bone-free, so I set up inside the roofless space.

The remaining walls provide the required illusion of shelter, but my butane cooker isn’t so easily convinced. The cool night air hijacks the pressure, leaving me with a hot but low flame. Nonetheless, I manage to knock out a three course dinner, Tamir-inspired spicy peanut butter almonds, a double helping of instant noodles, and a thermos full of delicious sweet and salty tea (recipe below) for the road tomorrow. I finish off with the last of the chocolate.

Expecting the cold day to turn into a colder night, I change up my sleeping arrangements yet again. Putting on two more t-shirts, my Sealskinz socks, and a balaclava, I insert my survival bag in between my thermal liner and my sleeping bag, hoping to nail the balance between insulation and sweating.

I only hope the bones’ ghosts don’t haunt me tonight.

Makes 6 cups.

  • 1.2 L thermos
  • 6 tea bags
  • 12 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.2 L boiled water

The addition of salt gives the tea a salted caramel vibe which makes it pop!

Probably best served hot, but lukewarm is all my burner can manage tonight.