Day 77: Hill to Field , The sh*tstorm

A camping pot sits on top of a pile of flaming animal dung.
Poo porridge.

Morning finds me in a prolonged state of procrastination, the cold night stumbling into a gloomy, sunless day.

I had a sh*tty sleep, during which I dreamt that I was checking into a hostel. The receptionist was wearing lingerie, but I asked if I could just have something for feet.

I wondered if I secretly harboured some kind of international foot fetish, but then I woke up at 2am and realised that my feet were painfully frozen and it was just my subconscious telling me to do something about it. So I wrapped them in my cashmere scarf, which had zero effect.

But that was last night. Today, a frigid northerly has blown in. It’s the nasty, burrowing-into-your-eye-sockets type, and it’s most unwelcome.

A more effective response would probably be to get moving, but instead I clear the immediate area and make a fire out of dry dung, with the excuse that I can boil up my reusable pocket warmers.

The fire is initially hot, so I take the opportunity to cook up some weird almond and raisin porridge while I’m there. But the rock-lined furnace soon turns into a messy smoke machine, infecting everything with the dung smell. I wonder if this is part of the reason why gers have enclosed fireplaces.

It’s two-thirty before my procrastination finally lets up, but I’m in a bad, bad mood.

A collection of niggles have snow balled into a huge black cloud of frustration.

Aside from the sh*tty sleep and the smokey sh*t fire, my late departure could just as easily be blamed on the Troll‘s incomprehensible lack of a kickstand. The bike’s creators, Surly corporation, strongly warned against fitting a kickstand, because the frame was not designed to handle it. A bike which is lying down can’t fall over (opens new window). Smart-asses.

What they neglect to address is the Touring 101 fact that a bike must be loaded whilst upright. Do you know how hard it is to pack a touring bike when there is nothing to lean it against? It’s bloody hard. Especially when you have fiddly items like a handlebar tent bag and solar panel tie downs which are just impossible to work with gloved hands. So I have to hold the bike with one gloved hand, then repeatedly reposition its progressively unwieldy geometry, until I’m done loading it with my remaining cold and ungloved hand.

And then there’s this stupid stupid Stealth tent bag. The rolled tent changes diameter from day to day. I don’t know why, it could be the amount of Argon in the air for all I know. The tent bag on the other hand is always the same diameter. How is that supposed to work?

And all this extra sh*t that I’m carrying, which is clearly slowing me down. The stupid bad-angle rear-view mirror, the pointless chamois cream, and the heavy rice which takes ages to cook.

On yeah, and today I realised that my Sony field recorder has been set to Line-In, which probably means that I’ve been uploading gigs of silent recordings to Dropbox.


Anyway. Sometimes you just need to have a rant. Today I’m actually heading down to Tsogt Ovoo. It would be fantastic if it had a shop that was open and sold chocolate. But I’d settle for four walls and a heater - it’s freaking cold out here on the steppe. But Tsogt Ovoo is 20km away, and it’s already two-thirty, no, two-thirty-nine. Best get on my way then.

Riding is more of the same as the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that. After sixteen or so brain-and-eye-numbing kilometres the light starts to fade, and I realise that I’ve miscalculated the distance. Town is five to ten kilometres further than I expected.

It’s unlikely that I’ll make it to Tsogt Ovoo in the remaining daylight, but it’s the snow that makes up my mind for me.

When it starts falling gently, the smart option seems to be to stop and pitch camp, which I reluctantly do. It’s a wise decision because soon it is blizzard conditions outside.

Luckily my tent has two vestibules suitable for cooking in, so I set up the Korean burner in the one not facing the wind and snow. Dinner is mainly carbohydrates, the cold weather telling my mind to tell my body to store up as much energy as possible. It’s only after stuffing myself full that I realise that I’m out of toilet paper.

Snapping my Kathmandu pocket warmers with my hands causes a chemical reaction which transforms the previously inert pouches into tiny 55 degree heaters. Thrusting them into my felted alpaca wool slippers I clothe myself in full battle dress and get into bed, unsure of what the night or morning will bring.

Mummified in many layers, I lie in bed and listen through hats to the hum of power lines, the patter of snow flakes, trucks on the main road and the stomping of hungry snow beasts.