My friend and counter-part Oogii and I went to the Gobi desert two days. As my life goes....the batteries in my camera died and NO store in Sainshand had ANY batteries! A similar experience happend between my youngest sister and my father during her senior year. He kept taking picture after picture documenting her life.....but he forgot to put film in the camera. Oops! So.......I have only a few pictures of the trip and only one picture of being in the Gobi.
Come with me as I spin my tale of train rides, greeting the sunrise, energy centers, beer and camels!
After teaching a few classes at Gazarchin, Oogii and I made our way to the train station. She and I each had two bags. I had a normal sized back pack and a messenger bag and she had nearly the same. Look....be proud people. I am the QUEEN of overpacking and I totally didn't do it for this trip!
Our train left promptly at 4:30pm and we were on our way to Sainshand city in Dornogovi province. It would be a 10 hour ride so I brought a lot of entertainment like my kindle and my iPod. At the next stop, a two women joined us in our cubicle of English and awkwardness. They were great! They brought a lot of alcohol (because their husbands don't like them to drink at home) and some fabulous huushuur. They were both curious about me and were surprised when I spoke in Mongolian (however limited it may be!) One woman commented on how thin I am and how I am not really that masculine. (You think?!) She said her son was just like me. Thin and not masculine.......I should get his number.
We drank a bottle of cherry wine that tasted like Robitussin and I proceeded to take two Tylenol PM and passed out for the remainder of our train ride. Fortunately......I woke up at 1:30am which gave me time to fix my hair (I looked like I could have auditioned for the Broadway version of Lion King!). We left the train and were picked up by our driver.
He took us to a store where I tried to buy batteries but they were non-existent. Instead we bought sausage, bread and a bunch of beer. Then at 3:00am.....four of us drove out in to the Gobi desert to start our trek! But first.......we had to stop in the middle of the desert and consume our beers. So there I am drunk at 3:30am.......riding around in a car........still effed up from my Tylenol PM..........there are no roads and I desperately wanted a pair of silk eye shades.
We waited for the magical time of sunrise to come. Finally at 5am the sun was almost up. We drove to the top of a hill near Hamar monastery to greet the day. Mongolians greet the sunrise with palms facing the sun to feel its energy. You can also take a box of milk and squirt it at the sun. That works too. Mongolians place a high value on dairy and use it a lot in their rituals. They also throw it on stone piles called ovoos.
After the sun came up and I felt a little less drunk we went to the Energy Center. This is a really large area filled with stupas and other symbols of Buddhism. It was really quite neat. The next stop on our Gobi jaunt was to the 108 meditation caves. These caves were used by Buddhist monks for 60 days. During those 60 days they were locked in the caves alone and were given food for only 30 days. They spent their time meditating and following the teachings of their predecessors. It was really fascinating to imagine someone doing that for 60 days. I would go insane!
After eating a filling meal of tsuivan we proceeded to my favorite stop. A camel herding family! Gaah! It was an older woman who lived in a ger with her daughter (around my age) and her two grandsons (maybe 3 and 4). They had no electricity except for a large battery that would run a power strip. They based their entire livelihood around this animal. It was fantastic!
We politely asked if we could ride a camel and they obliged. Our driver asked me if I could ride a horse and I very confidently said YES! I am from Nebraska......and I have ridden a horse a few times in my life. The last time was in Bolivia in 2001.....and I fell off the horse twice.......but I still rode the damn thing! The camel bends down before me and I am instructed to get on. After mounting my 'steed' I tried to make him stand up. This is where he turned into a drag queen and judged me. He wouldn't move! I kicked him with my boots and gave him the command. He just looked back at me and we had a dialogue between us that went like this:
Chris: Camel....please get up and don't make me look stupid.
Camel: Girrrrrrl.....suck it. I am tired.
Chris: Please?! I will show you a kitten video on cuteoverload.com when you are done!
Chris: I like your outfit. You look fierce.
Finally after our internal conversation the camel stood up.....but would not move in any direction. It was at this point I was regretting the fact that I said I could ride a horse. Here I am sitting on this damn camel and he won't move.....at all...... I wanted to delete the words from the driver's ear canal. After a while I just had to own it. It is kind of like when you clog a toilet at someone else's house. You just gotta bow your head and ask for the plunger. In this case I gave the driver the rope and he led me around............like I was riding a horse at the Y of the Rockies in Estes Park.
After my embarrassing ride on the camel we moved on to the final stop which is called the Black Mountain. It is an imposing mountain with a steep climb up many stairs to reach the top.......where only men can go. I somehow made it all the way to the top. It was breath taking! If only I had my camera.......DAMN!
On our drive back in to Sainshand we saw a bunch of camels just hanging around. My batteries mustered enough life to take one picture. So my picture in the Gobi is of us chasing camels around in a car (It felt like chasing an Amish man driving a horse and buggy........)
After that Oogii and I crashed in to bed and didn't wake up for 18 hours. The next evening, April 21 we went back to UB on the train and made it in on Sunday morning, April 22 after an uneventful trip back.
So there you have it.....my quick trip to the Gobi.
Here are like three pictures of my trip. Thanks cheap batteries!
|Oogii being cute as always!|
|The hallway of our train. Much better than Amtrak!|
|Our morning in the Gobi. Sun is almost up!|
|Feel the energy of the gorgeous sunrise!|
|Oogii honoring the women's ovoo by splashing it with milk.|
|Just chasin' them camels!|
Za. There is my blog for now. I am running out of ideas.......WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW! Leave me comments or send a smoke signal or something..........Then I will blog about it!