21 Days In Mongolia

Day 15:

After a solid night’s sleep we got up and at 9.15am had cheese on toast for breakfast.  I needed at least 2 to try and soak up the remaining alcohol in my belly before we went horse riding.

It was a warm morning with clear skies…apart from the very few clouds hugging the mountain tops miles away.  Horse trekking was planned for 10.30am and I was given what must have been the laziest and slowest horse on the planet.  The Mongol horses are small in size but they are not ponies and the Mongol people can be offended if you refer to them as such.  Andrew finally enjoyed his horse trekking as he got the idea of how to trot without injuring himself!  This was good as he had never enjoyed riding horses due to his allergy to them and the uncomfortableness. However, with his allergy tablets taken and his new skill on horseback, he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

We rode for 45 minutes in the first instance, along the lake’s shore. The water was crystal it was almost unbelievable. The crisp day was perfect and we stopped for a quick rest before setting off again and finally stopping for lunch (the snacks we had filled our pockets with earlier).  The group decided to split in to two after this.  Those who wanted to ride further and those that wanted to head back.  The ride back was uneventful but by the time we could sense the camp looming my thighs were waiting for me to dismount.  We passed the hay stacks, looking like walnut whirls on the hillside.  The drift wood that was washed up on the pebble shore was great and the shapes were amazing, I would have liked to have brought a piece back for the house.

Once we returned we took the opportunity to wash our clothes, ourselves and rest.  We knew we had the rest of the day and all day tomorrow too to do whatever we wanted.  Andrew had a shave first, whilst others washed their clothes.  Andrew and I then decided to have a dip in the lake, on the Siberian border as hey, what else are you supposed to do?  I washed my hair first in the freezing water.  I then managed to wade up to my waist.  My feet were like blocks of ice but my legs seemed fine after a couple of minutes.  I washed next to a fallen tree which had been there some time; it was like having our very own rack to hang our toiletries from! After I had been in and made weird noises due to the coldness of the water, Andrew decided it wasn’t so important for him to go in and he could last a few more days without a proper wash!  I dried myself off and although I thought I had warmed up pretty quickly, in the evening I was cold, even with 6 layers on my top half and 3 layers on my bottom half.  My insides seemed cold.

During the afternoon a father and his little girl wandered through the camp, it was almost as if the father was introducing her to "westerners”.  She was so cute in her red dell.

"Sally” the sheep was finally bought in the afternoon when the drivers went out to purchase her.  I never saw her alive, or her killing which apparently happened fairly quickly in the traditional Mongolian way – a small incision was made in the lower abdomen, Bataar then reached in with his hand and either pulled or squeezed the aorta so that the sheep blacked out and died.  The sheep didn’t appear to struggle.  The group watched this process, except Claire and Ed, they were off walking and myself, who was in the tent, I didn’t even realise it was happening.   Apparently all Mongolian males are taught how to kill animals in this way.

The traditional Mongolian meal was then prepared: The mutton was cut in to pieces and placed in to a kind of pressure cooker/urn with vegetables inside also.  The urn was placed on the open fire for about 40 minutes.  It unfortunately turned out that nobody really liked the meal, apparently the turnips that had been put in the urn were not good and they had tainted everything else.  We were disappointed both on our own behalf and that of the drivers who had prepared it for us and were looking forward to seeing our reaction I believe.

Everyone was quiet tonight, there was no beer!  Paul told us some of his travelling stories however and we all sat around the camp fire.  The mood was ok but I think people had started to realise that the end of the trip was getting closer and some also felt sad about the sheep being killed for what really ended up being an inedible meal….but at least we still had the two legs still to use, these were hung up in the trees away from prying wild dogs.  Andy and I spoke about what a wonderful time we had had up to that point and that if the trip had ended the next day, we would have been ready to go.  We thought that a couple of weeks were enough and that 3 weeks was just a little too long, especially with the camping every day.  A couple of others agreed with us…but we all knew we had a couple of long days ahead after we left the lake.

When I went to bed, I got in to my sleeping bag, had all my layers on, Andrew cocooned me in and wrapped me up in my two blankets.  I had been lying down for about 2 minutes when I decided that I really needed to go to the loo!  I think I had been in such a hurry to get my butt out of the cold when I went to the loo before bed, that I hadn’t actually let myself finish properly!!  Andrew couldn’t believe that he was going to have to go through the whole "getting in the sleeping bag” process again, but there wasn’t a lot I could do.  I did what I had to do and then got back in to the tent.  My sleeping attire consisted of a woolly hat, thermal vest, t-shirt and fleece and on my bottom half a pair of tights.  I got myself in the sleep sheet liner inside the small mummy sleeping bag (which was too small and thin for Mongolia) sorted myself out and then had to wait for Andrew to zip me all the way up so that my arms were in the sleeping bag, I pulled the hood string around my head so only my nose was showing, he then wrapped one and then two blankets around me, whilst I rocked from side to side to help him get the blankets thoroughly tucked underneath me so they wouldn’t fall off in the night.  When this was all done, I was "ready” for the night ahead….so you can see why neither of us was impressed that having done all this once we didn’t want to have to do it again!

Day: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - epi