Sun 06/07/08 21:42
It’s 830 in the morning and I’ve been up for about a half hour. It’s really hard to describe what the last couple of days have been like, but I’ll give it a shot.
Yesterday we met with our tour leader to take off for a two day camping excursion into the desert. Before we left she took us to the town square and the city’s oldest monastery. Both were really interesting and I could probably write for hours on both areas. The town square is very much like Tiananmen Square, but much smaller. The town had just had riots so the square was full of military and police walking around, from what I heard there were some people protesting the results of a recent election, and they ended up killing 5 policemen. According to our guide 200 people were arrested, but except for the armed soldiers walking around you couldn’t really tell that anything had happened though. The town square was very “Soviet” though, and very interesting. The monastery was interesting. The first building we went in was filled with burning incense and monks chanting. It was kind of strange though because they were sitting in twos, at a certain point one of the monks was place a, what looked like money, bill in front of the other. It seemed almost that the monks were being rewarded with money, totally against what I though Buddhism, and religion in general was about. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of them, so I don’t have a visual proof for the journal. In one of the buildings there was a huge statue, about 75 to 100 feet high. It was gold and contained some precious gems, at least that’s what we were told since you really couldn’t seen any gems.
After our short sightseeing venture we headed out of the city. Our destination was ger camp about 120 kilometers away. Gers are round tents that have been used by the Mongolian people for centuries. To get a visual image, imagine teepees. The journey to our campsite was over dirt roads that took about 4 hours to get there. When I say dirt roads, it’s not like they have been groomed at all like we have in New Mexico or Texas, probably a better name than road is path. People just drive over the same place until it gets so bad that they drive around it, until that get so bad.
The camp is incredible. There are about 10 gers in total, and except for a few gers off in the distance, we are the only people around. We’re in a little bit of a valley with mountains all around. I don’t think that we’re in the Gobi, but we’re very close. Our camp is situated in a sandy area that’s surrounded by grassy plains. Everything is “rough” we use outhouses, and our ger doesn’t have electricity (but some in the group’s do), bugs are crawling around on the floor, it’s not difficult camping at all, but it’s definitely not staying in luxury. The camp owners seem to try very hard to make everyone comfortable. Last night we had a four-course meal that was excellent… and they had coffee J
Three of our tour are older guys from New Zealand. They actually turned their ger into an improvised bar last night. Mixed drinks, straight shots, we had it all.
Today I go for a Camel ride.
The camel ride was great. We only went for about an hour, but if you’ve ever rode a camel, you know that for the first time, one hour is enough. Right now as I’m writing, my butt is feeling a little sore from the ride. These camels are the two-hump kind, different than the ones that I rode in Dubai. Fortunately I took the camel that had the best humps… what that means is that when you sit between the humps, the back hump supports your back.
Later in the afternoon we took a ride to a nearby ger tent that was used by herdsman. We had milk tea and fried curd. Later we helped them milk their goats and helped set up one of their ger tents. When I say helped, it was more like we were in the way more than we actually helped them. There may be a tendency to think that this was a little tourist-y, but it seemed authentic to me, and when you get down to it, that is what really matters.
So my cold is getting better, still a little stuffed up, and my nose is about raw from all the blowing, but it feels good not to be sneezing and coughing constantly.