If it is possible, well, I think I have a strained one. Chris, on the other hand, has fallen head over heels.
Welcome to our second weekend adventure in Mongolia, this one bigger and better than the last. Feeling quite confident in ourselves after last weekend’s day hike, we decided that this week a proper backpacking trip was in store. Where to? To Zuunmod and back. According to our Lonely Planet, the “easy hike” back takes 7.5 hours. The “more difficult,” not really on a trail at all hike? Well…it doesn’t say how long that one takes. And which one did we pick?
Right. Think back to the relationship with the GPS bit…
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Before we could take the long way home, we had, of course, to get a long way from home. To do so entailed finding a taxi, bartering a lower price (in Mongolian! which we did!), and then riding along for nearly two hours. The taxi was small…the roads were bumpy…and the driver, at one point, chose to go off roading for a bit. The best part of all? He played lovely, melodic Mongolian music for us the whole way. I can honestly say that if I was a movie director, I couldn’t have chosen a better soundtrack. It was simply perfect. We might as well have been gallivanting through the Alps. But we weren’t. We were on bumpy Mongolian roads and we had a temple to get to. No time for gallivanting.
So yeah, we arrived, and we looked. Unfortunately for us, we were a little late in arrival because Stalin’s men seem to have gotten the best of the temple way before we stood a chance. Such is the story for most of the temples throughout Mongolia, but lucky for us, we still had a beautiful hike ahead of ourselves.
And off we went. Hiking, hiking, hiking…oh, it’s drizzling…oh shoot…now it’s raining…boy, visibility sure isn’t good…good grief, this is fun! Alas, we trudge onward and finally make it to the summit:
Did you think I was lying about the visibility?
After another fortunate turn of events (read: we took the wrong path down from the summit and had to return not fifteen minutes later), we found ourselves with this level of visibility – a vast improvement from before:
Better visibility, yes, but better terrain? NO. We were hiking by GPS…not by trail. Don’t be silly. Lonely Planet had told us to expect a “boggy marsh” at some point in our voyage, so we were on the lookout for that, but otherwise we were really just at the mercy of our GPS and a compass. We were really doing it…we were orienteers! I never really wanted to be one of those.
Anyways, off we went. After about fifteen boggy marshes (I mentioned it was raining?) and twelve boulder fields (orienteers go over boulders, not around), we made it to camp…and there was a bit of a clearing!
We settled in for the night, built ourselves a fire, and cooked up some dinner. Mmm…ramen. And even bigger mmm? Mongolian vodka. Turns out it tastes less like fire water than any other vodka I have even tasted. You could not call it tasty by any means…but it’s certainly not terrible. Suffice to say we could see how it has the potential to turn a nation on its head.
After a chilly night we awoke to a welcome sight: sunshine! The rest of our hike proceeded far smoother than the day before. We managed to only spend about half of the day wandering through marshes and boulder fields, and to our delight, the never fail GPS brought us right to the trail we were looking for. It only took it (or us?) two days.
Now, I have been told by my hiking counterparts that we never intended to be on a trail for most of the time, and I’ll agree with that. GPS holds no blame there. Where GPS holds blame is that it just gives us so much damn confidence that we can surely navigate our way out, that at times we forget (err…at times I forget) that we (I) like trails. A lot.
All complaining aside, however, it’s a darn good thing that Chris bought the GPS before we left, because (even I will admit) it gives us a heck of a lot more freedom and security that a map alone. In that sense, GPS (and Chris) wins.
Alas, we made it home nonetheless, and this is the final photo of our journey (we’re tired):
OH, and I forgot this photo in our last post:
Because what blog is complete without a photo of a Mongolian contortionist holding herself up by her teeth whilst her behind rests casually upon her head? (Certainly not ours.)