Reunited and It Feels So Gobi

He’s back, he’s back, he’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Woot woot, yahoo, hip hip hooray!

Right so late Thursday night my knight in shining armor returned to Mongolia after far too long gallivanting around the globe. It was glorious, wonderful, what in the world was he thinking leaving for so long?!

Not being one to ease into things, I had us scheduled to head off to the Gobi Desert early Saturday morning on a train with some friends. The train trek was about ten hours and most of it looked just like this:

We had a nice little area to ourselves, or mostly to ourselves I suppose I should say, as across the way we had the company of a ten year old girl and her five year old brother. No parents in sight, although the ten year old did quite the job of tidying their space, rationing the brother’s allotment of Coca Cola, and slowly but surely easing her way into our dice game (which, admittedly, we were playing for money – though we didn’t charge her to play, how kind we are).

Some others from our journey:

Anyways, ten hours later and right on schedule (that is the first time in eleven months that anything has happened on schedule), we arrived to our destination and were then faced with the task of arranging our driver/ride/place to sleep/entire getaway. It’s how things work here, and shockingly so, I have become used to it…sort of.

Driver procured, off we went for a “15 km” journey to the ger camp where we would spend the night. Well evidently it’s easy to mistake 15 for 50, so our drive took quite a bit longer than we thought it would, but sure enough we arrived at the ger camp and to bed we went. We had an early wake up call ahead of us.

Fast forward to 4:45 AM. RISE AND SHINE, it’s time to see the sunrise.

So rise and shine we did, but we were a bit too slow because we watched the sunrise from the microbus windows, not from the energy center as we should have, but so it goes, such is life. It was a beautiful sunrise nonetheless.

(The Mongolians all greeted the sunrise with their hands outstretched, so of course we did too)

Here’s a beauty: two boobs in front of a couple of giant…

So now it’s just after 5AM, the sun has risen, he we go, let’s seize the day. Right. Away we went, and we accomplished all of this before noon (when we finally let our driver go for the day, and feeling like we had lived three days before noon, we set off for lunch). So here’s a glimpse into our day:

Next stop after sunrise: ring the giant bell…

At the Energy Center…

Getting energy…or so they say:

Standing in line because that’s what everyone else was doing…

Next stop, some caves…

And then, AND THEN, the camels! This was the most magical part of the day, and it took place at around 8:30 in the morning. Camel rides at a local herder’s ger, followed by camel milk (surprisingly delicious, tastes like sour yogurt, thicker than cow milk, maybe some particles floating in there, mmm, mmm, mmm) and bread in the ger.

And that wasn’t all they had to offer. While we sat in the ger with the herders, one of them kept sharpening his knife. Well it turns out he was sharpening his knife in preparation for lunch, so after our milk break we went outside to see them kill lunch. Really. And it looked humane? As one who watches all those gruesome documentaries that chronicle where our food comes from, this was dreamy. American slaughter houses? HORRIBLE. Mongolian sheep killing? Dare I say? Beautiful.

So what they do is flip the sheep over, relax it a bit, and then make a small slit in the belly. The herder then sticks his hand inside the sheep (while it is still alive!) and pinches the aorta long enough that the animal goes to sleep, doesn’t struggle one single bit, not a sound is heard, nor a drop of blood spilled. The animal is then transported inside the ger to be turned into whatever Mongolians turn whole sheep into (that could be a lot of different things). And that’s that.

And that was our entire day, all before noon. Whew.

Anyways, the afternoon was spent in the park waiting for the train station to open in hopes of changing our tickets from a Monday night return to a Sunday night return. At around 4pm, we ventured there and surprisingly enough, it worked! And we were happy:

So back onto the train we went for our overnight journey home from the Gobi. Quick trip, yes, but wonderful, worth it, and EXHAUSTING.

At least I was exhausted. Chris seemed to have other ideas, because not two hours after we got back to our apartment in the morning, he was ready with the kayak to head off on another adventure.

So off we went to Gachuurt, a little town nearby. We arrived around 2pm and spent the rest of the day floating down the river. It was beautiful until the exhaustion and the clouds set in, but luckily we managed to arrive home at 7pm, just before the skies opened up. I say luckily because Christopher would NOT have had a happy lady on his hands had we not. Suffice to say I was tired and the final hour or so of our float involved some boat re-inflating, some walking, some marsh crossing…I was TIRED.

But we did it, and it was fun. And Chris cooked me dinner once we got home. It’s great to have him back.

As for this weekend, tomorrow we’re going camping in Terelj, the National Park just outside UB, then Sunday is Nadaam (the festival of manly arts) in Nalaikh, another neighboring town, then Monday in UB then maybe Tuesday we head off kayaking again. What can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment.

Until then…

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