May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Last Days of Mongolia, really...

July 16
We (Andre from France and Iran from Israel were the other tourists) left soon after 9:30 on a nice bumpy ride, past a gate, a guy with an eagle selling opportunity to take photos, erik (mare’s milk vodka), when the landscape changed to real rock! 

Climbing granite that looks outstanding for crack, slab, friction top rope or leading.  Solid!  We stopped at turtle rock where they were selling souvenirs and camel rides, and we walked around and through the scenery.   

Soon we arrived at our gur and Soyloo (Sai-alah), our guide, started lunch.  We were all hungry and she created the most delicious vegetarian curry.  YUUUUMMMMM. We hiked up to the Buddhist temple, passing a spin wheel/prayer wheel.  The pointer ended up at #99 for my turn.  We read the corresponding advice from Buddha, and it told me the perfect thing: If you put in too much activity.. when the energy is flowing well and meditation is easy, you’ll disturb the mind; If you don’t put in enough energy when the mind is dull, you will... (basically it said I’ll waste my life).   
It’s so true for me.  Sometimes, I feel like I have been passive so long that nothing positive or transformative is happening.  Sometimes I want to make things work better, or I get worried that it’s not good enough, when the dance is easy and enlightened already.  The temple was beautiful and reminded me of Dharamsala.  There were lots of paintings describing people who became enlightened through Buddha.  There were HUGE paintings with Sanskrit high above on the rock faces too.  We stopped at the holy mineral spring that emerged from the mouth of a stone turtle, and doused our foreheads for a blessing before returning on a cable suspension bridge.


  Les and I walked up the hill and watched three cows getting milked, with smoke made to keep the flies away and 3 calves to start the milk flowing.  
I made friends with the farmer below, who gave me a cherry tomato and I gave him almonds.  He invited me into his gur that had TV, refrigerator and a crib for when the grandkids come.  In the evening, we sang each other songs from our own countries; Eran wouldn’t sing, but shared a song from his MP3 player.  :) The guy who lived on the site was quite good!  
The Mongolian man, who rented the gur next to us, brought a bottle of vodka, saying that it’s tradition to welcome your neighbors with three shots.  “Or GEE,” they say—for happiness/to uplift!  Along with the Chinese couple that came to visit, we finished the bottle.  He came over later and we talked philosophy about how to make the world better, before we watched the moon rise over the mountain and listened to the party with lovely loud singing below.

July 17 
Breakfast was huge: fry bread with butter made from the cows up the hill, meat that was cooked with hot stones that Monhee, our driver, cut for us, tea and honey.  Soon we were on our horses.  Mine was named Borir?  

Instead of a horn, there was a loop of metal. I rode like an English rider, ugh.  Anyway, we trotted off the trail, around the calves playing, the cows chewing their cuds and galloped into the barn with dogs aroused.  I’ll have bruises and happy sore legs tomorrow.  Arnica application.  The cowboy leading us sang soft songs and whistled and shouted “Tur!” when he wanted the horses to go faster and swatted them with his rope.  Borir was very obedient.  I had a great time! 

Forest Art with Monho
Lunch was sushi and salad.   Soyloo prepared it while a young boy of about 3-4 years took us up the little valley to look for wild strawberries.  He was a lovely boy who put flowers in my hair, and joined me in building stick structures.  They became weapons—slingshots—before they became intricate artworks complete with candy, flowers, leaves, needles and grasses.  His name was also Mohee; they hadn’t yet cut his hair so the guys thought he was a little girl.  We took off after packing up and got about 15 minutes down the road when the people called to say Les’s vest (with wallet) was left, so we went back to fetch it.   Then our last touristic thing was to see the humungous statue of Chingis Khan on his horse made of stainless steel.  We did not buy tickets to go in and dress up in the traditional wear for a picture or to shop or to climb to the horse’s head.   On the way home, there was an accident, so our driver went way down into a ditch, drove past the accident and then after a light truck couldn’t make it, drove up a 45-degree embankment.  Yes, the wild west!  We all bathed and went out for Indian food to top it off.  Tired!
Chingis Hat

July 18
Coffee house staff
Not a bad day.  Not a great day.  Our objective today was to pay our Russian Visa penalty.  We got to the Chingis Khan bank and spent 2.3 getting the wire done, mainly because a guy was being trained for the first day on his job.  I hope this business is all finished now. Then, with a migraine and hunger, we posted the receipts to Russia (the stamps were HUGE and beautiful!) and made our way to food.  We ordered chicken soup for two, and waited over a half hour, so we left paying for juice and receiving a ripped in half bill for change.   
We went to our favorite expensive coffee place and then miscalculated money so we didn’t pay them enough.  We went back for a photo and they told us we had underpaid.  Then, came back to the hostel and it turned out that we didn’t pay Andre enough for dinner last night, then I didn’t have enough cash to pay the bill at the hostel.  Then, Les’s card didn’t go through to pay the remainder of the bill, so he spent time on the phone to his credit card company…. We ate the leftover paneer masala from last night’s dinner. 
Soyloo, Honda (work at hostel),

I really love the Mongolians.  They are so easy going.  They have cars with driver’s wheels on either side, they don’t seem swamped by rules, and reaching out to others is the norm, rather than fear or resistance.  It seems people of all walks of life are happy and easy to smile.  Time here has been a real pleasure.  I would like to visit again; maybe teach dance here and do some more extensive travel gur to gur.  Tomorrow morning we go to the airport at 5:00 then head to Helsinky.  Our next country!

Madeline: traveler of the world learning sustainable crafts.

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