Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Land Before Time

Im sitting in a sun bathed valley, in a place which time has forgotten. Either that or time simply doesn't exist here. It took a 16 hour jeep ride, and a two day horse trek to get here, and although it was intensely annoying, it was definitely worth being here right after being news of another financial meltdown on the other side of the planet. The biggest crisis we have been aware of is that tribe the tribe we are living with, the tsaatsan (reindeer people), had to migrate a week early because 6 horses had been stolen-one of which was shot-and taken over the russian border.

So we find ourselves in the middle of a migration since we arrived right at this decision. We are told we are the first tourists to witness it. We have no horses or reindeer- I forgot to bring mine from the north pole- and the people couldn't spare any since they needed all animals to transport their belongings. So you'll never guess what we had to do....oh yea, we did the migration via hiking through mud. was it hard? Ugh thats what she said...and yes it was...but another big pay off once we got to the new camp: we became local legends! People came from far and wide to take a look at us, and to give us their compliments. It took a day to rest those pains off.

We exist now only with the river, reindeer, blueberry picking, and the wind. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't mention how they have a satellite dish on one of the tepees, where they gather everyday to watch an unimaginably over dramatic japanese soap opera. It's funny. But thats a new and only technological connection to the people.
Even beds are an unnecessary neusance. We sleep in the orts (teepees) with the families with only a rug and our mattresses on the grass. So spiders and other moustachey bugs have become ordinary visitors and I've even stopped screaming when they come into sight.

Stepping out in the morning is magical. The dogs sleeping by the orts, horses grazing a few feet away and reindeer passing by to say good morning. It's really easy to see life as being something beautiful and something we should cherish.

Bathrooms: people who are sensitive to toilet stories should not read...
Well there are no toilets haha, so you have to get used to walking a bit ways away and squaring behind a tree. It takes some time to get used to it and not be in panic mode as your doing you're business. Don't you just hate it when a reindeer or a little boy goes by as your trying to be invisible behind a tree?

I think I've forgotten what trains and noise and work is. It's a great feeling.

But as magical and amazing as it was to be in this place, its also great to think ahead of showers, beds, and maybe a massage hehe..

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mongolia- first impressions...sorry this is out of order

So I'm kind of going to skip the last for Russian cities: Tobolsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and Ulaan Ude. In general though, I can say although the towns are a million miles from anything, they are still pretty Russian. The towns are very pretty on a whole, have a bunch of Lenin streets, are not very welcoming and very expensive. I might write about them later but I am too excited about Mongolia to write about what has already faded.

Two days before our 12 hour bus ride from Ulaan Ude to Ulaan Baatar, we met a really cool group of guys in our hostel who incidentally were traveling on the same bus, on the same day, at the same time! So during three two days before we got to know each other pretty well. Two Israelis, one French guy, and one weird american kid who was traveling with his mom. Others who were not on the bus were two really crazy Iranian hippies, a German man with a goat beard, and a few here and there people. I can't say enough how fuckin cool it was to sit there on the carpet, drinking out of a 5 liter beer bottle called Bierbag, and exchanging our funny stories, experiences, wishes and expectations. We learned from the Israelis a lot of survival techniques they learned from the army (like reading a mad and compass when it's the only things you have), we learned from the 60 year old Iranian hippiess, well, that you really shouldn't smoke so much ganga hahaha (they were wack!), and also some secret places to visit in south east asia and about some magic trees in Brazil that cure cancer, and how not to get arrested when carrying pot in cuba, like he did. And from French guy, Camal, we learned that France is ruge best at everything, and that it even invented cheese! Like, as in INVENTED, like it wasn't there before France! Hahaha.

Well Frenchie and the Israelis and we ended up remaining a group for the give days we were in Ulaan Baatar. Driving over the border and into Mongolia was magic! Despite the fat Russian woman screaming at us for clapping, we were overcome with jubilation and energy as we saw the magic of mongolia.

I can only speak for myself of course, but this was the first time I felt again the joy of being an explorer again. It was great to be alive, great to be me, great to be there. The bus made it's way down from the north to the city, and the sites along the way were sporadic bits of life. No cities, no busy traffic, no buildings..nothing. Green for hours. Only broken up by horses, and gers (a ger is the name of a mongolian rent that it's typical only here, and is stil today the way people live outside the capital). In fact, our hostel was such a ger. We arrived and walked about 30 min to the outskirts of the small city, to somewhat of a slum area because there was no longer houses but get camps instead. As we approached up the dirty path uphill, and found our to-be lodging grounds, we were escorted to our ger and were told the electrify was cut of for the day and should return tomorrow. And so it begins! Haha.

So the next days were spent exploring camping shops, the giant market called the Black Market, where, as warned, many of our comrades were robbed at the spread of light, and we made preparations for our journey out into the wilderness. Our plan was to group up, Camal the french guy is traveling by bike, so it was for of us and hopefully one extra to be found to cut down the costs of renting a jeep. But as it turns out, the guys were complete douche bags and fucked us but good on the night before our departure. Thats life, and people are people. We didn't expect such behavior since we had become somewhat close and trustful of each other, but you live and you learn.
As we thought we were going to be doomed and lose our car, three polish guys arrived and were cool to go even on two hours notice. We packed up our shit, and off we went on a Russian jeep.

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