worldwide walkabout the tiniest bird takes a walk.

10Nov/092

ulaanbaatar, mongolia to erlian, china

we returned to ulaanbaatar and enjoyed some great museums and the delightful vegetarian restaurant luna blanca, a place that my friend chimgee had introduced us to. we had hoped to catch a mongolian music and contortion show but the performances were canceled due to the H1N1 flu.

eventually our group went on their separate ways. lesley and stewart took the train to russia to see the surreal amazing architecture and frozen landscape and i took some time out to make some plans. i was hoping to head somewhere warm to thaw out! eventually, i decided to book the around the world ticket that my travel colleagues were on-overland travel for the past 3 months was rewarding but i felt that i needed a change. although i will have to adjust to more schedules, i am looking forward to seeing how it goes!

on the train to the border, i met english paul who was enjoying some mongolian beverages of choice. the very hilarious train attendant gestured *no drinking* so paul kept his bottle behind his backpack but she saw the bottle cap on the table! the train was an overnight journey and when we arrived at the border, the bathroom doors get locked up. because they change the train gauges and check passports, we stopped for many hours despite the protests of my bladder. luckily i didn't have to take plan b which was to pee in some plastic bags because we eventually were let off the train.

erlian continues to be one of my favorites-people there are SO nice. i stopped by the hotel where i had stayed a month prior to give my 'uncle' a mongolian souvenir but he had gone back to his home. the man at the chinese border rushed me to the front of the passport checking line when i asked for a restroom and later rushed me to the front of customs line! what a nice guy.

10Nov/091

tour of mongolia, part 2 khongor sand dunes

AAH! i found my flash drive!!! it was hiding in the pocket of a skirt i haven't worn since ulaanbaatar! i can't say how elated i am to have all of my mongolia photos!!! i feel bad about having thought that my flash was stolen, although i really tore the room and all of my luggage apart over and over trying to find it.

one of the definite highlights of the trip were the khongor singing sand dunes of the gobi. climbing the steep formations had me huffing and puffing but for good reason-sunset was amazing! i saw my friends lesley and stewart as tiny silhouettes on the crests of faraway ridges-this made me happy. running down the steep dunes at sunset was the best.

my pals went on camel rides but i bowed out of that one due to my recent fall off of a horse. camels are known for their surly nature but i must say these ones were quite nice! they seemed only to get a bit grumpy when asked to stand up or lay down.

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10Nov/090

tour of mongolia, part 1 ulaanbaatar to bayanzag

unless one is traveling to or from ulaanbaatar, arranging transportation is difficult. i decided to take a tour, something that i usually don't do for various reasons. it seemed to be the only way to see specific parts of central mongolia and the gobi desert. turned out i was in fact very relieved to temporarily not have to figure out where to eat, where to sleep, and transportation and entertainment details! also, it was nice to not have to haul around backpacks as much as usual.

we headed south from ulaanbaatar and mostly stayed in yurts in the countryside. the first day we visited some neat rock formations and an old monastery. day two we headed to yolyn am area and through a town known for its coal and copper mine. eventually we ended up in bayanzag, or the flaming cliffs area which is known for its dinosaur fossils. the color of the rocks was very beautiful!

the journey was magical, with all the amazing sunrises and sunsets, incredibly starry nights, lots of wildlife, beautiful colors, crazy dirt roads, countryside living style, amazing locals, and good company.

29Oct/092

series of unfortunate events

because of the sometimes ethereal nature of digital photos, i have tried to be extremely careful about backing up my files. i invested in a new flash drive, along with a spindle of dvds when i returned to ulaanbaatar from our tour with the intention of holding tight to the various portraits, landscapes, and funny moments of the journey.

i spent several hours transferring and organizing photos onto the flash drive, only for it to be stolen from under my nose at the guest house the next day.

then i loaded the images onto the computer at the guest house and tried to burn the images onto a dvd. no dice.

bit the bullet, bought another flash drive, went to an internet cafe, tried unsuccessfully to load it, went to another internet cafe, had a lot of problems...

with all the shuffling and a virus from the internet cafe computer, i lost about 400 photos. tried unsuccessfully to recover images from the shop where i had photos printed to send people, tried unsuccessfully to recover images from the three computers i had used...

i am so sad.

15Oct/091

khovsgol lake-wedding!

after the girls left, i had a day of catching up with myself: laundry, snack gathering, bank excursion, and time for a book! at this time i met chimgee, a very sweet woman from ulaanbaatar who was leading a tour-she and her horse guides were so beautiful! it was nice to meet them and also to rest up after so much craziness. the next day i was to sign up for some more crazy...

i was lucky enough to have met oumba, another tour guide and somehow was able to coordinate attending a wedding in his village.

when we arrived, enxstensteg, the bride, was busy cooking a big pot of special soup for all of the guests. their home was filled with food: two large plates of candies, dairy wafers, and cheese, two whole cooked sheep, and more candy. shots of vodka were offered to the guests, along with gifts and money. after the shots were distributed, guests hung monetary offerings on a string and throughout the day a few villagers got progressively more drunk. their drunken state was the source of much entertainment for guests-there were roars of laughter for drunken swing-and-misses. however, when they became violent or belligerent, they were dragged out of the yurt and it was only a matter of time until they'd stagger back in.

overall it was an interesting day and i was happy to be able to offer the newlyweds photos to document their special day. banbold, the groom, was especially warm and welcoming!

also at this time i met chimgee and her horse guides-what beautiful people of mongolia!they were returning from some exciting excursions.

15Oct/091

ulaanbaatar to horseriding at khovsgol lake

finally made it to mongolia! it's been seven years of dreaming!

li na, fu rao, and i had a very comfortable cabin in the train and the journey was overnight and into the morning. arriving in ulaanbator was very exciting! because the girls were on a tight schedule, we caught an overnight jeep to khovsgol lake...i didn't know exactly what i was signing up for until it was too late.

i had heard tales about just how packed mongolian public transport is; indeed it was no lie. luggage was jammed in as tightly as the humans and we left two hours later than anticipated. the roads were smooth for a short section and then changed to some very rough and dusty and supremely nauseating terrain. i coated the side of the jeep with many layers of vomit. the few moments i dozed off i was awoken by banging my head on the window because of the turbulent ride. we arrived in moron 15 hours later after only stopping once for a meal and to drop people off in the countryside. the landscapes are seriously beautiful and amazingly desolate.

the girls wanted to travel the 100 km north to the lake right away so we had a little to eat and made the three hour journey on some more bumpy roads. we were excited about the guesthouse in khatgal-we stayed in a yurt and went for a two day horse trek around the southwest part of the lake. beautiful! i did, however, fall off my half wild mongolian horse...my dream was to visit mongolia, buy a horse, and travel the countryside on horseback. obviously, i had never met a mongolian horse nor experienced a wooden saddle when i thought of these plans!

we stayed with porve, dadka, nuamka and baby nanda by the lake for one night, a delightful experience. we helped saw wood, carry water from the lake, make mutton dumplings, entertain the baby, and even got to see yaks get milked!

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