July 9 In the morning we went to a factory that makes the horse head fiddle. It is the national instrument. These folks can really rock with these things. The factory was interesting. The fiddles, called morin khuur, come in different sizes and with different animal heads attached at the neck of the fiddle. Have you noticed anything about the spelling of the words yet? Vowels are really cheap here.
We landed safely in the west of Mongolia and traveled by van to Moron. It was some distance through forrest and permafrost. We are now in Khovsgol Province.
Let me mention here that the Mongolians still hold the Soviet Union close to their hearts. They still appreciate all of the infrastructure that the Soviet Union put in place out here. That is not to say that they didn’t have differences, but they still seem to have a high regard for the Soviet Union. They speak Russian and were educated in the Russian System.
Sooo, we are soon in our lovely ger, but guess what? That is correct. No bathroom. The bathroom is in the center of the camp where all of the food preparation and eating takes place. However, we are on a beautiful lake with lush forests and mountains all around us. Night bathroom issues are dealt with as best as one can in complete darkness outside and wild animals of some sort wandering around the area.
The animals here consist of yak, Argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, reptiles of all sorts, wild Bactrian Camels, snow leopard and the Gobi bear. We woke up to a yak standing at our front door making yak noises and eating this morning. Hum, are yaks friendly or just sly but with a silly yak face? We aren’t in Huntington Beach anymore!
When Marco Polo came here in the 1270’s he said, “It consists entirely of mountains and sands and valleys. There is nothing at all to eat.”
We went out horse back riding today. The ground is frozen as we walk on it, thank goodness. If it thawed out, who knows what might happen to us and all of these buildings here. Our gers sit among a forest next to the lake. It is beautiful and calming, except for the whole yak thing.
We took a speed boat ride out to see some more nomads. They herd deer and use them for their food and clothing. They live in T-pees exactly like our American Indians, and it is very apparent from their clothing, their drums, and everything else that our indians are descended from them. Even the language sounds vaguely familiar.
I’ve lost track of the days now. We stayed three days or so in each camp and then flew back to Ulaanbaatar for chance at modern facilities from each camp, not that the camp facilities weren’t fine, because they were. But I think some folks like a quick trip back to the modern world after a few days of wilderness. I don’t mind being out there so much.