Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Campers

This weekend Five, Engrish, and I decided we should get out of town.  It seemed like a very, very good idea - by the end of the day Friday I was dragging some serious ass.  I thought a nice, relaxing weekend in the fresh air would do me a world of good.  Well, at 4 this afternoon I decided I was wrong; let's face it, people, I'm a city girl, and as much as I like getting out and seeing stuff, this does not recharge my batteries.  Sitting in a restaurant eating a nice meal while finishing a good book, now THAT keeps me going, at least for another day, and that is exactly what I did this evening, in spite of the fact that a bunch of my friends were planning on fixing dinner together.

But this post isn't about what keeps me going, not really.  It's about our trip to Mandshir Monastery.
Mandshir Monastery is on the south end of Bogd Khan National Park, about 14 kilometers south of UB.  Domestic Goddess and Fire Marshall were planning on hiking it on Sunday (til they were unavoidably detained), and Enkhe said a "sport hike" would get you home in five hours.  Now, this weekend I decided that I'd make a pretty good hiker if I weren't so fat, and I did a few rounds with Anasazi, but I am pretty sure it would take me more like a full day to make it back to Zaisan.  And that's just fine by me.

Mandshir Khiid, like so many other monasteries here in Mongolia, was destroyed by communists, around 1937 to be exact.  The temple in the background was rebuilt in 1993 (if I'm remembering rightly what the guard told Engrish), but the rest of the area is in ruins.  I couldn't help remembering the political persecution museum while wandering the grounds; the monastery was once home to 350 monks, and I found myself wondering how many of them had shared the same fate as the ones whose skulls were now resting in the museum.  And if not, where were they now?

We passed some older people on our way back down from the temple, all kitted out for hiking (Asians.  Maybe I should have rubbed myself on Dog Rock in hopes I have their stamina when I'm old and grey!)  And I starting wondering if any of them had come here when the monastery was intact. 

Geesh.  Normally I don't think this much when I have friends to distract me.  And in the old days, before I got a spiffy new camera, I doubt I annoyed my friends quite as much on the rare occasion when I traveled with them.
There's a cliff behind the monastery, which begins the path back to UB, and we climbed up to the top to check out the stupa there and the view of the valley below.  It was really breathtaking and I didn't even come close to slipping once.  As I was climbing up, avoiding patches of scree the best I could, I felt like a true member of my family.  I mentioned that I am a city girl, but I'm one who was raised in the country, and my Dad used to take my older brother and I on what we call float trips.  We'd load up a cooler, and stuff it, some fishing poles, and other supplies into a canoe, and float down the creeks he grew up on, camping along the way.  I have a natural sense of direction, and I like to hike every once in a while, but moments like this really make me feel connected to them.

Along those lines, I also realized this weekend exactly how empowering it is to make a fire.  We stayed at the Ovooni Enger Ger Camp, even though it was nearly a kilometer from the monastery, because it was the only one open, and we paid for the privilege.  80,000 tugrugs a night is pretty pricey in this country, especially for a 3-person ger.  Food was not included.  And there was some sort of problem with the bathroom - the pump wasn't working or something - but they let us use them anyway, flushing them by pouring water down them.  So I was not impressed.  I was doubly not impressed when I woke up in the dead of night, cold, because they hadn't come and stoked our fire for us.  I tossed and turned and stewed about it, and finally around 6 I decided to DO something about it.  There was not much to work with - a chocolate box, some split logs, and the matches I bought in Zuunmod while Enkhe was dealing with his two blown tires - but in the end I managed to get it going.  And by the time it was going, I was over my sulk.  Here was another of those woodcrafty skills I ought to have, and it turns out I still did.  I was so excited about it that while we were hiking I kept stopping Engrish and Five so I could collect tinder and kindling.  I picked up bark, pinecones, needles, twigs, dry brush, twigs, and other nice, dry bits of wood.  And when night finally fell (the sun stays out later and later these days - it's ten past 8 just now and it's only just ducked behind Zaisan) we didn't have to wait for one of the camp guys to come start our fire.  I made the little teepee of tinder, surrounded it with the bigger twigs, struck a match, and - WHOOSH! - suddenly there was fire!  This might have been obnoxious to Engrish and Five, too, because I wouldn't shut up about my damn fire, but then, I restarted it again at 4 the next morning and kept it going, which let them sleep in, and they appreciated that, so I think they forgave me for my enthusiasm.

1 comment:

  1. As always, a great, descriptive narrative! It makes me feel like I was there, freezing in the middle of the night as is typical on these Mongolian adventures!