Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stitch 'n Bitch

There are no words to describe the absolute ecstasy of being at home, in your own shower (that has great water pressure), with a pizza on the way.  Orgasmic?  Oh, buddy, you have no bloody idea.

So I survived my trip to Khuvsgul aimag - the wild northern reaches of the wild northern Mongolia.  I thought I was supposed to come back on Sunday the 29th, then I realized that my ticket said July 3rd.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, but the irony that the destination - Murun, phonetically - is often printed as Mörön is not lost on me, because that's exactly what I was, buying a ticket to the countryside for two weeks.  How do I begin to explain why this was a bad idea?  Let's start with the fact that I'm a city girl, through and through.  I don't know if you've realized this or not, but in spite of coming from the country, there are very few places I've traveled to that neither are city nor have been city.  Before Mongolia, there were a couple of hikes in Korea (and let's face it, so many people hike in Korea that even a mountain counts as a city) and Wadi Rum.  That's about it.  As a result, there's not much to do in the country.  Well, I don't think so - I'm sure there's all sorts of fun survival-ly shit Shaggy could come up with, but as previously mentioned, I'm a city girl.  I like to visit museums and climb over ruins and eat yummy food and take in the arts.  I brought one book with me.  ONE.  I guess I thought this would be a good time to knock that book off my list because I kept getting distracted at home, but without distractions it only lasted me two days into my camp with the Tsataan.  Then there's the fact that I was traveling alone.  Admittedly, that's my thing, but traveling alone when nobody around you speaks English and there's not much to do AND you have finished your ONLY book is a bit problematic.
The drive was another source of consternation for me.  According to the trusty Lonely Planet, it's a 12 hour drive to Tsagaan-nuur from Murun.  I figured that meant we'd drive out in the morning and get there in the evening, because what kind of idiot would drive though "bone-crunching" terrain in the dark?  I'm serious here.  Imagine the worst road you've ever driven on, and then figure out how to make it worse - maybe with some big ass boulders or crossing creeks two and a half feet deep.  Then make that half the trip, sometimes at inclines of 45 degrees or so.  And I had a good seat.  On the way to Tsagaan-nuur I was sitting in the front seat of a Russian van, and in spite of the fact that I had a good collection of knots on my head from bashing it against the metal strip along the edge of the window when the jostling of the van "woke me up," I was relatively comfortable.  On the way back, I rented a driver to take me to Khatgal - figuring a nice comfy jeep leaving at 2pm was much more the way to go.  Well, again, in spite of leaving on Mongolian time (nearly two hours late), I didn't have it too bad, but my "tour operator" decided to come along for the ride, with five of her nearest and dearest.  Yep, that's right - six people were wedged in the back seat of the jeep for that hellish ten and a half hour drive (we obviously made better time on the way back, probably because we didn't stop every half hour for pee/smoke breaks).  And the truly terrible thing is that the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.  Khuvsgul may very well be the best looking province in a country full of beautiful provinces, but much of the drive was in the dark, so you can't even enjoy it.

You may say to yourself, "I thought you were an optimist, oh mighty Great One.  Aren't you always spouting off about looking for rainbows?"  Well, first, no - I'm a cheerful (most of the time) pessimist, not an optimist.  Secondly, I thought about that, the last evening I was at the Tsataan camp.  Where were the rainbows?  I came up with a few, but then the next morning I slipped and came down hard coming back from the river to get water (soaking my boots for the second time that morning and the fifth time in three days), and again later that day (as I was finishing my first shower in four days, and that was a doozy in which I tore or stretched something in my arm that's apparently not supposed to go that way), after which I said, "F*CK THIS SHIT!"  I called AeroMongolia and changed my ticket to come back today.  One week in the wilderness is more than enough for this girl, and now that I've gotten the whining out of the way, hopefully I'll be able to be a little more objective about the experience.

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