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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Misadventures in traveling Mongol Style - Part 2

I'm not sure that I actually listed any misadventures on that first day of the trip.  (but I sure liked the catchy title, and must note that even after two years some basic differences still amaze me, and I'm amazed to still be amazed:) However, here's an incident that left me shaking my head in wonder (and cross cultural confusion).    


One of our many stops was to a "sacred mountain", where we hiked up and then walked around the ovoo (oh whoa)  and threw a stone each of the three times around.  Kind of like praying for a safe journey; I believe ovoo's are actually more Shamanistic rather than Buddhist, but I cannot get a straight answer.


At any rate, there was also vodka toasting and candy sharing as part of this momentous site visit.  When I told my counterpart I needed to relieve myself, she told me I'd have to wait, as this cannot be done on the sacred mountain. Ok, I said, I can wait (knowing full well we'd probably be stopping again within the hour.)


Though this is a sacred site, I noticed with disappointment, a small gully  filled with empty vodka bottles and witnessed one of our group add another to it.  When I asked why this is acceptable, I got the usual, who knows, it's what we've always done.


That first day on the road started at 8:20 am (after being summoned to school at 7 am) and ended around 10 pm when we arrived at a school dormitory where we were staying the night.  After cooking some packaged soup,and quickly eating it, I was the first to crash, and the last to awaken the next morning.


Day 2 had us up at 6 am, and we commenced to use the outhouse, then walk down to the river to wash up and brush our teeth before returning to pack up all our stuff from the room and have breakfast.  I was already in a brain fog even though this was only our second day!


About 2.5 hours after being awakened, we were finally leaving. . . to go find an open petrol station.  This wasted at least another 45 minutes.  I could have been sleeping...wah.


We arrived at the area of the Lake, of which no one could tell me the name in English or why there were all these volcanic rocks around.... Is this an inactive volcano?  We hiked up the mountain to see the crater....which sure enough my instincts were right I verified later by reading up, was the ancient volcano pit.... and many volcanic rocks.


Inquiring minds want to know...? .not the case here...only me.. Another cultural difference I've noticed time and again....why ask why is the way of the Mongolians, never questioning why, only saying it's their way.  Hard to progress as a nation and people if you never ask why or what or how?!


A few hours later heading to the actual lake, which we could view from the volcanic crater, our micro bus broke something underneath and we had to stop while our driver repaired it.  Afterwards, he realized he lost his wallet with his driver's license, passport, etc and dropped us off while he drove back to have a look at the shelter area of the park where he was sitting.


our grateful group.... the lady on the left holding the thermos and the old man in the deel and hat were our heros!
In his absence, a hail storm blew in, and we women ran for cover, simultaneously giggling and cursing (ok, just me cursing..)  The driver returned, picked us up and we then drove to the nearest ger and discovered a little old man had found his wallet.  We all shook his hand and thanked him, giving him gifts of food, juice and vodka, and the driver gave him a 20,000 T reward.  A happy ending:)


We had yet to find the lake..... and when we finally did, everyone else was already cooking their lunch and so we hurriedly did too.  There were so many bugs it was a wonder no one was eaten alive, though one man did pass out from a little too much drinking and another cut his foot on stones in the lake.


When we left, we made it down the road for 10 minutes before stopping so some of the group could walk down to a cave.  I opted to wait in the van and thus missed this sudden rain storm which drenched most everyone who got out.


This night we ended up camping and sure enough I was the first one to bed and was fortunate enough they let me sleep in till 6:30.  I did awaken once later when the two teachers who were sharing the tent with me tried to glean my cooperation in moving and so they sandwiched me in the middle...I would have stayed in my sleeping bag but they were taking down the tent around me. Thus began day 3......

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