For five days and four nights we went into central Mongolia to see what goat farms and the surroundings had to offer, we slept in Gers, centrally heated by the iron stove. All electronics were void, we didn’t wash and I didn’t even change my clothes. These are my ramblings; often delirious, reflective, possibly drunk and written from my sleeping bag or in the van or simply on a rock.
We are going on the all meat diet. You can eat anything you like as long as it’s meat. Your vegetable intake is restricted to whatever your meat ate before it died. If we are lucky we’ll be treated fermented horse milk liquor, goat yogurt or camel cheese.
Just tonight, Mama, this hostel’s matriarch treated us to some cow’s yogurt vodka. On account of Ulaanbaatar being on an alcohol free day. No liquor sold for 24 hours. Sobriety is better than cow’s yogurt vodka.
So there it is off in the distance a 140 foot statue of the great Genghis on horse back, entirely made of stainless steel, because why not. He’s surrounded by snow and the cloudiness make the glare almost brighter than the sun.
Our soviet Russia semi-camper took us from our Shaman ritual where our wishes were whispered to vodka, off road far into Terelj National Park. It took us as close to the temple stuck to the side of the mountain as it could. The rest was covered on foot.
I’m becoming increasingly content with my own company. I was concerned for a while that constant distractions, electronic or otherwise were putting me out of touch with myself.
I wish you could have been there to see it with me. I’m standing on a small hill surrounded by scattered snow and cow poo. A different world can be seen in each direction.
The sun is setting in the west. As the blue sky slowly turns orange the silhouette of the mountains stretches left, increasingly purple.
The south has white snow mountains layered into distant Mongolia.
In the north our family’s small goat farm is overshadowed in the giant brown valley.
In the east the mountains are slowly swallowed by the rising shadows. The shaman totem sitting at the top catches the last glimpses of light before the sun leaves for the day.
This place has changed my perspective on many things. The nomadic families living in their small circular homes have everything they need. All my fears and desires pale in comparison.
Our second night in a ger is on a planet similar to Tatooine. When we step out you find you find semi-desert on your right and on your left; it;s straight ahead and probably behind me too.
There are 6 or 7 camels silhouetted about 15 metres from me. They’re huge, even sitting. They walk slowly but surely, avoiding the shrubs. The rear feet step almost perfectly where the imprints of the front feet. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
I had this weird feeling driving through the vast plains of Mongolia, like we were being watched from above. How ridiculous we must look cruising through the semi-desert across this lumpy road, and for what?
To cover a distance a fraction of this country, just a speck on the Earth?
Then yesterday I realised what it was. Julian and I were sitting atop a great rock and it all became very familiar. We were playing Age of Empires.
We had our house and our goats, a man on a horse rode across the plain, hunting stick in hand.
The Mongols never did agriculture; they were perpetually nomadic, taking their heards wherever greener pastures could be found.
Genghis Khan’s legacy was the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. Conquered on horseback with bows, arrows and diplomacy.
You see, Genghis married out his daughters to keep peace on his borders. Everything else was like Age of Empires.
The last 4 days have been some of the most intense I’ve experienced.
We’ve gone off road in a soviet camper, spending more time there than on sealed roads. We are actually off road as I write this. I hope I can read my writing tomorrow.
Ogie, our driver, is ruthless. He’s done things with this vehicle I never thought possible and things that I never want to do again. I wanted to ask him how many times he’s rolled a car, but I’m scared of the answer.
We drove across what seemed to be a frozen river. We crossed back on horses. I’m not sure which I’d prefer.
This trip we’ve combed goats for cashmere, caught calves, ridden camels, seen the wild horses and cooked half a lamb on a furnace in a ger; fresh meat is a luxury. Compared to the size of great Mongolia we’ve barely scratched the surface.
I haven’t washed or changed clothes at all. I consider it a personal challenge.
I’ve just learnt that I’ve been referred to as Ken for the whole time, not that names mean all that much out here.
Families of 4 or 5 live hours from even the smallest town, they move sheep and cows and goats and horses from plain to plain in search of grazing land. They return home, make tea, eat dinner and sleep in their small, round, single room homes.
The isolation gives you this awesome sensation of insignificance. Your actions are so minuscule and fleeting that their only aim should be to increase the happiness of others and yourself. It’s the only thing that might linger.
I hope I never lose sight of what I’ve learnt here, I hope to return one day before I do, you should too.