Friday, June 08, 2007

Jeep Jenga & the road to the Gobi

So the morning of our departure & the stack of gear (tents, food, kitchen equipment, backpacks) waiting to be packed for the journey looks much smaller than our Russian Military Jeep. After a fair bit of head scratching and with every available space filled (under seats, sharing my seat with our water butt) we finally roll out toward the Gobi.

We have 2 staff on our trip - Tuul our guide/translator/cook and our driver the irrepressibly good humoured Ochiro .... about 3 hours into our journey a herd of antelope ran right in front of the Jeep and almost instantaneously he had us in hot pursuit across open countryside ....

Apparently later in the year when they are a bit fatter, you can chase them like this for about 10km and then as they slow down, exhausted, you hit them over the head with a stick out of the drivers window. Nice.

We also got a brief instructional on hunting marmot, just wave your arm up and down and they'll stand there mesmerised while you shoot them. Equally pleasant. Both Tuul & Ochiro insist blowtorched marmot is delicious, while our copy of Lonely Planet says it's responsible for regular outbreaks of bubonic plague. Thankfully it's out of season so we didn't have to put it to the test.

Our first destination was the old monastery at Baga Gazrin Chuluu - undiscovered during the soviet purge, mainly I guess because it's the size of a gnat and competely hidden within the considerably more spectacular rock formations surrounding it.

We stayed with a herdsman family on the first evening. Upon entering their Ger we were immediately provided with gifts of a bowl of their dinner (dried meat, noodle and veg soup), and several shots of Chinggis Vodka. We then spent the next hour helping to bring their herd in for the night - you can see me helping here.

I won't say what they were using as fuel in the burner that cooked dinner and kept us warm, suffice to say it's brown and sounds like a bell. Oh yeah, and it comes out of a goats backside .....

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