Friday, August 19, 2011

Aug 14th ... Make Your Own Road Day…

grazing goats

We sleep on the top floor of the two-story cabin... once again all three of us have to share a room. We grimace ... and I can tell my travel mates are as sick of sharing a room as I am. The outhouse is a real gem. It’s a bit of a walk from the cabin in the dark. We have to walk past the dogs, the sheep that follows and keeps nudging at us, and we have to make sure we don’t fall into the hole at the front of the outhouse. The owners appear to be putting in a new hole and haven’t had time to move the outhouse so it’s just a large open pit that we have to jump over to get into the actual outhouse. Yes...and no seat... just like that last one. Plank and hole, what comfort!

When I get out of bed the next day, I realize that I haven’t been able to shave for three days, and other than swimming in the river I can’t remember the last time I had a shower. My clothes are all dusty and I have nothing left that’s clean. I haven’t been able to wash any clothes as we have had no time or water.

Before we leave I go for a breakfast of bread and cream. I’m a bit leery of the bag of cream but give it a try. I put the cream on the bread and add some white sugar on top. It’s actually really good so I have two helpings and then gave the sheep my third. Bugs are eating us alive as we step out of the cabin so I am glad to be moving on again.

pouring tea

Breakfast cream...or milk tea?

good tea!

On the way to our new site Undurkhan Kentii...which is still about 220km away from Ulaanbaatar. It doesn’t seem like a far distance yet it’s another world in the back country. The dirt road system is so bad that it could take days to get back to UB. On the way to Undurkhan we stop and visit a few members' Gers and are treated with the traditional milk tea which is one speck of black tea in warm milk. Yuk… I take a few sips and decide that I have become lactose intolerant for the rest of my stay in Mongolia.

...spinning a prayer wheel, not generating power

The Ger’s are really cool. All of the ones I have been to have flat screen TV’s, satellite dishes and generators or power that they take directly from a power pole. They all have computers and cell phones. It’s so weird as they seem to still do so many things in the traditional way and prefer their Ger’s over wooded structures. Cow dung is stacked and drying next to the Ger as it will be used as a heat source by burning it in the winter.

Mongolian saddle

Bruno in the saddle

We make our way to the next Ger and this time I get to ride the owner's horse. This horse seems really small when you are on it. They are really nice to ride and have a smooth gait. Now I have ridden a horse in Mongolia. Not many people can say that.
I’m also treated to some of the social programs this Credit Union is doing. One is water conservation. We stop at a corral-like structure surrounding a small amount of water. It’s a natural spring and the water comes up from the ground in a small amount. It provides a water source to all the herder families in the area. It has to be protected from the animals as they will trample it down to a mud pit.

This is the only source of wonder B has been sick!

heading to the spring

We arrive in Undurkhan and see an actual 'hotel' sign. We check into our adjoining rooms with a shared toilet. Ken and I still have to share a room but at least we have a room for Mongo. However a shower is only available at the public shower house. The shower room turns out to be a real treat. It’s absolutely spotless and disinfected after each use. It’s the best hot shower I can remember having.

Is this hotel five-star??

Hmmm...maybe not

Clean and fed, we return to our room and people keep poking their heads in. I try to lock it but there's no lock on the exterior door. Later the housekeeper comes by and lets us know that the hotel is full and our water closet is the main one for the hotel. She then hands us a padlock key for the toilet and locks our bedroom doors. All night long and all morning it was a steady parade of people using our so-called sink. I finally get out of bed, open the door between our adjoining rooms to get to the water closet and find her outside my door. I’m just in my undershorts, but she had no issues with that and takes my hand leading me to the sink to show me how clean and shiny she has kept it. So I wash my face and then go over to the toilet room. She unlocks it for me, throws a bucket of water into the toilet and flushes. Then she lets me in and points to how clean it is. She then shows me the incense and matches and shuts the door. I then realize she must have been outside my door all night guiding each person through the same ritual and cleaning after each one. That’s why it was so noisy.

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