01 July 2006


Tonight we are in a Guest House and resting in a Ger with our washing hanging over the cattle fences, whilst the birds twitter and the cows bellow in the distance. An arrogant Frenchman has been gesticulating rudely at our female guest house owner and he has become paranoid that she won't talk to him but will readily converse with us. Apparently he paid $250 for a deposit; in Australian dollars; for a horse which later bolted. I calmly told him to relax and "enjoy the blue sky".I was concerned as she attempted a disposition of Buddhist serenity but the anxious twitch in her right eye worried me. This man has been travelling for 4 years and his criticism of the Chinese, Mongolians and Indonesians makes me wonder why he continues to do so. As a concession he loved West Papua "because they wear no clothes and eat yams". Culture is more complex than this and I found his simple distillation of a lifestyle incomprehensible and annoying. Our guesthouse boils water by wood fire and an ox carts a 44 gallon drum to supply the house with water. Yoghurt curds dry on our felt rooftop and the shower is a container of water connected to a manual footpump, which is actioned by a curious walking motion and in fact provides a really good shower. Sitting in the sun on deckchairs upon the green grass and using a washboard to scrub our blackened socks reminds me of an earlier Australia. Mongolia is technologically leapfrogging. International phone callls are impossible but everyone has a cellphone and there are no public payphones. Women sit next to the grimy highways; faces surgically masked; selling calls on mobile radio handsets that look like a 70's home phone. Internet is highly effective but watercarting is a reality for most. Electricity is intermittant and so most people have satellite television run by solar panels. It has been common to see a herder upon his horse in his felt boots, covered in greasy dirt, arrive home to his Ger on some isolated mountain pass, with the expensive Toyota 4WD parked nearby after a day's herding. From Moron to Ulaanbator takes 45 days to get cattle to market by "droving". The roads are dirt but there is an effective inter-Aimag flight service! Most toilets are pit toilets and in the expensive establishments the standard Western versions are blocked with toilet paper.
103.60 km completed today.

photo: main street of Khovsgol, note large prayer wheel

No comments: