From one extreme to the other!
on Sarah in Mongolia (Mongolia), 23/Nov/2009 10:22, 34 days ago
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The last week in work has been picking up a little with some translation work to be done, my first English classes (which went very well) and some more research into Fundraising and Marketing in Mongolia. I am still trying to get a handle on what exactly they want from me so we shall see.It was a quiet week socially which was quite nice as I was able to just chill. We got internet put into the apartment on Tuesday– not wireless as promised but still it is nice to have internet in the apartment, especially as the work internet is pretty tempermental. It also means I now have the time to upload pictures so I got a few up on facebook over the week.We had heard it was going to be a relatively warm weekend (-6 during the day and -20 ish at night) so Jane and I decided to organise a weekend outing somewhere. We eventually decided upon Terelj, the national park about 60 km from Ulaanbaatar which is easily accessible by public transport and a Jane’s Mongolian friend, Zaya, wanted to come with us – which ended up being a god send!So Sarah and I met Jane and Zaya at the flower shop on Saturday where we bought sleeping bags and supplies. Sarah and I being good VSO’s who had listened to the security briefing, had each brought masses of stuff just in case there was a freak snowstorm, someone broke an arm, our bus broke down and we were stranded or any other such emergency! Zaya and Jane on the other hand had tiny bags with them! Once we had loaded ourselvesdown with water and food supplies we headed to Cafe Amsterdam for some lunch before heading to the bus. Sarah and I got a few stares with our massive bags but we got seats and had a fairly chilled journey for an hour to Terelj. It was enlivened by a Mongolian boarding the bus with a full skinned sheep in a bag and a massive sack of flour, and then him and his child proceeded to sit on the sheep!We arrived at Terelj at about 6pm and it was starting to get dark. We hadn’t organised accommodation in advance so we starting walking down the road to the ger camps. The first one was too expensive (although why they were charging such high rates when most of their gers were empty I have no idea!). At the second ger camp Sarah and I (as the ones who most looked like foreigners) were left at the gate and the other two managed to negotiate a much better rate for the night. It was dark at this stage and the temperature was dropping so we hurried into our ger for the evening and got the fire going. It took a while to heat up but while it was warming we got the food on the fire and gradually stripped off the layers. Once we started adding the coal it got roasting inside the ger, you would have sworn we were in a different continent with the massive amount of heat. Of course we were boiling when we went to bed and within about 2 hours the fire was out and it wasfreezing. And this began the saga of the night, someone would wake up freezing every couple of hours and have to roll out of their blankets into the freezing ger and try to relight the fire. Sarah and I were very glad of our extra thick sleeping bags at this stage!I was woken by the guard coming in to relight our fire in the morning and after enjoying the warmth of the ger I was up by about 9am. As the other slept on I ventured to the“bathroom” at the end of the field we were staying in and was amazed by the beauty of the place we were staying at. The light was perfect, the snow was sparkling and there was not a sound to be heard. It was fabulous. I quickly got dressed in all my gear and headed for a walk, just enjoying thepeace and tranquillity which is hard to find in UB (and the fresh air!).When I returned from my walk the ger was lovely and toasty and we discovered that the guard had a dog with puppies! They must have been just a few weeks old and they were absolutely adorable. Unfortunately as dogs are not allowed inside it is unlikely that they will survive the cold winter.We walked from our ger to turtle rock, which was about an hour and a half walk, with our fingers crossed that there would be horses to rent there. All the local horses had been released a few days ago as they are every winter as Mongolians tend not to ride once the snow falls and stays. Luckily for us we found a guy who was able to bring us a couple of horses (or rather small ponies!) and I was a little dubious because they were so small, but Sarah pointed out that they could carry full size Mongolian men so on we got. They didn’t seem to have any problem carrying us and we set off on a loop up towards the monastery and back round to turtle rock. It was a similar route to the one we took the last time we were there, but it was completely different from horse back and the scenery was stunning with its dusting of snow andthe absolute stillness. Mongolian horses are fairly stubborn and only respond to particular commands (in some of our horses cases a man with a bit of rope riding up behind it!) and so there were a number of cases where Jane and Sarah ended up just standing in place unable to move their horses, it was quite funny! Mongolians are not known for the comfort of their saddles and even though we avoided the wooden saddles the leather ones were not that much better! We were pretty sore after 2 hours of riding and were quite relieved to make it back to our ger in one piece and to get the fire going again for lunch.As we had just over an hour until we had to leave for the bus and so Sarah, Jane and I decided to head up to the crest of the hill for a bit of a last minute walk. It was a bit of a slog with our sore muscles but as the sun was setting the light was hitting the opposite hills and they were just beautiful.Our journey home was one of those journeys that never ends. I had somehow pulled something in my knee but it wasn’t too painful and we were heading home so I thought nothing of it. However as the bus was leaving at 6 and we were meeting it on the road we left a little before six with all our gear and decided to walk in the direction the bus was going rather than towards the bus as it would pick us up on theside of the road. This was not our best plan. It was getting dark, it was getting cold and we just kept walking, waiting to see the bus. I was very sore and the others were getting cold. It was over an hour before the bus picked us up. We were so excited to get on the bus, but as the schools were starting back today the bus was absolutely jammed and we had backpacks on so we were crammed in, standing up for the 40 minute journey with children throwing up, poking us and generally annoying the rest of the bus. We eventually reached our stop where we transferred to a mini bus, which in a stroke of luck drove down close to our apartment so we were able to jump out. I have never been so happy to see my apartment, my bed and some clean sheets and after some hot chocolate me and my aching muscles were off to bed!