Breakfast was a little more exciting than yesterday’s bread and margarine. Today we had bread and jam. Oh, and these awesome Mongolian fried pancakes. Mongolian bread is very solid and quite heavy. If I knew anything about baking I could probably say that ‘they don’t use yeast’ or something else useful like that.
After breakfast had wrapped up, we were shuffled out to where there were three camels ready and waiting for us. A man was plucking off the winter fur that the camels were shedding. Apparently camel wool is quite valuable, so can see why they were eager to collect it. Risa plucked a few clumps of super soft fur and kept it in her pocket. It makes her happy, so I don’t care.
The camel ride wasn’t at all how I envisaged it to be. I thought that we’d be off like Laurence of Arabia, cresting the giant dunes and generally having an awesome adventure. The reality was, we were being led in a caravan by a lady who really wasn’t that interested in being there (and I can’t blame her). We had no control of the camels, she was holding the reins to my camel, and I had to hold the reins to Risa’s. We all moved forward together and a pace that rivalled unenthusiastic walking. And, we kept at this along a flat stony road for about an hour. It was hot and windy. The one bonus was it was quite comfortable sitting on the camels and being able to use the rear hump as a backrest. The smell kind of reminded me of the concentrated urine smell that koalas have – kind of floral and fruity undertones, but mostly just piss.
Risa said what I was thinking – that she was ready to just turn around. It was an experience for the first few minutes, but the hour afterwards was just repetitive. I could see some camels walking on the dunes just ahead of us, and when our camel-master moved our camels in their direction, I had a feint glimmer of hope. Things did get better, but not quite the way that I was hoping. She turned the camels around to head back to camp and then gave us the reins to our camels. We now at least had some freedom to pilot our camels, instead of just being a human lump sitting between two camel lumps. The reins were a single piece of rope connected via a stick through the camel’s nose. I found it quite sadistic (and darkly funny) that the rope we were using to control the camels were made from their own fur. They were the producers of their own captivity and control mechanisms.
I also now appreciate how much fun the horse riding was – camels are slow! My camel wasn’t too bad, but Risa’s stopped a few times and was a test of my camel riding skills, requiring me to turn it around and grab her reins and get her moving again. The camels were controlled basically the same as the horses last week, using the same Mongolian commands (choo to go, husch to slow). It was just a little different only having the one piece of rope for the reins.
Again, the novelty wore off after about 15-minutes. We were still a long way from camp, and the camels really did walk at a snail’s pace. Even when we finally caught sight of our camp, it took another 30 minutes to reach it (I was playing a guessing game, and initially guessed 10 minutes, which may have been the case if we were walking).
I could see the enjoyment if it was used for a multi-day trek, because they could get your further than you could go on foot alone. But, for a joy ride to experience what it is like to ride a camel, 20-minutes would have been enough. Nearly three hours was extreme overkill.
Actually, the most exciting part of the ride was mounting and dismounting, The camels would straighten their hind legs first, then raise their front, so you would be tipped forwards almost to the point of slipping off, and then jerked backwards as it stood up. Was almost like a mechanical bucking bull.
After all that excitement, it was lucky we had some rest time before lunch. Oh, and lunch today was Mongolian deep-fried pastries – Khooshor. Meaty and juicy, with more than a hint of sheep. Still not sick of sheep, but it is losing its appeal.
The temperatures outside continued to rise with maximum temperatures usually arriving around 4-5PM, so we did some more ‘resting’ in our tent. This time until dinner. The ger is pretty well insulated, and with the door open there is a reasonable breeze. Even though it was quite well insulated inside, it was certainly cooler outside in the shade. We were able to leave the door open today because we finally managed to train the dog, Mr. Dangle, to stay outside. He then found a sneaky way in through the side of the tent, which came as quite a surprise to us to find him inside, but I blocked that with some big rocks – your move, Mr. Dangle.
The two runt baby goats were just outside of our ger and making plenty of noise, disturbing my ‘rest’ so from time to time, when we’d ‘rested’ enough, we’d go out and play with them. They were so tiny and the white one seemed especially frail. But, they were being looked after, so there wasn’t much we could do other than play with them. However, the playtime stopped after I got orange jelly-like shit all down my shirt. The back of the white goat was dirty with poop, but most of it was dried and normal looking – this yellow/orange jelly stuff was gross. At least with the hot dry wind it only took a few minutes for my shirt to dry.
We’d arranged for an early dinner so that we could go climb the sand dunes and watch the sunset from the top. Dinner was good, if a little risqué – don’t tell me you can’t see more than a passing resemblance to breasts? I was loving the coleslaw (second time today!). I loved it even more since Risa didn’t care for it and I was gifted hers.
After dinner was finished and cleared away (and I’d drunk my third cup of tea, not sure why I was drinking so much tea, but nothing bad was happening with my heart, so it was enjoyable and I kept drinking), we went outside to do some reconnaissance for the hike. The wind was getting stronger, and the skies were a weird cloudy haze (probably from all the dust being blown in the wind). We could see the stream of sand coming off the tips of the dunes, so it didn’t seem like it would be enjoyable, and we wouldn’t get a sunset. It felt a little lame to not go because of the weather, but I think we made the right choice. The sun didn’t set, it just disappeared and the twilight began.
So instead we played with the baby goats, though I kept my distance from it’s dirty rear end. The herder family were doing their best to make sure that the little ones got fed, coupling them with mother goats (and doing their best to stop them from just walking away).
While this was happening, the family was preparing the camels for other tourists to ride tomorrow morning. It was actually a little brutal. First they got a rope around its head, then tied its mouth closed, then bound its legs, then tied its head back to the rear, immobilising the camel as much as possible. The camel wasn’t all that happy about it, and occasionally it broke free and spat this horrible looking yellow junk onto them. They just laughed at each other and continued on. Once the camel was immobilised, they inserted a special stick through the nose. I don’t know what the difficulty was, but it took them a while, and it seemed to be hurting the camel. The camel was making horrible noises of pain and spitting as much as it could with its mouth tied shut. The whole thing was kind of funny (the camel spitting on them) and traumatic at the same time.
It was now nearly 9PM, so we returned to our tent to ‘rest’, which involved finally planning Turkey. But, there is only so much we could do without access to Internet. I have a feeling that it’s going to be hard to make sacrifices with what to see/do in Turkey (as it is everywhere we go).