Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mongolian Permaculture: Day 29 – C'est ne pas un mushroom...


I hate good-byes.

An unexpected departure at 6am this morning meant late farewells in the dark last night.

Still, Natesegdorg and Batsukh were up early to help load Kat & my bags, and give us a final hug to send us on our way.

They even gave me a warm A Hui Hou [Until We Meet Again] as we embraced, in their best Mongolian grunt.

The guttural Mongol language sounds a lot different than the melodic Hawaiian language I shared a little about during Act Night: the meaning of Aloha [when thanking them for sharing so much of their Aloha with us], and the meaning of A Hui Hou [did I mention that I hate good-byes?].

Rick is staying on to complete Day II of Teach-the-Teacher training and will fly back to UB in a couple days; students will present their own lessons to the class using the techniques and methodologies shared yesterday.

Meanwhile, word reached the hasha last night that a car was leaving in the morning for Ulaanbaatar at $30AUS/ seat.

While I would like to stay and participate in the lessons today, the thought of nursing my healing but still sprained ankle back to UB over two days on public transport does not sound at all appealing when a private vehicle awaits.

Our travelling companions are a mixed bunch - The Driver, who proudly sports his round belly from his unbuttoned shirt and looks like a character from the Tomb-Raider style movie I watched on the flight over, round dark glasses peering from under a broad-brimmed straw hat; The Engineer, also our co-pilot, dressed in lime green sweat-wicking sports top; China [Beijing], our surly and carsick-looking backseat companion, whom I find out later has been in Tosontsengel prospeting for gold; and Gaia, one of the students who has graciously offered to be our personal escort back to UB.

To say that Mongolian roads are bumpy would be like calling the Autobahn fast. It’s a grossly understated overstatement, if that makes any sense at all.

If you are a 4WD enthusiast and would like to experience some extreme off-roading, may I suggest you hire a driver to take you through the back roads of Outer Mongolia… I doubt that any 4WD owner in the west would drive their rigs as hard as they do out here.

We pass many broken-down rigs along the way [one with its entire engine layed out across the lane on a rare paved stretch of road], a truck fully laden with sheepskins and another truck on top of that [still figuring out how it got there, stays there, and will come down], and stop every couple of hours or so for a toilet break and a stretch.

The Driver goes through two packets of slim clover-smelling cigarettes, two beers, and a dubious liason with a bright-red lipstick wearing lady in Arrhagg. The Engineer keeps the music cranking, China snoozes the whole way and inspects rocks laying around at every stop, while Gaia points out various ovods and other interesting tidbits along the way.

The most curious stop along the way?


Totally random tourist stop off the main road outside the town where we visited Chinggis’ old home… The afternoon sun glinted off what I thought was the biggest mushroom we had seen so far in Mongolia, a rip-roarer of a specimen 3 meters high on the side of the hill, shining starkly white against the grey clouds building behind.

My next thought: C’est ne pas un mushroom…

And I was right. Looking at each other bemusedly, we turn off the road to investigate further, and find a busy roadside tourist stop with tables of souvenirs laid out on the tables below the giant phallus on this hill above.

There is a smaller one at the bottom of the hill that is less erect, far older and made of granite. A small fence has been put up around it, but this does not stop the local ladies from climbing over, mounting it and saying a prayer… to the spirits of fertility, we are told. People come here to touch the phallus and give offerings in the hopes of conceiving.

I like this story far better than the one made up in my head: Well, they wouldn’t let us have a souvenir shop at Chinggis’ place, so we decided to make our own out here…

The lady behind the souvenir table points to the small carved wooden phalluses for sale and says proudly ‘I made these!’ We wander around for a good 15 minutes and then pile back into the car, our curiosity satisfied… […please excuse all the terrible puns!]

…19 hours, 2 meals, 0 cramps later we arrive back at the Happyness Hotel in UB, home sweet home for the next few days.

Shower. Fresh bed sheets. Clean clothes. It’s the simple things in life that make me happiest…

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