We stepped out of our tent (somewhere in Mongolia) when it was sunny and warm outside. Made rice porridge on the gas burner and took off for the road by midday. The first ride we caught was with two older men who didn’t speak a word of English or Russian, but seemed quite humble and nice. The fun thing about hitchhiking is that you never really know exactly where you will go (especially if you don’t speak the language) :D After an hour or so of driving, the driver made a left onto a dirt road and brought us to a yurt. This was awesome- exactly what I was hoping for! A real yurt! Not a bs one made for tourists, but a real one :D
Inside the yurt was a woman and a very cute 2-year-old in a traditional Mongolian coat. The woman treated us with disgusting salty milk tea, white bread, and what we thought were rock-hard fermented horse milk cookies. They were cheese curds, apparently, and they tasted worse than the tea. It was great :). We tried to communicate a bit using a translator and the few Russian words that she knew, but communication didn’t go far beyond “Canada” (Felix is from Canada), “Russia”, and figuring out that the child was a girl.
It was clear that they were nomadic sheep herders and quite poor. You could see the ground (the earth) in some places inside the yurt, and the “walls” looked pretty thin. Inside the yurt was one small bed, a stove, one cabinet, and a few decorative items. It must be hard to keep a place like that warm when it gets down to -45 in winter.
After we finished the tea, the two men drove back onto the main road and dropped us off at the next village.
We stuck out our thumbs and caught another ride within 5 minutes, this time with a truck. This was better than watching any movie, as the Mongolian scenery was getting more and more spectacular by the minute. Big wide-open fields sprinkled with sheep and goat herds, yellow naked mountains in the distance, rivers weaving in and out of the side of the road, spotted with creepy looking dried out trees. I didn’t want it to end!
The truck driver dropped us off in a dirty little town called Erdenet, near a Costco-like shop. We ordered some random food from a Mongolian fast food joint inside that Costco place ($2) and bought some more groceries ($5). See, if you’re not picky with what you eat, money can go a long way. Plus, you get to try some interesting stuff :D
We walked through Erdenet for about a half hour before we both felt like we were suffocating from dust, then took out the “Moron” sign to hitch another lift.
We didn’t even wait 10 minutes before a guy from Ulaanbaatar stopped to pick us up. This guy knew English quite well and laughed about us being Morons :D. He was nice to talk to, we spent more than 2 hours in his car, talking about global problems and things like how cockroach-like humans are. This guy used to be a scientist but hated his job; he quit only a few years ago to follow his real passion, which is “shooting moving targets”. It gave me a little fright when he first said that. Slim chance that he’ll want to practice on real people, right? :D
It was getting dark as he was driving, and it seemed like he didn’t want to leave us in the middle of nowhere in the dark. So he called his brother-in-law and asked if we could stay with him, in a village called Khutag-Undur. The driver dropped us off and didn’t spend the night there himself, but his brother-in-law and his kids were extremely nice.
Now just imagine this conversation happening in a “normal” family in the US, Canada, or any other western country:
Brother: “I picked up 2 foreign hitchhikers, they don’t speak English. Can I drop them off at your house so they can spend the night there?”
How would your uncle respond to that question? :)
We can’t remember any Mongolian names because they’re so freaken hard to pronounce, so we’ll just call this guy uncle :). Uncle was very nice and funny to try to communicate with. He knew a little bit of Russian, mostly nouns, so we mainly just stuck to that.
He gave us Mongolian noodles with sheep and fermented horse milk that night. It was all pretty disgusting but a really nice treat coming from a stranger. The fermented horse milk is apparently alcoholic, like 4-7%, and tasted a bit like kafir or ayran. We were a bit surprised at how the uncle’s 12-year-old son was chugging it down glass by glass :D.
The three men (uncle, Felix and uncle’s son) slept on the floor, while the daughter and I slept on the two sofas. The entire house was just one small room.
Total expenses for Day 4:
$2 Fast food cafe + $5 groceries from Costco-like shop =$7
Accommodation: uncle’s house
Food: cooked + yurt + local fast food + uncle’s treat