Tuesday, June 9: near Zuun Lake, Mongolia
6:42 I wake up on my own. It’s chilly but not unbearable.
6:45 My alarm goes off.
6:47 I’m not quite awake but standing about 20 meters from the tent when a shepherd and a flock of sheep pass by.
8:35 A brand new hand break has been installed and the old torsion bar suspension bracket has been welded and reinstalled. We pack up and get back on the truck.
9:30 We pull into the town of Shine-Ider (pronounced Shin-uh-der) for a bathroom break. Neill and Rachel crawl under the truck to inspect the weld. Stephanie and I head to the local museum. It’s a single room in the town hall and it takes only a few minutes to view the exhibits which consist of a stuffed wolf, stuffed goat, several books written by an academic who grew up here, and some photos from the 70s when Soviet officials visited the town.
10:00 We report back to the truck – right on time – and get the bad news: The weld didn’t hold and the bracket will have to come off. Bayaraa and Amaraa have gone to find a welder.
10:20 We find a man welding the front gate of a community centre and work begins. He appears to be meticulous in his prep so this will take a while. That’s probably a good thing, I conclude.
11:12 I wander the streets and photograph some items on sale in local stores. I particularly liked the “Prosche” and “Briyish” Burberry shirts on offer at the local menswear store.
13:30 Four teen boys are hanging around the truck and I sense they want to join in the impromptu football game that has broken out. I suggest that it be Dragoman vs. locals but they decline. Chinzorigt Tsogtbayr introudces himself and asks where we’re from. He’s dribbling a basketball and when I tell him I’m from Toronto he replies, “Oh… Toronto Raptors not bad.” I end up chatting with him for a while and he shows me the 2014 NBA highlight video on his Samsung phone. He’s into the Chicago Bulls, Kobe Bryant and Hollywood action movies. He asks if I have Bluetooth so we can swap videos and when I tell him that I do have Bluetooth but not a single Marvel or NBA video on my phone, he looks skeptical. He can’t seem to believe that a North American wouldn’t have a library of Hollywood movies or NBA highlight reels on their phone. He certainly does. As a long time investor in Marvel (now part of Disney) I’m pleasantly surprised. We say goodbye, and he wants to add me on Facebook and take my photo. I take his photo at the same time and this produces no end of laughter. I’m still not sure if he was laughing at me or with me.
13:50 The welder finishes the repair and the bracket is installed on the truck. He took his time and appears to have done a good job. We set off for Murun, with several photo stops along the way. The blue sky, high cumulous clouds and vast green landscapes of the Mongolian steppe are truly spectacular.
19:11 We arrive at the city of Murun. Some maps say Moron.
19:24 It takes a while but we find Bata’s Guesthouse where we have reservations for 18. The “complex” consists of a main building, a glorified shack, a yurt, a 2-hole pit toilet a shower building and an outdoor sink. The shower is only used in the winter. We are told to drive about 5 minutes to the public showers if we’re that picky.
20:00 We order take-out food to be delivered to the yurts at 22:00
20:20 We pile back on the truck and head to the showers. I’m confused by the sign that has a cartoon of a car going through a carwash, but the showers turn out to be very nice. You purchase a ticket from the attendant, head into a waiting room, wait 5 minutes, then hand the ticket back to the same attendant who shows you to a long hallway with about 16 doors. Each door leads to a private room with shower and bench. The water pressure is low but there’s plenty of hot water and we’re allowed to stay 30 minutes for 2000 Tugriks (about 60 cents).
22:00 The wi-fi is slow when it works at all but the take-out chicken and curried rice is great. You know it’s getting late when Frankie asks, “What’s the National Drink of Mongolia?” and everyone laughs hysterically at the answer: “Khaan-Yak.”