When you aren’t looking at your phone, or computer, days just pass. The only reason I knew what day we were on was when I sat down with my diary and the travel schedule to work out that the 1st of August was a Monday. It didn’t matter what day it was.
At 8.15am we departed, onto the sandy road heading north until we hit the main road where we turned left and kept going. In the UK we have a phrase about the Romans having been there when a road is particularly straight. Every so often Yondo would slow down and we would go over a sleeping policeman. The road humps occured so drivers don’t fall asleep, and given that the passengers were all falling asleep Yondo did a great job getting us from A to B on roads that barely had a curve in them. After a couple of hours we stopped for the last toilet for over a 100kms. Looking back over what occured for the next few days, I am surprised that we needed to stop at the brick shack to go to the toilet, but we did.
Thankfully French toilets of the 1980’s and Chinese toilets had prepared me for what I was confronted with. Eleanor also took the two planks of wood over a rather deep hole in her stride, though I made sure she wasn’t carrying anything, and also that her feet remained square on the wood.
As we drove on the landscape changed. There were more watering holes, we drove through sand dunes (which will feature in a later blog) and we kriss crossed the same river which meandered through the valley.
We made Yondo stop at this watering hole, it was the first one that we had seen goats, sheep and horses at, and so we spent 5-10 minutes here, just the 8 of us. In the middle of the horses was a lovely black foal. Pictures taken, we were all admiring the view and tranquility, when a large bus pulled up and about 40 Chinese tourists got out and started snapping away. We left.
With the roads being straight, the “towns” we went through also seemed to be one street places, and we were told about 15-20 of these places make up a province of which there are 20. As we entered the town we were to have lunch at; I saw, by the roadside, five vultures tucking into their lunch. It could easily have been a scene from the Jungle Book, but I didn’t get any photographic evidence – just the memory.
Lunch for us was mutton, fried egg and rice. We arrived earlier that had been expected, and so UNO was the game of choice for the kids to keep them occupied.
In China, they say don’t look at the kitchens where you eat…today was going to be an exception as the toilets were outside, and to get to them we had to trek through the kitchen. It was basic and probably not the cleanest – I didn’t stop to have a closer look.
The toilets – well that is giving the “long drop” rather a grand title, it was in a shed, but the planks of wood this time, were not so sturdy. In fact it was very rickety. But all 6 of us managed it without it collapsing. After taking this photo, I then handed over my sunglasses and phone to Eleanor, I took nothing in with me that could be dropped.
Eleanor is posing like a seasoned pro in this photo…
We journeyed on to the ancient capital of Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia, founded by Ogödei, Genghis Khan’s son in 1235. In 1260 Kublai Khan transferred the capital to Beijing and in 1388 troops of the Ming Dynasty destroyed this place. In 1585 the Erdene Zuu Monastry was built using the stones from the ruins of the capital in its construction.
The wall surrounding the Buddhist monastry has 108 stupas. 108 is a sacred number. It is also the number of beads in a male Buddhist rosary. Sadly in 1939 a communist leader destroyed the monastry and others in a purge that also saw the killing of over 10,000 monks. The temples became a museum in 1947 and after the fall of communism in 1990 it became a place of worship again. We saw the monks chanting, with boys (monks in training) as young as 5 keeping the beat with cymbals and drums.
What surprised me was that the monastry had WIFI! and proper toilets. They were the scene of Eleanor getting locked in, and after a panicked 10 minutes we eventually got the bolt unstuck.
Outside the monastry was another long street of souvenir shops, a bracelet for Eleanor was eventually chosen (and subsquently left behind in our last hotel), we left the monastry and went to our overnight stay. Little did we know that this was to be the last of a smooth road. We had dinner (mutton) with about 50 Chinese tourists who were also staying in the Yurt camp.