Mongolia

Wrangler, Hovsgol, Mongolia

The morning after our last night camping, one of the wranglers started working out with an axle he found in the grass. Then he caught a big fish in the lake visible behind him, and we all ate it for breakfast. The drive to get to where we would take a plane back to Ulaan Bator was 13 hours, over rough roads and mountains. The presence of the driver’s young daughter made me feel safe in spite of the body-sized tool chest behind the driver’s seat. As it turned out, the tool chest was full of all kinds of spare parts, necessary tools scattered among them.

driving from Renchilumbe to Moron

These items the driver laid out on an old sheet when he pulled over to fix something. Here we are, waiting out the breakdown while the driver tinkers. His daughter stands shading her eyes, the two men we called “the Vikings,” because they were big and strong and always ready to attack any problem with skills and unflappability, are lounging on the grass, the liaison Monkh stands hand on hip, and furthest away, my Kentucky friend is having a cigarette. There is a baby-fist-size flying insect behind and above the girl, looking as though it is an aircraft hovering over the blue mountains beyond.

The waters were too high for the ferry, so we untacked the horses and let them swim across. The ferry was, we found out on our return, a platform of planks fastened to empty oil drums, pulled hand-over-hand on a cable across the shallow lake by a woman in dress and heels.

This is where we camped on the other side. The farmer whose land it was slaughtered a sheep for us, and we ate on that for a few days, washed down with the ever-present Chinghis Gold vodka. The bottle is embossed with Mongolian script, and I brought it home.

We were in Renchilumbe for Naadam. We were told that a woman dressed as a man once won the wrestling matches, and since that time, the required wrestling outfit bares the breast.

Here are some of the horses, hitched outside Saridag Inn. This is where I almost burned down my ger (much like a yurt or hogan), trying to dry some gloves. A man missing fingers came in through the night to feed the iron stove.