We woke up very early and started riding towards the rising sun. Already, there were some hints of road construction. I even tried riding on a closed section of unused gravel. It felt really good until I came across a pile of earth blocking the road. I tried to cross over it but the bike got stuck. I had to pull it down and go back to find a way out of the raised road surface.
Then there was a sandstorm hitting us head on. Luckily, it didn’t last too long. The dirt roads once again became dirt tracks above the mountains. This would really be a lot of fun on a motocross bike. I felt like riding a horse on the fresh mountain tracks.
To my amazement, by the evening, the tracks merged into a perfectly paved brand new piece of asphalt. It was so perfect, I had difficulty adjusting to it. Riding at 50 mph felt dangerously fast. I can’t believe I used to do 120 mph on this bike. That was back in Italy.
We arrived in Arvayheer around five in the evening. Fueled up and kept riding into a heavy storm towards the capital. The roads were so nice, no one cared about the rain. We pushed a few more hours until there was barely enuogh time to camp.
I suggested camping next to some of the gers we had been seeing on the side of the road. They accepted.
As we pulled over near one of them, a woman and a few children stepped outside the ger. They welcomed us. I went inside as the others preferred setting up their tents. She offered me some tea with yak milk, which is salty and fat heavy, so it feels more like a soup than a tea. But I enjoyed drinking it sitting next to the stove in the center. Using body language, I asked her if I could sleep on the floor inside the ger. She nodded. I was also given some really hard concentrated cheese to munch on as she prepared cooking rice for us. The others joined a little later and we started watching her cook.
Soon, all the family, and people from nearby gers joined us. It was crowded and hot inside. The ger is a large round tent made up of a wooden skeleton and animal skin. They cover the outside with fat or nylon pieces to make it waterproof. There is a small decorated wooden door and a hole at the top, which they close or open based on the weather and air condition inside. Right below the hole, in the center is a metal stove where all the food preparation, cooking and washing is done. Daily supply of wood and dung is brought inside and placed between the door and the stove to dry up. There are beds on the sides. One of these beds were given to me even though I insisted on sleeping on the floor. Across the entrance, is where all the valuables are. In this case, it was a wooden cabinet carrying a small old television sitting next to a colorized old photograph of an old Mongolian man, whom I understood to be one of their ancestors. There is no electricity so I’m not sure what the TV is good for. There is a car battery being charged by solar power but that one is only good for a few hours of fluorescent bulb light at night. Many plastic containers are placed between the beds, the cabinet and the entrance. They are being filled up with fresh cow, yak, sheep and horse milk every day. Their diet is strictly based on dairy products. The only vegetable I saw was a handful of rice. All around the ger, are herds of camel, sheep, horse and yak. They constantly graze and defecate, which adds up to the already overwhelming “natural” stench dominating the habitat. In fact, it feels as if they are living inside a huge animal.
That being said, I had an exceptionally good night. It gave me something I had been missing for a long time without really knowing. Soon, everybody left and the light was turned off. My eyes adjusted to the weak, trembling orange fire light bleeding out of the cracks in the stove and the blue one falling from the sky through the hole above. The children were still playing with toys under the bed cover. The man lit one more cigarette, occasionally saying something to the woman who was undressing for the bed. I could feel in his voice that he was worrying about some daily business… The roof of the ger illuminated as he took another puff on his cigarette. She told him not to worry. Lying inside the bed in the darkness across them, being completely accepted and ignored, I felt like a little kid. Something in their dialogue, or my distance to their worries, the warmth of the bed, and maybe even the roundness of the tent, somehow shrank my world to a very comfortable and safe size. It got smaller and smaller and finally I fell into sleep.