I wasn’t interested in staying in the city too long. I had just enough time overnight to shower, sleep and send out a quick email to close friends and family , who had flooded my inbox thinking I had an ankle injury as thats what the official site said my reason for withdrawal was. Having set the record straight, I eagerly accepted the offer to go back to the steppes upon sunrise.
Joining Chloe, Tess and I was Jess who had recovered well from her illness, and Luke, who received a free helicopter ride as part of his Mongolian adventure, but was well enough to return in the party van!
I think our driver was a little relieved to have another male presence in the van. Along our route back to the steppes, he offered Luke a drink from his Airag as in the back seat, Jess and I gagged and giggled. Let me explain.
You have probably heard me mention it before, and perhaps I have mentioned what it is and what it tastes like, but let me recap. It is mares milk, which has been fermented in a big vat to make it alcoholic. It tastes like a very tart yogurt mixed with blue cheese. Our driver kept a jug beside him (usually a used pop or water bottle, about 1.5-2L) and would sample from it throughout the day. The sun would beat in the windshield and heat up this stinky sour milky drink, and as he opened the bottle each time, it would hiss like if you shook up a bottle of pop. The thought of this steaming sour milk just made all our insides wrench. So you can imagine our reaction as Luke tried his best to be polite, and accept this friendly offer from our driver.
At one point, we were driving along a paved road, and the GPS said we had to go somewhere left (to get to the horse station). Usually we would look for a dirt track heading in generally the right direction, and follow it until we had some reason to believe it was not going to take us to our destination. This particular time, the driver just chose to drive off into the middle of nothing.
No big deal, we would come across a track soon enough right? Well no, time goes on and we havent seen any tracks. We just keep bumping across the grass, over hills, in the direction the compass is pointing. We start to get a bit uneasy that there were no tracks to be seen. Then, as we crest the top of the largest hill around… (now listen to the song below, skip to 3 minutes)
We could see for miles and not a single track to be seen. Yes, the music was playing at that exact spot, and we all erupted in giddy laughter. How perfect.
For some reason I am having a difficult time remembering what else happened this day, I think it was mostly time spent on the road… after all it did take us about 10 hours just to get from UB to a horse station (which were much farther from the main roads than the start and finish camps were). Sorry, those 2 stories will have to do!