Katie’s tummy hurts from giggling so much, and we’ve giggled along at this latest blog too. Nothing like a flatulent horse to get one giggling, right? It’s the latest from Team Kevan’s Trans-Siberian adventure.Thanks Katie!
Our last morning on the train we were woken up very early by our Dutch friend who decided to spend the entire night drinking to celebrate our arrival in Mongolia. I am actually glad he opened our door and stole our water because I was able to drag myself out of bed to see the gorgeous sunrise as we were pulling into Ulaan Baatar. At some point on the train I decided there was no point in putting on new clothes when I wasn’t able to shower, so I wore my white Ganesh t-shirt from India the entire trip. I felt like such a slob because by the end of the trip it had turned a lovely shade of brown and even had a bit of instant noodle sauce on the front. Five days straight on a train with no showers, I couldn’t tell you how excited I was to be getting off the train and have a shower!
First up was a drive out of the city to the Terelj National Park where we were to spend two nights in a traditional Mongolian ger. On our way out to the park our guide told us we were going to stop at a traditional Nomad family’s home to have tea. Let just say these “traditional” Mongolians were a little more 21st century then we were expecting. The lady who led us into her ger and poured us tea was dressed in gum boots and pin stripped dress pants accessorized with pearl earrings and a pearl necklace. Next thing I knew she was chatting away on her cell-phone. Upon further inspection inside the home I also noticed that she was storing her tea in a Kirkland container. Where on earth was the Costco out there? I bet that is where she got her TV from! All in all it did still have a very traditional feel to it. The inside of the home was painted very nicely and the couches we were sitting on were also their beds. The inside of the ger was very spacious but having the couches turn into their beds was a great way to save space. The tea we had was made from mare’s milk and it tasted a little bit salty. We didn’t have breakfast that morning so the tea and cookies were a really nice treat! Outside there were two baby calves dressed up in winter coats to keep them warm. Adorable!
When we pulled up to our ger camp the first thing we saw was the “Welcome Team Kevan” sign nailed to the outside of our tent! To be honest when we first got there I was a little worried that I was going to have to wait another two days before we checked into our hotel in Ulaan Bataar to shower. We really had no idea what to expect. When we opened up the door to our ger we were blasted with heat coming from the little wood fireplace in the middle of the ger. Inside there were three beds and a little table and chairs. After our guide left us the “Team Kevan Room Bomb” exploded as we tried to find our towels and soap to have a shower at the main building. We could have waited about thirty minutes for hot water but we opted to shower right away and endured the freezing cold water because we were desperate to feel clean. I can’t remember the last time I let my armpits get that hairy! Once we were clean we decided to plug in the computer and watch a movie. Since it was so hot in the room from our arrival fire we just sat in our underwear. At some point during the movie we heard a knock at the door and replied “just a minute” but before we had a chance to clothe ourselves we had a little Mongolian man in our room adding more wood to the fire. A little awkward for me in my purple panties but at least we were being good and just watching a movie! Could you imagine if we were up to some other business? We really had no plans for the next two days other than our scheduled meals at the main building, it sure was nice to just relax and do whatever we wanted.
Our next day at the camp we felt inspired by the nice weather outside to go do something outdoorsy. We had the option between renting camels, renting horses, or go hiking. We hired a guide and went with the hour of horseback riding. Other then the five minute ride in Petra, I had never ridden a horse before. To be honest at that point I felt like I was more of an experienced elephant rider! I’ve always just admired horses from a distance with a fence in between and have fed them the occasional carrot. Evan also had no prior experience but I knew his mum used to ride so I figured it had to be in his blood. I really didn’t think it was going to be a problem, it looked easy enough. Our guide for the ride was a tiny little Mongolian cowboy who didn’t speak a word of English. I’m not sure what why we hired him because he rode behind us and just let our horses take us wherever. Once we got going I had a major case of the giggles and couldn’t stop laughing while I was bouncing around on the horse. At one point I thought I was going to fall off. Evan’s horse had bad gas the entire time and farted really loudly every time it started to run. As we were coming up over the mountain we saw a bunch of wild horses and once Evan’s horse saw them it neighed and took off to join them leaving the cowboy and I behind. We later learnt from our guide that these horses were actually half wild and the cowboy just went out and grabbed them for us. Apparently anyone in that area wanting to ride a horse can just go out and take one. The next day our legs and our bums hurt and my stomach even hurt too from laughing uncontrollably. We really had a great time exploring the area by horse.
After our two nights at the ger camp our guide came to pick us up to take us back to Ulaan Bataar for two more nights before boarding the train to Beijing. That day was April 19th, the exact half way point on our trip – it also marked Evan and I being together for two years. To my surprise Evan had roses for me! Usually I am the mastermind behind great surprises but Evan sure surprised me! I still have no idea how he arranged that with our guide. When we found out we won this trip people were telling us “this sure will test your relationship” and said things like “you’ll probably get on each other’s nerves”. Well we really haven’t had any problems and I think it could be weird to not see him twenty four seven when we get home. We really are a team and I don’t think either one of us could have done this alone. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where we haven’t made each other laugh.
Once we checked into the hotel I had a nice long hot shower! While we were in the city we checked out the city square where there seemed to be a protest of some sort because there were gers set up with lots of horses in the square. It seemed very peaceful compared to the other protests that have seemed to follow us as we travel. One afternoon we visited a monastery, a temple, and enjoyed a nice traditional Mongolian dinner with our guide. We also spent a couple of hours at the post office where we were able to catch up on our emails and write a bunch of postcards. We even spent a couple of hours trying to find the Canadian Embassy to ask about our ordeal at the border. We were told to go to three different locations and walked all over the city to find it. We finally found it just as they were closing the doors. The lady who worked there was so nice and took the time to talk to us before making her way home.
When we boarded the train heading to Beijing we were very happy to find out that our new Dutch friends Indra and Sven from the ger camp were our new roommates for the journey to China. It was great to be able to communicate in English and hear about their plans to travel the world. They even shared their dropjes with me and let us flip through their Lonely Planet books. I’m not sure if I’ve told everyone that we are now travelling with three bags to be able to carry around our sleeping bags, mats and pillows for when were in Africa. Our new roommates were so understanding when we had to take up a little more space than them. The train ride to Beijing was very comfortable and went by very quickly. The next thing we knew we were pulling into Beijing for our Beyond the City Walls tour and making plans to hopefully meet up with Indra and Sven at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Look out for more from Katie and Evan: next they’re touring China, followed by the adventure of a lifetime in Africa.