If you’ve ever felt an overwhelming desire to have absolutely no idea what’s going on, while being surrounded by others who are equally unaware of what’s going on, try being me. Failing that, go to Mongolia.
Mongolia is home to a plethora of mind-bogglingly beautiful landscapes, unbelievably hospitable people and (insert other superlatives here) experiences. However, due to the aforementioned lack of comprehension as to the general workings of life, it takes approximately a week of confusing, uncomfortable and distressing travel to reach any of these fantastical destinations.
Now, the significant Fijian contingent of Papakura City FC means I’m well acquainted with Island Time, and have long appreciated the general disregard for clocks, Father Time and punctuality held by many friends. Mongolians, however, take the concept of being laid back to another level. If the bus timetable says departure is at 8pm and it’s currently 7.30pm, you’ve comfortably got enough time to, say, coax a male and female sheep into procreating, help deliver the baby lamb, raise it like your own child until it’s meat is tough and chewy, slaughter it, prepare the meat and turn the whole thing into any number of traditional Mongolian mutton dishes, all of which forego flavour and enjoyment in favour of maximising meat consumption, and still have time for a beer and karaoke before the bus leaves.
Mongolia has given me far more outrageous experiences and stories than I knew I needed in my life, most of which I refuse to recount here on the basis that I still want to be able to boast about myself in real life, and my appalling lack of conversational ability means I rely heavily on anecdotes to present a mirage of complexity and interestingness.
Nonetheless, here is an executive summary (bullet-pointed for brevity) of one of the most amazing and frustrating experiences of my life:
– 12 hour bus ride from capital of Ulaanbaatar to fuck knows where
– 14 hours off-road ride in a Russian minivan. Sleep = impossible.
– 6 hour horse trek to a collection of teepees functioning as a bachelor pad for adolescent reindeer herders
– 1 night of sub-zero temperatures in a draughty teepee
– Wake up: horse stolen by drunk Mongolian, on pretence of getting more vodka
– Spend time waiting for return of horse drinking vodka
– Drunkenly ride 3 more hours to actual family
– Happily hang out with reindeer and family for two days – spectacular
– 8 hour trek back to fuck knows where
– 14 hour off road minivan, sleep even less likely than outward journey; fifteen people crammed into eight seater van
– 12 hour bus back to UB and civilisation, incl. evasive action
– Enjoy KFC
In summary: If you like hospitality, being cold, and open-minded yet bloodthirsty warlords, Mongolia is for you. If you hate interacting with people, eating good food or being comfortable, Mongolia is for you. If you want stunning scenery and weird fauna, Mongolia is for you. Most of all, if you want a great way to show off about how intrepid and adventurous you are, Mongolia is for you. Seeing as the latter is really all I’ve ever wanted and ultimately the only reason I’m travelling at all, I’m pretty satisfied with the current expedition.