After a day on tiny 4×4 track, the Pilgrims decided they would attempt to deep dive into the local culture by sleeping in one of the many gers (yurts) the countryside was sprinkled with. They made their way through a sheep/goat herd that besieged the camp, and pulled up next to three gers whose residents they had spotted were home. By this stage the Pilgrims had figured out the key to getting invited almost anywhere, without speaking the language, and approached slowly, visors up, revealing friendly smiles. Immediately, children flocked about, like the motorbikes and geared up riders had came straight from Mars. The women then came along and we greeted them with “Sambano”. Soon, all “stranger barriers” were gone and the laughing crowd looked like they were deep into a game of not so silent but comical scharades. Communication mostly revolved about the motorbikes and journey thus far and the family’s animals. Soon, the Pilgrims were invited for dinner the crowd all threaded into a ger whose chimney had been smoking.
The traditional meat soup with a little bit of noodles in was boiling on the central stove. The Pilgrims were a little surprised when they learnt that they were burning actual dried horse shit, because there were no smell, and sure enough the Pilgrims hadn’t seen a tree for days. In the capital city, they apparently used coal that put the whole city under a deep smog. Horse shit was part of the recurring theme of not wasting any natural ressources. Toast had to decline the soup and tea, which around here consists mostly of heated goat milk, for his standard prisoners diet of white bread. So Filipz saved the situation and ate for the two of them.
The evening’s experience with the tent had been quite hilarious. As it got a little darker, the storm lines were being played upon like guitar strings accompanied by the cryings of freshly faceplanted children. They had been running around like crazy all day, messing about with the animals, getting stuff for the Pilgrims… But now they were falling like flies, taking the storm lines down with them. As the the tent for saggier, they found out that three of the lines were already missing. Filip resorted to his most hated activity of stitching. But he had only stitched back two storm lines with the now almost finished 50 m roll of strong fishing line, before another line whirred and was teared off. He suddenly exploded into a hysterical laughter, and was soon accompanied by the surrounding crowd including the 12 year old who was spitting dirt for the third time today. The Pilgrims had previously questioned themselves over the local hunting habits with rifles instead of snares and traps. Apparently being raised in the vast open steppes never cured them of the infants inherent clumziness. There were simply no obstacles for miles. Nothing to train on. Setting traps around here would only result in increased child mortality rates..
The next morning, breakfast was served, consisting of unseasoned boiled animal parts, including liver and stuffed intestines.
The usually vegetarian Filipz certified that this was one of the best meals he had ever had. The pure taste of the fresh organic meat was so good it did not need seasoning. In fact the skinned carcass laid in a corner of the ger, and parts were simply cut off as the meals were prepared. Usually a sheep (never lamb) could feed the family for up to 10 days like this.
This morning the men of the family had joined, and so had the english speaking cousin Odku from UB.
We assaulted him with questions about the nomadic lifestyle and winter survival. The roughness of their winters impressed the Pilgrims. During -30 C days with half meter of snow, the men would be out all day digging, exposing the grass for their animals. The following morning was spent discovering various aspects of their daily life, including a hike to the nearby mountains. Toast took the gamble to place his phone in a holed pocket, and sure enough it was gone along with his worldwide sim, at their return to the gers..
We were then invited for lunch with relatives in the nearby village of Otgon.
Here we could observe the meal preparation process from start to finish. Surprisingly, even the pasta/noodles were made from scratch. Flour and water were mixed and skilledly rolled out paper thin on a wide plank on one of the beds. The sleeping baby had been pushed to the side and was bouncing up and down as the dough was rolled out.
Finally it was cut up in thin stripes and fried with more meat. Filipz again certified that the meal was one of his best, and we were then off to a chilling session by the river.
Of course the Gina and Traktorius also wanted their share of fun, so we took them for a quick swim, before the surprised eyes of the Odku and his cousin.
The evening was also spent in their ger, and the pilgrims excitedly accepted a game of schess when the man of the family took out the playing board. He had apparently just failed his wife’s manual breathalyzer test, and had been the crazy play center of the kids all evening. Together, the Pilgrims, the finest brains of Lund, the Young Scooter braintrust, the mechanical supergeniuses, took on the intoxicated shepherd for a mind boggling game that would last throughout the night. The pilgrims discussed moves, thought hard, about every move and their opponent’s potential answer. It was an even game, but eventually the shepherd simply outsmarted them, and had them both revaluing how these incredibly facetted and well rounded mongolian people were, and their decision to keep to their ancestors rough traditions and lifestyle.
The following morning it was the elegant wife’s turn to have a go with the Pilgrims. The bottle had probably been hit pretty hard and early, because as the Pilgrims stepped out freshly awakened and standard confused from their tent, they were bombarded with an authoritarian stream of mongol and sparse English words. The only thing they could make out, after half an hour of thus conversation, was that when the word “twenty” was heard, “two” was meant. Still, they were positively impressed that the English language had made it this far out at all.
Goodbyes were made under a wave of goodbye waves. The family had accepted, only after a lot of convincing, a symbolic flask of vodka and some sweeties, for thanks for their immense hospitality. The Pilgrims left their newfound friends having achieved many mutual good moments and memories, all out of a simple decision to stop by. This is the ultimate goal of the pilgrimage. Happiness, to the Pilgrims, comes easily enough, through striking a healthy balance between personal Enduro pursuits, and the Sharing of Culture.
They also sensed the importance and symbolism of one of their largest daily struggles and worktasks in this country of camels and class extremes; the never ending stitching. At least once a day, the needle was taken out. Constantly piecing together their luggage, their sleeping bags or tent. The Pilgrims were like silent observers, looking through the eye of the needle, on the two worlds on either side of it. Hanging out with upper class Kazakhs in 7 series BMW and huge 4x4s, and with countryside farmers or nomads, packing a their whole life on the back of their animals. Unlike in the allegory of ancient wise man, it had not been Materialism against Sharing in this part of the world. The concept of sharing here, and it’s occasional side benefits, is so deeply part of their culture, even the super rich, would hang out for hours helping Toast clean his oil or water filled airbox and helping provide special various tools. It’s all more of a matter of Materialism against Simplicity. Heaven is already here. It’s name is Summer surrounded by friends.