originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 19:07
After our trying day enroute to HS13, getting a ride to the next horse station seemed like kind of an intermission in some ghastly long-drawn out movie from hell. Little did we know that the ride itself would be one of the main acts, and considering the day we had just had, I had no idea it could get any more interesting.
There were 7 of us passengers split into two groups – Anne, Erik, Aimee and myself in one vehicle with a Mongolian driver; Lucy, Jess and George in the other vehicle (Ivo had disappeared further up the trail, as he was also filming a documentary of the race and needed to catch his film crew.) Off we went, fording a seriously flooding river, stopping briefly in a soum for junk food (chocolate and Coke figured highly in this scenario) then across the steppe, zigzagging down the trails that pass for roads in those parts.
Unenburen negotiates with our guide
Who needs bridges?
Stop number one occurred at a ger camp, where our driver, apparently related to half of the countryside and on good terms with the other half, picked up a one litre bottle of what I thought at first was water…and one coffee cup. Stop number two produced a bowl of dumplings and some dried cheese and curd. Stop number three was a full-out put-it-in-park, gonna-be-here-awhile kind of affair; the driver cracked the bottle and filled the coffee cup. “Mongol vodka!!” he shouted, and insisted we all drink before resuming our journey. Later on we discovered the substance we were all sharing was in fact “arkhi”, distilled airag, the more potent, clear liquid form of the fermented mare’s milk.
Check out this link for the Mongol Vodka episode, starring Aimee, Erik, Anne and Yours Truly:
And drink we did – what else could we do? We were at his mercy. Bottle partially gone, off we went again, stopping occasionally when he would spot a friend or relative at work herding his animals. “Mongol vodka!!” and the cup would continue to make its rounds.
One of our driver's Mongol Vodka buddies
And on it went, until the bottle was empty. The driver rolled down the window and threw it away, as we were beetling down the “road” at a decent clip. “He just threw out that bottle!” Anne exclaimed. “I know,” I said, “Didn’t you notice all those vodka and beer bottles alongside of the trails we have been riding?” I asked. It seemed that recycle fever hadn’t hit this part of the world just yet.
Mongol vodka all gone, we ended the journey at HS15 after a rousing sing-a-long to the driver’s favourite song, which he played over…and over…and over…We were down a teammate, we may have just been disqualified, but by golly, we had just had the most trying yet interesting day of our lives.
Check out this link for our new favourite song - Sing-a-long everybody!! And yes it sounded that bad in real life - maybe even worse: