Little Yurt On The Prairie

DSC02361yurtcampX.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Monday, August 16, 2004 was originally posted on August 23, 2004.

DAY 303:  I’ve titled this one “Little Yurt On The Prairie,” playing off of the title of the book and 70s television show Little House On The Prairie.  I never read the book, nor do I remember the TV show that well, just that in the introduction, young Laura Ingalls (played by young Melissa Gilbert) trips and falls as she runs down a hill.  I remember being it really funny.

Anyway, if you’ve followed The Blog through my voyage through Siberia, it probably didn’t come to any surprise that once I got to Ulan Baatar, Mongolia, it too was not a deserted city in the middle of nowhere.  To me, unless a city has a good vibe — like New York, Paris, Berlin — it is pretty generic.  As pleasant as Ulan Baatar was — particularly my host family—it was just another modern industrial city after seeing its cultural sights and museums, and so for my last three full days in Mongolia, I decided to spend it in Mongolia’s countryside.

While three days didn’t allot me enough time for a full comprehensive look at the different ecosystems of Mongolia — including the vast Gobi Desert with its indigenous two-humped camels — it was enough time to see the steppe to the northeast of Ulan Baatar.  Most of the steppe is preserved in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, an open valley nestled between huge boulder mountains, perfect for rock climbing enthusiasts (although rock climbing culture hasn’t really hit Mongolia).

Tatiana of her local Legend Tours picked me up at Vera and Gotov’s apartment.  From there we drove the hour out, on a road in desperate need of a truckload of pothole filler.  Once through the entry gate we crossed the Tuul River and drove down the valley road to the Tarim Wellness Center, which sounds like a fancy spa, but was just a tourist camp in a small valley between big boulder mountains with about a dozen yurts (known locally as gers, picture above), a big house for toilets and showers and a big mess yurt for food, drinks and karaoke — for those rare occasions you might want to bust out and sing Men at Work’s “Land Down Under.” 

Before dropping me off, Tatiana took me out of the way and father down the road to the site most tour vans and buses go, Turtle Rock, a naturally formed massive rock that looks like a big turtle climbing over the hill.


“I’M HIGHER!” I heard a voice call out from above from one of the big mountainous boulders flanking the camp.  It was an American from Chicago calling out to two Australian girls who were on another boulder — a slightly lower one.  I climbed up to meet them — down below on the other side was a Mongolian camp blasting Dr. Dre and Eminem — and learned that they were three of a party of ten travelers doing a backpacker package tour from Australian-based Sundowners Tours, this one a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway from St. Petersburg to Beijing.  Since the party of ten (which included Americans, Aussies and Irish) was a pre-established group, they sat a table for ten set up for them by the camp staff.  I was the only one in a party of one and sat at a table set just for me.

The Party of Ten went off with their tour leader to Turtle Rock, leaving me to my own devices.  I decided to go for a hike, passed the main gate, a random basketball hoop and some dogs herding cattle, and through the valley to the Tuul River that we drove by on the way in — perhaps 10 km. away.  Before I was even a quarter of the way there, I noticed a storm brewing ahead.  I could see rain falling from a dark cloud just over the nearest mountain on the other side of the valley.  Thunder rumbled and bolts of lightning cut through the gray sky. 

I stood there for a while, playing boy scout trying to figure out which direction the storm was headed and assessed it’d move away from my path — but as soon as I continued my hike, a foreshadowing thunderous boom rumbled from the sky and into my ears.  Up ahead a bolt of lighting came from above — a much thicker one than the ones before I might add — advising me to go back.  They say you have something like a million in one chance of getting struck by lightning, but whoever said that was probably some big shot scientist in a lab coat in the safety of an indoor laboratory, not out in a big open valley in the middle of Mongolia. 

Taking the big bolt of lightning’s advice, I played it safe and headed back to camp.  The winds shifted or something because the storm was chasing me like they do to cartoon characters with bad luck.  I took a short cut on a hill.  The storm caught up just as I was at the camp entrance gate — fortunately with a roof structure to shield me from the rain and hail downpour that lasted all afternoon.  I ran to my yurt — I had one all to myself — and took shelter until the storm passed and took a nap.

The rain stopped in early evening, giving me just about two hours of daylight left to hike up one of the mountains surrounding the camp.  I went alone to be one with nature — I pissed off the cliff — and was rewarded with a view

A table for one was set up for me at dinner in the mess yurt, but Parker, one of the Party of Ten invited me over seeing I was all alone.  Parker and his wife, two young Americans, were also on a RTW trip, having hit most of the spots I had at different times.  They too had a travel blog set up, one Parker crudely set up himself since he told me he opted not to do one with BootsnAll (the host of this blog), thinking that most commenters would probably just scorn them for their traveling habits (i.e. playing Tetris on their Game Boys in Red Square, spending hours each week to download the latest episode of The Sopranos on bit torrent and the like).

“I think this is the first time on this trip that the Americans have outnumbered everyone else,” one young guy from Tennessee said. 

“Is that why you called me over?”

“Exactly,” he joked. 

Dinner was a lot more sociable than my lonely lunch.  The guy from Chicago and the guy from Tennessee (I never got their names) challenged the Aussie girls to sing “Land Down Under” on the karaoke machine — hence, the karaoke machine’s purpose of being there — and they were inadvertently challenged to sing “Summer Days” from the Grease soundtrack.  The singing never happened though, leaving the karaoke machine to do nothing — until the Korean tour group came the following day. 

I’m not sure how any of this relates to Little House On The Prairie, although I’m sure if the Ingalls relocated to Mongolia, little Laura would probably fall and bust her ass there too.






Next entry: Wild Wild East

Previous entry: The Return of Ghenghis Khan




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Comments for “Little Yurt On The Prairie”

  • 1st ! hahaha ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  07:26 PM


  • Good title!  I used to watch that showas a kid.  I could see Laura Ingalls tripping down that hill.  Or “Pa” driving a stagecoach through that valley.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  07:37 PM


  • STEPHANIE:  WOW!  Thanks for the donation!  You’re on the new postcard mailing list!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  07:40 PM


  • MORE TO COME…  Stay tuned!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  07:41 PM


  • michael langdon in mongolia?

    haha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  07:47 PM


  • I loved LHOTP.  That was such a good show when I was 6.  I used to watch that every week - and if I was good I got to watch The Love Boat.  LOL

    Posted by Liz  on  08/22  at  08:25 PM


  • Beautiful pics!  So colorful.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  08:35 PM


  • Love the pic of Turtle Rock.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  09:25 PM


  • Reading your blog has me bristling with jealousy and itching to get back on the road.  I’m really enjoying reading your blog.

    Posted by Kelly  on  08/22  at  11:37 PM


  • Erik, did you get to do some horseback riding there?!?  Once again, great pics! and story…unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the show, lol…

    Kelly: dido

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  03:03 AM


  • Mongolia?  Holy crap I missed a lot.  Just catching up on the past blogs and wanted to drop you a “whatup”.  Sweet yurts, btw.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  03:30 AM


  • What strange rocks & mountains!  I wonder what happened to the trees..they all look pretty bad or dead.  I want a yurt for Xmas!  They are really cool…...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  04:45 AM


  • What strange rocks & mountains!  I wonder what happened to the trees..they all look pretty bad or dead.  I want a yurt for Xmas!  They are really cool…...

    Liz:  You got to watch all your shows…you were such a good girl!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  04:46 AM


  • Erik - are the trees recovering from a fire?

    Very awesome rocks… they look like they’re from (partially, at least) Galaxy Quest!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  09:28 AM


  • KELLY:  Hello there and welcome!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  12:13 PM


  • TIM:  “What up” right back at you…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  12:15 PM


  • NOELLE:  Don’t know about the fire… but it’s possible…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  12:19 PM


  • HARRY:  Question to be answered in next entry… (that would be a yes)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  12:20 PM


  • I’ve been lurking and reading….still have lots to do…just wanted to say “hi”, Erik you have made my very boring job quite interesting these past few weeks…..

    I have room for at least 5 Yurts in my backyard….just wondering about the logistics of having them shipped to Canada! LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  05:02 PM


  • Doesn’t it look like the type of place where they’d serve yak milk at breakfast? Or am I just crazy?!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  05:56 PM


  • TDOT - did you get my e-mail questions about Thailand?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  06:37 PM


  • LISA:  Hello there… another Canadian, eh?  Welcome!  I’m sure you can find a place that will ship a yurt over…  anything and everything’s on the internet these days…  try http://www.gomongolia.com

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  08:02 PM


  • TDOT:  Actually, horse milk is in fashion in Mongolia…  I was never offered it though, so I hadn’t tried…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  08:03 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Wild Wild East

Previous entry:
The Return of Ghenghis Khan




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

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Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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