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April 19, 2007 03:00 AM

Spring Time in the Gobi Dessert

Snowy GerULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA - I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of something to write here. It's funny 'cause the last 6 days will probably be among the most memorable of this entire trip. I'd never really dreamed of visiting Mongolia, it just sort of ended up along the path toward Europe.

In the last 6-days we drove 50 hours, none of it on anything that even resembled a road, through one of the most remote regions of the world. Effectively we did a giant loop through the most sparsely populated region of the most sparsely populated country on the planet.

We slept in gers (traditional felt yurts), we cooked and warmed ourselves with animal dung to fuel our fires (wood is in short supply), we ate nothing but noodles, mutton, camel, goat and maybe horse and drank milk from every one of those animals. At one point we even got drunk from a special bootleg they called 'Camel Vodka' - some kind of fermented camel milk - while performing an elaborate ritual to honour their hero, and the most famous Mongolian: Chinngis (Ghengis Khan).

We were whipped by sand storms and worried about heat exhaustion one moment, then bogged down in a metre of snow the next. We helped nomads milk their goats, rode camels and refueled in tiny forgotten specks of Soviet civilization littered with rusted out tanks, crumbling buildings and bleached animal skulls. For six days we didn't see another Westerner.

In other news, I survived my first ever attempted mugging last night. It's a classic story of two of us walking home from a pub and choosing a darkened, out-of-the-spotlight alley as a shortcut. Two guys approached us (there were two of us) from behind. I was on to them right away, their initial friendliness was transparent and to make a long story short, there was some threats - 'Give me your money' and 'I kill you, I kill you' type stuff. The main problem with the heist was that they were only pretending to brandish a knife. The lead crook was pretending to stab at us. After some feeble attempts at diplomacy, both parties resorted to grabbing, pushing and pulling until Fredrik (my trusty Swedish sidekick) and I broke free and fled into the main square for the protective hustle and bustle of the city. In the end we were left with some pounding hearts, a heavy dose of adrenalin and some stretched out, mis-shappen t-shirts.

I've just booked a train ticket to Siberia ($32 USD for a Hard-Sleeper, 2-days). Irkutsk to be exact...


jeni said:

One question: How the hell are you ever going to move back to Toronto after seeing, doing, smelling, eating, drinking, etc. all that you have???!!! You shock me Ry. Setting up a tent in the middle of winter in our backyard at 1220 Richmond was NOTHING! I can't even believe we ever thought it was a "dare" and a BIG deal for a dewd like you!
Miss you hunnay!!! Hurry up and get your butt back on our continent. Safely. We miss our Ry Guy. And patio season is just starting up!!! Isn't that enticing enough for you??!

April 19, 2007 10:15 AM
Patrick said:

Hey Ryan,

great to see you're still on the road! I'm checking your site once in a while and I have to say I'm still very much inpressed with everything your doing! Hope I get the money one day to do something similar!! Enjoy the rest of your time in Mongolia!


Patrick (The Netherlands)

April 19, 2007 05:57 PM