We spent a very long time travelling and passing the time reading as we left Gobi desert territory on our way into Western Mongolia. I finished Wild Swans, an epic book I had been desperately trying to finish before arriving in China, where it is banned. It is an extraordinary, moving true story spanning three generations of Chinese women and I feel it has given me a valuable insight into 20th century Chinese history, of which I knew virtually nothing beforehand. Read it if you haven’t already! Every now and then we would stop and kick the ball around for a bit, but the day was pretty arduous and surprisingly tiring given we were sitting down for most of it!
In the afternoon we entered the Orkhon Valley and arrived at our ger camp for the night. There was a large friendly dog to greet us, who liked to flop down outside our door and have his tummy rubbed. Given we had had so much wind in recent days, Luke and Jeff decided it would be a great idea to make a kite and went off in search of wood. Whilst they were foraging, I saw the sun was dipping lower in the sky and spotted a hill I could climb towards the end of the camp from where I could watch the sunset. It was glorious and peaceful; from up there I could see the tiny ger camp below me, cradled in the valley and spot the members of team blue going about their business. (I should mention here that 4 out of the 5 of us had blue coats – Jeff was a renegade and so not in team blue). The hillsides in Mongolia have quite characteristic shapes – a bit like they used to be pointy and sharply ridged, but all the edges got worn off. Just as the sun disappeared below the horizon, Daniel reached my viewing point and we decided to walk along the ridge to the forest at the end of the valley, as we hadn’t seen trees in such a long time! It was still light, but greying by the time we reached the forest. It was quite patchy inside as trees had been cut down for firewood (no dung fires out here!), and in places large trunks were lying on their sides in great contorted shapes. We started to run back along the valley bottom so we would reach the camp before dark fell. Daniel stopped to go to the loo and told me to go on ahead; I imagined he’d catch me up pretty quickly as he had been virtuously going out for runs every morning, but I reached camp without him. Jokingly, I said to the others that I hoped he hadn’t sprained his ankle. About twenty minutes later, he hobbled in, having done just that! Luckily, after a mysterious ointment that Sally had acquired in China and an ankle support bandage, he felt much better come the morning, and even went for another run, the nutter! As for the kite, the wood was collected, but no manufacture had been attempted so far. We all repacked our belongings into smaller bags ready for our horse trek that was due to start the next day and turned in for the night.