The Opening Ceremonies were a blast, the Games are underway, and China is currently leading in gold medals. All is as it should be on the sports front.
But that has very little to do with me.
The day before the Olympics started, I was still in Mongolia.
My trip, condensed, was like this:
Train from Beijing to Mongolian border-town: befriended a pair of clueless but adorable French guys beginning their first-ever adventure in Asia.
Train from Mongolian shanty-town to Ulan Baatar: befriended a hip Korean backpacker, and together with the French formed a team of four.
Ulan Baatar: an ugly post-Soviet city with a sickly sweet gloss of international tourism; that is, lots of car mechanics and Genghis Khan t-shirts, a strip of crappy Euro-trash restaurants and surrounded on all sides by acres of run-down yurt barrios.
UB to Lake Khovsgol: on the 20+ hour minibus trip over dirt horse-roads, we got caught in the smack center of a lightening storm. The roads turned to muck and we had to wait it out overnight, playing Chinese chess till the electricity cut out and sleeping on the floor of a little canteen.
Lake Khovsgol: the - b e a u t i f u l - alpine heaven lake perched at the northernmost tip of the country. In terms geographic de naturale, more similar to Siberia (and Russia's Lake Baikal) than to the grasslands of Mongolia.
Horse-riding: two days bumping up and down on a horse. I named my horse 巧克力 ("chocolate"), and we had a fairly good relationship, but he was a little rough on my bottom. Originally I wanted to spend a good week in Mongolia learning to ride horses, but after two days my balls were squashed and my asshole was burning and it dawned on me that horse-riding is absolutely inferior to hiking in all ways but two (that is, riding has a slight speed advantage, and you don't have to carry all your stuff on your back).
Hiking: ahhh, much better. My team of four set out on a 3 day-2 night hiking-camping adventure, summiting peaks, camping in secluded valleys, drinking nothing but fresh spring water, eating nothing but bread, jam, Snickers, and spaghetti, and generally enjoying long days of exercise and long nights of campfires and stars. Hit the fuckin' spot.
Back to UB: really, the roads in Mongolia are atrocious. We had all the "classic" road experiences, including one time when we got a flat, and the car had no jack, so all the guys had to get out and physically lift up the minibus while the driver swapped in the spare tire; and another time when-- after a 24 hour journey-- we ran out of gas 4km from our destination and had to get out and push the bus to the nearest downhill slope.
Last Hurrah: After splitting from the French homies, the Korean kid and I went out to the burbs of UB for a last night of camping. We found a sweet spot by a river, set up tent, and hiked up to the mountains to watch the sunset. It was dark when we got down, and we couldn't seem to find our tent. Searching, searching... close to midnight and we just give up, and luckily find a bunch of Mongolians camping that are kind to us, give us tea and fire and bread and a place to sleep. The next morning we find our campsite, but the tent and sleeping bags (and my friend's journal and camera card) have all been stolen. My buddy hitches back to UB to fly empty handed home to Korea, and I (with two days to kill) decide to walk back to the capital on foot.
Photography: amazing. I'm a dope fucking photographer. I was given a fly new DSLR before I left, and put it to good use... enjoy the gargantuan display of beauty and talent below.
Now: Back in Dalian, chillin. On Monday I go to Heilongjiang to see Chernobyl, and hopefully a week after that we head together down to Beijing.
For some reason, my blog has been inaccessible recently; I don't know why, and I don't know what to do about it, but this is the first time in a week I've been able to log. Hopefully it'll be better and there'll be more of this good shit to come, but who knows??
Until next time, still chasin' skirts and yurts,