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Day 3: Binder to birthplace of the GREAT Ghengis Khan
Without exaggeration, last night I had the worst nights sleep in my entire life. The gers all contain stoves. When our stove was on it was sauna-like hot so I went to sleep in short PJs and a tank top. However, in the middle of the night, the furnace went out, dropping the temperature enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. This was freezing in the true sense of the word, as in 0 / 32 degrees. I knew I needed to put more clothes on, but it was too cold to actually move. I flung out an arm and grabbed my thermal top but all that did was knock sharp stalactites of ice onto me. I flailed around for the next nearest item of clothing, which were my jeans, but I was too tired to pull them up so I slept with them around my ankles and nearly tripped and broke my neck getting up in the morning. I also managed to secure a tiny washcloth, which I wrapped around one of my toes. I’d thought the gers would have some super technical way of retaining heat all night, but nope. It didn’t help that in order to run the stove the roof needs to be kept open.
 
Woke in the morning with circular welts on my body from the springs in the bed, and cricks in my neck from a pillow that appeared to be stuffed with sand, but excited about having a meatless breakfast. I mean surely no one has mutton for breakfast. Wait, look, they are bringing us soup. Weird as a breakfast food, but edible.
 
Ah rats. MUTTON soup. Still living vicariously?
 
Today was the day we would finally get to see where Ghengis was born! At least, according to the government and everyone except people that live near the runner-up birthplace. This involved driving another gazillion miles. I found some nuts for protein, which for me these days is the equivalent of gold. I’ve yet to see anything positive about this experience. Rick tells me to make the best of it and promises it will get better once we are on horses. Hahahahaha. This is the best I can make of it. Basically Mongolia is like a giant farm. I grew up on a giant farm and this is less interesting. There is grass grass grass grass and more grass. There are no mountains. For some reason I thought Ghengis was born on a mountain range, because the area was marked green on a map, but now I realize that green means grass, just a special kind of grass (special because Ghengis was born there). No fiords, no cliffs, no ravines, no trees, no nothing, except grass grass grass and the occasional river. There are also no people, which is a plus, but also means that at gas stations you need to sit around for 45 minutes while someone calls someone to open up the pumps. Amazingly, there is cell phone service everywhere.
 
Each time we cross a river we hear its complete life history, usually involving how Ghengis stood here. Because everything looks the same I’m suspicious that it’s the same river each time. Mostly we just charge across in the van, but to cross a wider one we drove up on a pile of logs, otherwise known as the ferry, and two guys manually pulled us across on a really thick wire.
 
We stopped for lunch after that, side stepping the cow dung. Finally there were some bushes to offer an alternative to the long drop for a little wee. I had Rick stand guard on the lookout for ferocious wild sheep when all of a sudden I felt a tiny prick on my bottom (go ahead, say it). Quickly the prick grew to an agonizing pain. I jumped up and down, “Rick, a bee bit my bottom, a bee bit my bottom! Get it out, get it out!”. So now I’m jumping up and down and Rick’s jumping up and down, trying to find the bee until I figure a bee sting wouldn’t hurt this bad or this ubiquitously, and then I realize I hadn’t sat on a bee, but a pile of stinging nettles! Oh the walk of shame back to the car. All I wanted to do was get hold of some wet wipes and have a bit of a pat down, but it wasn’t as easy as you’d think, stuck in the van with the guide, driver, and cook. I had to surreptitiously place my jacket over my waist and stick my hand down the back of my pants, all the while pretending I wasn’t surreptitiously placing my jacket over my waist to put my hand down the back of my pants.
 
Unfortunately this was not the last of vicious assaults on my bottom.
 
At long last we reach the birthplace of Ghengis Khan! This was a slightly bigger pile of rocks covered by slightly more blue scarves (for longevity), white (for purity), yellow (for knowledge), and red (for honesty). I thought I’d have a sense of triumph or victory, but my expectations were low and my expectations were met. Oh well, one down, nine to go.
 
We meet our horses and our horse guide, Tseren-Dash. Chinzo is taken aback at my close to zero riding experience, and we go for a 15 minute walk for practice. We herd cows and I was extremely proud of my well-honed riding prowess, when I hear everyone yelling at me…I’d been herding the wrong group of cows. I name my horse Bambam after the only horse I’ve ridden, my friend Mandy’s, back when I was 5, and Rick named his Sid, because it had a Mohawk (all the horses do). Mongolians do not name their horses, they just use the color the horse is – brown, chestnut brown, white, purple, etc. I don’t know what happens if you have two horses of the same color. I guess it’s like how we don’t name cows. Then a walk around a swampy mosquito lake to see another priceless Ghengis monument, listen to Chinzo ramble on about the great man and Mongolian superiority, more MUTTON for dinner (i.e. no dinner), flush toilets – yay – but toilet block locked so had to climb through window, and then to sleep in another ger.

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