My dad’s travel journal part 6

by sumpteretc

Just communicated with Chris via yahoo messenger (9/18/10…7:45 PM)…he said that it wasn’t one million cattle that died last winter…it was between 7 and 8 million. I also found out that the name of the girl who took us to the Ikh Tamir church was
Gantuya. You may not want to know that later, but it will be important to me. Thus, I’m inserting it here in my notes).
Monday, August 23, 2010:
Bad morning! Woke up at 6:30 AM a bad headache. None of them are good, but when I get a bad one…it really is! Took some pain pills and headed for the shower. Got back and found Carol expressing her thankfulness for the better accommodations. We look out our window and see 4 gers, the nightclub, a mountain with a temple on its side, another hotel that looks good, but has a reputation for quickly deteriorating, and a cat trying to pounce on a bird. At 8:00 AM, we head downstairs for some food. One of us got American pancakes, but since they ran out of butter, the rest of us will be served crepes. Normally there is butter and jelly for the pancakes…seldom is there syrup. We also have hot tea and coffee. I decide to top the meal off with a cinnamon roll that I have been eyeing, in the bakery case. It cost 900 tugrik…about 63 cents, if I’m not mistaken. Elijah cleared our table…took all of the dishes over to the cashier’s counter. I paid him 50 tugrik for his efforts. The lady at the counter gave him and Joel heart-shaped gingerbread cookies. We were back in our rooms by 9 o’clock. Soon we set out for a morning walk. It was sunny and nice. We walked up a hill to the Tsetserleg Historical Museum. It is said to be one of the better ones in the country. It is very ancient…we actually watched some of the woodcarvings falling off the building…very sad! They don’t seem to understand the need to preserve this stuff the way our curators do. Inside the buildings, there were lots of historical paintings, artifacts, games, etc…..even a model of a ger…and the way it was carried on a cart when disassembled. We toured 2 buildings and learned a lot. Next, we walked through some ruins of a building next to the museum…and older part of the city. Again, it was an ugly, trashy mess. After that, we headed up the side of a mountain. Elijah, Chris, and I went up a jillion steps…all the way to the Buddha statue…and an old unused temple. People were climbing up there to worship. We saw one very elderly lady who had made the trip. Others would burn incense, touch the blue scraps of cloth, turn the prayer wheels. Pigeons had no such loyalty. They would sit on Buddha’s head and defecate. After descending back down to the village, we went into a department store,…small, but crammed with stuff. We bought tissues, powdered milk, etc. When we got back to the hotel, the owner of the Fairfield Inn had returned from a journey. We talked with him about his history, his labors, etc. He is British, has been in Mongolia for 14 years. He had pastored initially, but moved to the hotel as his means of ministry during the recent years. It seemed that he felt that his time in Mongolia was nearing an end. One wonders who will take up the task that he will be abandoning. Hopefully, he has been able to leave a trail of trained local Christians to continue spreading the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was now lunchtime, so we headed back downstairs. I don’t remember what Carol had this time, but I ordered roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I didn’t know what it was, but eating in a British-run hotel…it seemed appropriate. I think, now, that the pudding is gravy. At around 1:30 PM, we loaded into the micro and drove to the tire shop. We had finally looked at our spare tire and discovered that it was flat. Unbeknown to us, it didn’t hold air, so we would have been in a fix had we needed it later. I think the charge for airing it up was around 50-60 cents. On the driveway out front of the shop was the welding apparatus. The cable’s insulation was broken in many places and the wire was showing through. Certainly wouldn’t have passed an OSHA inspection in the U.S., but it was doing its job there. It had been taped several times, so maybe they were trying to be safe. We had asked several people about a hot springs that was advertised as being one of the better attractions in the area. We learned that it was a nice destination, but were warned twice about “the bridge”. It was on our route, and supposedly was broken up, missing flooring pieces, etc. It would require careful watching, driving near the edge, etc. but if careful, we’d survive the crossing. Base upon that report…we were somewhat apprehensive, though none of us admitted it aloud. We left town on the right road…of that we were fairly sure. It was terribly rough and dusty…as usual. Then, it began to split. Fortunately, a GPS and good guessing kept us on track…for a while. At one point, we wondered which road to take…and made an incorrect choice. We ended up miles out in the pasturelands, off the road, and basically kind of lost. Chris decided to return to the earlier junction and try the other route. He finally stopped at a ger, asked for further directions,…and found that we were on the right track. Soon we were going up the side of a mountain and our car was overheating. Deep ruts threatened to turn us over. At one point, we had to cross a river. Tiff got out and waded into it to test the bottom, find out how deep it was, and determine the best route. The bridge that we dreaded was in very bad shape, but not nearly the threat that we had envisioned. It had side-rails and the river below was very shallow. Had we gone over the edge, it wouldn’t have been fun, but the drop was not dramatic. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing it. Chris did have to do some fancy dodging to get across, but made it okay. It was around 3:30 PM and many, many kilometers later when we arrived at the Duut Resort. We were directed to the shower/changing rooms and then back out to the pools. They were rock-lined and filled with hot water. They sat at the base of a mountain. We soaked, relaxed, swam, and luxuriated in this heavenly place. Birds soared overhead. It was so peaceful! There were actually two pools, side by side, with a lattice fence between. Women swam in the smaller pool. We shared the pools with people from more than one European country, but our only conversation was with a man from Germany. Around 5:30, we left the resort to head home. There was some concern now because it appeared that a storm was moving in. If it did, we might be in real trouble on our return trip across the miles of dirt paths. On our way to the micro, we greeted the German and his wife at their tourist ger and they invited us to look inside. It was pretty neat. There was a vinyl floor, 3 beds, stove, etc. Our trip back to town was quicker and less tense. Chris still worried about the vehicle turning over on the slopes, and we stopped once to see if we could see what was making clunking sounds….didn’t find a problem. Once we had a few miles behind us, Chris suggested to Elijah that he’d be willing to hide a geo-cache if others didn’t feel that it was a bad idea. Tiffany rose to the bait, and made his day. Actually, she knew how much he wanted to do this. I was always ready for a mountain climb, so we jumped out, promising to be back quickly. Soon, the micro was just a small thing off in the distance. Elijah had come along and he and I found more animal bones. In defense of Chris, he really did try to place the cache quickly and head back to the car. I put an American dollar bill in the cache. The ladies had gotten out to stretch their legs. We were a bit concerned about finding food upon our return, as our hotel restaurant would no longer be serving. In Tsetserleg, we stopped at a restaurant across from the govt. building. This one wasn’t exceptionally nice, but not terrible. There were white chargers on every table, so we actually ate kinda fancy. Carol had a stroganoff dish, with meat, potatoes, carrots, rice, cabbage, etc. I had something that Tiff had suggested. It was noodles, beef, etc…a huge, mounded plate of food. More than anything, I was happy to get a drink. It was easy to get dehydrated here. I drank a juice that was made from white grapes and aloe. Pretty tasty! Carol had a drink with orange, peach, and other juices. We bought an extra bottle to take with us. At some point in our day, we had stopped for fuel and a boy came to our window trying to sell us some berries. At the restaurant, another boy came up to us with his hand out…potentially begging for any money that we might give him. We ignored his requests, not knowing whether or not he was truly needy. Minutes later, we were back at our hotel….worn out!
The clientele had changed. Rather than European backpackers, there seemed to be a number of Hispanics. A team of World Vision workers would be there that week, but we were unsure if this was them…or just some other guests. While Carol began cleaning up, I took our “hot pot” down to the front desk. It was a nightly ritual for them to provide us with water for tea or coffee. I had also made a trip to see Chris, in order to catch up again on the money he had spent on our behalf. I think, counting hotel, fees, food, fuel, tolls, etc….that maybe I have spent nearly 300,000 tugrik so far. That would maybe amount to around $210. Later in the vacation, I would attempt to offset some of their family’s personal costs too, since they were taking a vacation because of us. Well, at 9:15 PM, it is time to start thinking about recharging our personal batteries. What a day! This country is so immense, so beautiful, yet full of trash, dirt, and ugliness. The Gospel flame has been lighted, but struggles to spread among the great spiritual darkness. Everything here is rundown and shabby. The Communists left these people with little sense of personal responsibility…and yet…they are a wonderful people. Buddhism and Shamanism have helped them not a bit….the emptiness remains. May God bless Mongolia!