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Only In Mongolia

MONGOLIA | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [959] | Scholarship Entry

It’s true; reindeer love the taste of human piss. It’s a delightful cocktail of salts and nutrients hard to find in the snowy peaks of Northern Mongolia. For them, it’s crack. They’ll do nothing short of sexual assault to get a lick.
I wish I’d known this before their gang begun to lurk ominously nearby my search for privacy.
Twilight and the air is an icy glaze. As all forests maintain that ode of silence so too did this one remain soundless. Yellowness hung on a distant mountain peak, behind the frost-encrusted pines. The only movement the gradual slump of freshly broken snow against my sheep-skin boots, followed by the gentle pitter patter of my predators.
The Snowy Alps of Asia borders Russia and the frozen Lake Khuvsgul. Tepees like giant matchstick formations scatter the mount, smoke whispers above them in a mirage, a movie set. They welcome me with moose-meat dumplings that burst scolding salty juices. Magical glints of light reflect from CDs tied with rope, dangling from branches to attract reception for their Nokia 1400s. They feed me home made vodka and send me tumbling on a giant white reindeer, too proud to have this imposter grace it’s saddle.
And so, this is payback. As I crouch to pull my pants down, they make a dash for it. Alarmed, I jerk upright. They freeze; feign innocence. Clouds of mouth-mist form between us. I run a little and stoop, yet they tread faster. Again, the deadly shoot-out gaze. To hell with it, I think, and make a short sprint into a vulnerable squat. I commit to my call of nature, and they commit to their attack. With no shame, they’re here in an instant, their bristly cow-like nostrils dart beneath me, tongues wagging, nuzzling into the golden pit carved below. My bare bum is exposed and defenceless. I scream and foolishly stumble from their frenzy.
I return unaccompanied. I lift the heavy calico door-flap and sit quietly inside as others chatter loudly, playing cards amidst a pungent smoke of cheap tobacco. I’m still uncertain of what had occurred- my violation. It’s Gumbut, the cross-legged shaman, who looks at me slyly across the tepee. He grins, taking a puff through his toothless gums, wheezing as he breathes, twinkling his eyes.
I’m not sure if it’s the head rush from passive smoke, or a true connection, but I too smile reluctantly across the crowd. I relinquish a laugh. Only in Mongolia, I think, reaching for the communal bowl of liquor and having myself a damn good sip.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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