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But Where Has the Tent Gone??

CHINA | Friday, 4 July 2008 | Views [1277] | Comments [5]

How many adventures can three girls have in two days?? Quite a few it seems!  Just off the top of my head, we rode camels across the Tenger Desert, went sledding on the sand dunes, had one of our tents blow away in the wind (!), and celebrated 4th of July with s’mores and firecrackers!  It would be just my (good) luck that this trip got rerouted from the Tibetan grasslands area, so instead we went on this camel trek in the desert :-) Straight off an overnight train, my two passengers, Olivia and Katie, and I set off with our local guide, Lionel (as in Ritchie…) and the camel driver, Lao Lu. Of course we named our camels, hehehe, so in the photos you can meet, Samuel, Oscar, Curious George, Ginger, and my Abu :-D  Oscar was Katie’s camel, and a more unfortunate animal you have never seen… that poor camel looked like it’d been beaten with an ugly stick every day of its life until it gained a permanently doofy and unattractive sneer , WOW. I thought Abu was cute, but in general camels are cuter in cartoons than in real life, hehe. They look a bit like ostriches, strangely, with massive craniums, bulgy eyes, and wild hair. Their feet are big and squishy and black and looked almost like they’d stepped in four cow turds and were carrying them with them! LOL! Bear in mind, I really enjoyed riding the camels, but they were so funny. Besides, we weren’t exactly fashion plates ourselves; in our attempts to keep covered up from the desert sun we wound up with a hilarious mismatch of shirts and pants and scarves and hats, goodness. The desert was beautiful, Tenger means “big like the sky” in Mongolian ~ everywhere we went were picturesque scenes of rippling sand and smooth dunes. We spent two hours riding before lunch and two hours after. I’m a terrible rider, I lean forward when we go down hills and back when we go up, I don’t think I helped poor Abu at all. Four hours bouncing around on camel humps was enough to make us well sore and happy to set up camp. After we pitched the tents we went to find the biggest sand dunes around to sled down! So much fun!

We spent quite a lot of time out among the dunes, then came back to camp to play some card and dice games. We’d been there a while before Lionel suddenly looked up and asked, “Why are there only two tents?”  Sure enough one of our tents (MINE) had blown away in the desert wind! <<Note: the guides mostly set up the tent, just so I don’t get any grief for it not being done properly ;-)>>   Picture this, our campsite is in a depression with three higher dunes on either side, so wherever the tent has gone, it’s gone over a dune and out of sight! We set off in different directions and found it about 5 minutes later, none the worse for its independent explorations :-)  No sooner had we gotten my tent back and secured it, when the tent that the guide and the driver were sharing fell down, LOL. Twice they put it back up before discovering one of the supports had snapped. Olivia (aka MacGuiver) tried a few solutions before suggesting they take the great big shade umbrella we had and open it inside the tent – and it worked! We had so much fun at this campsite!  There was certainly no lack of entertainment, hahaha. It got dark about 8:30 and we made a campfire. Even though it was July 3rd, I told everyone I wanted to celebrate 4th of July, so we lit off firecrackers we’d brought with us, and roasted marshmellows for smores! Even our camel driver loved the smores :-D  It was so great.

Whew, believe it or not there was more to the trip, haha. Besides the usual visits to Shanghai and Xian and Beijing, we also went to Shaolin, where there is the most famous kung fu temple and training center in the world. Of course we did a kung fu lesson while we were there – and nearly DIED, oh my god! I’ve done kung fu before, in Yangshuo, a few times even, but this was like freakin’ kung fu boot camp! The moves themselves weren’t so hard, it was the stretching and calisthenics that nearly killed us. All three of us truly almost cried when the instructors was stretching our legs, but he took no notice, despite this being our first day. Can I just say I did a standing back bend for the first time since I was 11?! GOOD GRACIOUS. And don’t even get me started on the frog hops we had to do across the mats, oy. Not surprisingly we were very very sore for about three days after. The girls recovered just in time to try the bike ride around the Xian city wall (I’ve done it before, thanks), so they were sore again. That wasn’t so bad, but from there we rode the camels = sore bums, and three days later we were in Beijing climbing the Great Wall! I swear I should be so fit by now… oh well :-) 

My two passengers were great, Olivia and Katie Kit, from England. They were so easy to please, it was fantastic. Two days into the trip we took our first train, on the way there Katie goes “I like taxis!” and Olivia goes “I like trains!” and all I could say past laughing was “well everyone’s happy then!” Their only hang-up’s lay in their extreme phobia of bugs, and Liv’s fear of stuffed animals…  yeah.  We each bought about 3 new books in Shanghai and have our own little book trading club; we’ve been playing with daily vocab words (yes, we’re geeks, haha); and we sing songs all the time – pop and Disney, I’m so happy, hahaha. Katie I called ‘Kit-Kat’ and they called me ‘Jammy Dodger’ – apparently it’s a British candy :-)  Katie is second generation Chinese from England, and she speaks Cantonese but not Mandarin. We had a crazy time because every time we went to a restaurant, or anywhere else, the waitresses would speak to her first, then they couldn’t understand why she didn’t  understand them, and they completely ignored me trying to explain what was going on, good gracious. It was a little frustrating for Katie because they kept saying to her “You’re Chinese, why don’t you speak Chinese”, but she does, just not Mandarin. It was a little frustrating for me too because they completely ignored me just because there was a Chinese face among us. But oh well, it was a different experience, and the girls and I have had a great time. Plus we've been totally girly together for two weeks, talking about boys, etc ;-) and good lord they let me go on about Nick, hahaha. We've been shopping, bought shoes, got massages, had girly cocktails and generally a ton of fun!

So I had to say goodbye to my two fun girls, but I'm still excited because in one week I'm going to Mongolia!! :-D  We have an interesting situation right now, normally these trips are lead by leaders from Russia, but they're having trouble getting visas too, so we're splitting the trips. The Russia leader will go with them from St. Petersburg to Ulan Bataar (Mongolia), I'll meet them there and take them to Beijing!  I've got two of these trips scheduled right now, potentially three, and I'm stoked!

Currently Reading: Persuasion and Mansfield Park -- all Jane Austen, all the time :-) 

Tags: camels, girl talk, laughter



AH! I loved Persuasion, good times. So was this a tour still? Sounds AMAZING.

  Carolyn Jul 10, 2008 4:37 AM


You had to say "turds" didn't you...

  Amber Jul 10, 2008 1:36 PM


four cow turds....

Almost snorted soda out m'nose, thnx.


  Crystal Jul 10, 2008 3:41 PM


cards....dice... tents blowing away
I think I understand!!

  Carin Jul 16, 2008 6:23 AM


Ok I take it back, I liked this one the best. The following story wrapping up the Olympics was cool but I think it was because I was on my way and completely consumed by excitement. LOL.... Glad my comments will post now... after our recent conversation. talk to you soon.

  Nick Mollenhauer Oct 21, 2008 5:27 AM

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