Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 65: Mongolia! (Horse Tour Day 2)

Day 65:  Saturday, April 25

This was a seriously contrasted day.  First; the good part.

Woke up around 8 or 9, took my time getting up, just relaxing.  I was going to wear contacts again (something I don't do terribly often), but the heat from the fire all night made the solution evaporate, so I couldn't be sure they were clean yet and thus couldn't wear them (it's the type of contact solution that needs 8 hours it's essentially harmful to your eyes).

Had breakfast (skipped the eggs), filled up our water, and then went for our last real ride.  We went a different direction than before, so that was nice.  Just some great scenery.  My horse (well, pony, but it's easier to say horse) was pretty slow so I was always probably half a mile behind the guide and the host, so it was just relaxing to look around and just enjoy the scenery.

Like this.

I noticed that most of the animals (mostly the cows and horses, as I'm not used to yaks and sheep) seemed pretty under nourished - lots of hips and ribs were visible.  I assume it's because of the sparse grass and the fact that it seems like it's hard for them to get much to eat in winter too.  But definitely made sense to me that it could be a reason why the horse I was riding was so slow and easily exhausted.  I usually don't let horses graze when I'm riding (especially if they stop to do it when I want to go), but I felt sorry for the poor guy so I let him do that - probably another reason I always fell so far behind.

I rode the white one - doesn't he just look over it?
We stopped again to rest the horses and I just laid in the grass and relaxed.  My guide always played some music or sang when we rode and especially when we stopped, so just hearing that and no other sound besides nature was great.  Probably only one road within 4 miles, no signs of civilization besides the occasional wooden house or little ger.  Just wonderful.

When we were close back to the house, they let me try the host's Mongolian saddle.  They kept saying I would find it uncomfortable since Westerner's always do, but darn it I was going to try.  And honestly, it wasn't that bad.  I think it would be have been comfortable but the host was probably a good head shorter than me, and as such the stirrups were SO HIGH.  My knees were at a 25 degree angle just so my feet could be in the stirrups and it was so uncomfortable.  The horse would trot and I'd go a full foot off of the saddle.

Back at the camp, we had lunch (more soup! and a type of salad) before getting ready to leave.  I used the bathroom again before we left, which was literally a hole in the ground with a few planks on either side, and a 3 sided lean to around it to give some privacy.  Well, when I was finishing up my earrings dropped out of my pocket (took them out so they wouldn't fall off during the ride as they didn't have the tightest clasp) and fell in :( So that was the end of my favorite earrings.

We rode horse with the luggage back to the river where the driver met us.  I stayed awake for this drive, and just looked at the scenery.  We pulled off to go to a meditation temple that was a bit out of the way - the tour guide said it would take about 3 hours to go up and back (based on her experience with past tour groups) - it took us a little over an hour :P  It was really beautiful up there - I could definitely see it's appeal as a meditation temple.  My guide taught me some basics for the religion and the temple, so it was really interesting for me (someone who is REALLY interested in religions).

View from the temple itself

View of the main temple from the side temple

Trying to be artsy

We went back and met the driver, and then started the drive back to the city.  We hit some horrendous city traffic on the way - the driver has never taken that road on the weekend and said he never will again.  Since it was still really early in the afternoon we stopped again to do a little hike in the city that was a little monument.  It didn't interest me that much (I actually didn't take any pictures of it...), but I got to see a high view of the city, which was really why I wanted to do the climb.

The tour ended with them dropping me off at the airport at 5:45pm, right when they said the tour would end in the email.  Very punctual!  I had requested them to drop me off there so I wouldn't be running around the city with my backpack and carry-on (especially because the city wasn't that interesting) and I didn't want to find a taxi.  They assured me there were places to eat in the airport, and then left.

Now starts the horrible part of the day.

After connecting to wifi and telling everyone I was alive, it was 6pm.  My flight was at 12:50am.  So, I started to wander around the part of the airport that's before security (which would open at like, 10:30pm).  There was a small small SMALL shop that only accepted cash (I didn't have any left), a coffee shop with no food, and then a coffee shop with like 3 food items.  I bought the most appealing item (kimbap, which I eat in Korea a lot) and it was god awful, room temperature, and I ate half before I felt like vomiting.  I got a hot chocolate, a package of cookies, and a soda and hoped it could tide me over.

I was really tired at this point, so I locked my bags together, grabbed them tight, and tried to sleep in the empty airport on the chairs (my flight was the next one out of the airport).  No luck at all.  I was definitely not in a good mood at this point (8pm, so still 5 hours till my flight).  I ended up laying on the chairs eating cookies, playing DS and trying to not get a headache from just being tired.

This was my setup for far too long
Around 10:30 or so I was finally able to go through security!  Yayy!  Change of scenery!!  Got there and there were more coffeshops WITH THINGS TO EAT!  Though I didn't actually get anything because surprisingly a whole package of Chips Ahoy can make you feel full and a little disgusted with yourself.  Almost fell asleep on the chairs waiting to board, and finally got to board!!

Of COURSE they kept the lights on full light the whole flight so I couldn't sleep at all, so I just watched a movie (The Theory of Everything) to try to keep my mind off of how incredibly tired I was.  Landed in Korea, went through customs and then it was a bit past 4am.  The subway doesn't start running until 5:35 from the airport, and it's 1.5 hours by subway to the station by school, and then like 10-15 min walk from there to the dorm.  So I decided to treat myself and got a taxi instead! Only like $45, which isn't bad for around an hours drive.  Put my stuff down, brushed my teeth, and then passed out.

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