The sleep I had last night was much better than the previous thanks to having the stove inside the ger lit as we went to bed and again in the morning. I also had one of the strangest dreams last night; in it I was talking with Matt Damon trying to explain why I didn’t care much for ‘The Monuments Men’ (not that it was a terrible movie, it just wasn’t great), but he would have none of it. Then Penelope Cruz entered the room and both her and Matt took their shirts off to reveal theirs and most of Hollywood’s secret. On their chests were demonic patterns cut into their skin, still bloodied from having recently been carved. Then they started to recite satanic chants and at this point in the dream, I was no longer a participant; the dream became a film I was watching and my part was taken over by Jason Lee. As the ceremony continued, Matt began to explain to Jason that most of the actors, producers, and directors in Hollywood belong to a satanic cult that is headed by Matthew McConaughey. The film then cut ahead to the next scene where Jason was running away from the room with Matt and Penelope. He was scared and running for his life in a dark alley, though already cursed by Matt and Penelope. This is when I woke up, so I never got to watch Jason track Matthew down to kill him and destroy the cult. I think it would make a great movie.
So, after that bizarre dream, I got ready for a big day of fishing and exploring the east coast of Lake Khuvsgul. The Turk, the French couple, and I ate breakfast (eggs, bread, jam, and sausage – cooked this time) and waited outside for our driver to come at 10:00. While we waited we played with the little girl of about two whose parents help run the guesthouse. Then our driver finally arrived a half hour later and the four of us were off in a minivan. I had the misfortune of sitting in the back of this van on the very rugged dirt roads and getting to experience the full effect of each bump.
We traveled for about two hours through this beautiful “Big Sky” country, past grazing herds of yaks, cows, sheep, and goats; following the river that we would fish at in the valley, before veering off to visit a nomadic family (during this travel the van broke down and the driver had to get underneath to fix it). I’m not sure if all these trips to nomadic gers are planned in advance or done at the spur of the moment, or if the driver each time even knows the family we’re visiting – this is where a translator would be useful, since this guide as well had limited English capabilities. The family displayed a generous hospitality just like all the other nomadic family’s I encountered in Mongolia. They invited us inside their ger and gave us some yogurt made from goat milk (right outside was a wooden shelter and pen full of little goats); the yogurt wasn’t as delicious as yak milk yogurt, but good nonetheless.
After resting and enjoying the terrific view of the valley at the family’s ger – and after the driver finished working on his van some more – we headed back down the dirt road. We then drove through the forest and soon the woods cleared and we could see Khatgal in the distance . . . we then realized fish may not be on the menu today. The Turk tried to ask the driver why we had not stopped to fish, which, after all, was the whole point of this long and bumpy van ride, and the whole reason why we were paying him to take us. The driver, however, used the language barrier to shield him from having to perform the services he was being paid for.
So, we soon returned to the guesthouse and entered the dining area to wait for the owner’s brother to ask “what the fuck?” The owner’s brother came in and after conversing with the driver, he explained that a park ranger had told the driver a net was placed upstream from where we were going to go, to help protect the fish; instead of driving us to where we could fish, the driver decided to just return. Since we were unsatisfied and reluctant to pay for a trip none of us wanted, the driver decided to take us up the west side of the lake to a nearby peninsula where we drank some beer and listened to the symphony of ice cracking and crashing in to each other. The driver then drove us up to the hill just north of the town, where there is another conical structure made from logs and with many ribbons attached to it, placed there by the Shamanistic people. We then returned to the guesthouse and paid the driver; we also found out he would be our driver tomorrow for when we visit the reindeer herdsmen.
Then the Turk, French couple, and I went to nearby cafe for dinner where we had some more beer and a beef and noodle meal. We also found out the manager and cook of the restaurant was celebrating her birthday today. The topic of discussion during dinner was the future of Mongolia’s tourism industry and how progress is diminishing the cultural aspect worth visiting in Mongolia, as well as other countries. After dinner, we went on a late evening stroll around the town just as a Mongolian dust storm was rolling through. Then, since it was getting colder, we headed back to the guesthouse, buying a bottle of Mongolian wine to drink back in the dining area. The wine tasted like a sweet cherry juice with a hint of apple and a very minor taste of alcohol, which came more as an aftertaste – it was terrible.
Back at the guesthouse there was now another French couple and a Belgian staying there. It was then decided we would all go out to have some drinks. We loaded up into a van and headed back to the cafe where we ate dinner – it was just past 23:00. We drank more beer there and discussed a variety of topics, before heading back to the guesthouse and going to sleep sometime after 01:30. We also learned that the Mongolian “cheers” is pronounced “oct-toi”. We repeated this many times throughout the night.