Mongolia is a huge country dominated by the great Gobi desert and vast steppes as far as the eye can see with a tiny population of 3 million. Hence, humans, food and water are all rarities. Our cycle across this country and the Gobi section of China = ten plus punctures, 35 days cycling, two hospital visits with severe vomiting, diarrhoea, heat stroke and loss of vision and Grinham’s legs officially dying.
Our crossing of Mongolia was portrayed by hardship, drunks and extreme acts of kindness. Stolen from blood diamond (TIA – This is Africa) the quote TIM – This is Mongolia became a regular saying for anything that went wrong or was just bloody difficult.
My diary reflects Mongolia – “It is hard to believe how anything can survive here, everything is barren and dry. There are sandstorms, no water and we only see the odd Ger a day”.
Our lives became dominated by the daily struggle to find water. Our main sources came from waving any car that was passing and having our daily Ger visit. For the first time on a expedition we had to rely on muddy stagnant puddle water for our water. Purifying it involved straining it through a t-shirt, boiling it then adding a double dose of chlorine tablets so even though you were drinking swimming water you new it was as clean as it could be.
Then there is Mongolia’s alcoholic problem each time we would enter areas of habitation they would be stained by the village drunk begging you for money to buy vodka. While Grinham in his fluffy manner would stay patient, I would struggle to contain my anger.
We had rain and sand storms, chafing, were called off by Mongolia search and rescue as the road was washed away at multiple stages and were flooded out of a storm shelter we were using for shelter being forced to contend with the elements once again.
However, stories of hardship though are a bit boring and mainstream so as a Bristol student I will a bit alternative and will save them for the likes of Bear Grylls. The real story of our crossing of Mongolia and the Gobi section of China is about kindness, hospitality and a bond between expedition partners.
Mongolia was marked by the extreme kindness of the nomadic people who without their help it is safe to say I would not be here writing this blog. Everyday we would head into any Ger we could find and on each visit were met with hot fermented tea, food and crucially a refuel of water.
People were always giving, Russians gave us food and beer commenting on how mad we were. The girls being genuinely worried for us much to Mr Grinhams delight. A German gave us food and advice, joking the only reason the nomads were so kind to us was because they thought we were crazy and did not want to piss us off. A chinese doctor gave us weird treatment that did far more harm than good but he meant well.
Therefore, in summary – “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
A quote from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley resinates with the Way of Genghis Khan in a uncanny manner. I would like to thank Mr Grinham for having the tenacity to sign up for such an adventure with limited previous experience. Despite serious leg, hand and back pain plus the scary experience of health defaults he kept with it. I am sure he will have his own story to tell on this blog soon enough. To him I would like to say a sincere thank you.
Pictures will be on soon.