Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Most Bromantical Weekend ...

Bros and some heavy machinery

It has taken me a few long drives in the country but I think I finally understand the Mongolian countryside weekend. It’s really not about the destination. And it’s really not a girl thing. It’s a guys road trip. A weekend full of “no romance, BROmance.” Think Winnebago to an away football game in college – now take away the Winnebago, and the freeway, actually, take away paved roads and toilet facilities while you are at it, now you have a Mongolian countryside weekend

It always starts in a pretty benign way – we pile into a Land Cruiser and a Russian van (Note to self: ALWAYS take the Land Cruiser) and we head off into the open spaces that are the Mongolian steppe. We bump along with bright blue skies, gazelles running out of our way, silly looking birds, gorgeous wild horses, a camel or two, some sheep, some yak, some cattle … it’s all good for the first few hours. And then it becomes all boy. Full of beer, vodka, loud singing of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – all while bumping along in a shock-less Russian van that smells like gas fumes. A most Bromantical adventure indeed.

As the only two girls on this weekend of Bromance, JQ and I had some memorable bonding moments. While we stopped often for the boys to pee, the wind was so bad that us girls couldn’t even employ the ‘jacket as butt flap’ trick I had learned the previous year. Thankfully, our kind hosts stopped at some toilet facilities that JQ and I preferred to call “el bano.” We referred to our time standing on wooden boards perched over open pits of raw sewage as “our slumdog millionaire moments” … and note the plural.

I jest a bit – the weekend had some truly incredible moments … we visited an impressive war monument and museum commemorating a WWII victory by the joint Mongolian and Russian troops over the Japanese. Both a ground and air battle were won over this easternmost outpost of Mongolia.

We went fishing in a river that is known for famous taimen (apparently large, rare fish …) and watched the boys get all bromantical over firing an AK-47 at a distant target (none of them hit it fyi … “too windy”). We slept at the local hospital – 9 to a room in hospital beds – the nurses tucked some of us in when we woke up disoriented to the raucous cacophony of snoring in the middle of the night. We visited a hillside Buddha – beautiful in its decay – and powerful in its setting.

Further dusty travel led us into the middle of some Sunday horse racing and gambling, a fish lunch at a local ger, and the most magical of stops for me at the third biggest lake in Mongolia. 90% Mongolian, 10% Chinese this massive body of water looked for all the world like the ocean. It was cold and sandy and there were some of the biggest clam shells I have ever seen washed up on the shore. On the overlooking bluff we found another Buddha.

All along these adventures, the boys back slapped and he-hawed and tried to outdo each other with their silly antics, silly jokes and vodka shots. There were moments of bromantical bonding over mutton, guns, beers, fishing, horses, driving the land cruiser and wading in the water.

The ride home almost killed me. It was a 7 hour rollercoaster ride that took its toll on my kidneys, and my brain.  Breathing gas fumes and holding onto my backseat for dear life I arrived back at the hotel feeling like I had been in a brawl. It was a good weekend, it was a boys weekend, and I was lucky to be a girl along for the most raucous, bromantical ride. 

War Monument

My view from the backseat of the Russian Van

Sunset at our prettiest "bano"

War Museum
Hillside Buddha

Hillside Buddha

Horse Racing

Mongolian Camel

My Mongolian Ocean Moment

Lakeside Buddha

Oyunbold, Mike, Harold ... "Yea BROmance!!!"