Kazahk culture and their idea of personal space is definitely a lot different than ours. I don’t think that I could cope with the lack of solitude that they have. They also are very giving and want the best for you.
This was our lazy day of the trip. We walked down the road to a neighboring ger of a family that had a lot of horses. Outside of their ger they had about ten foals and mares. They milk the mares multiple times a day during the summer, and most of the milk is fermented to make an alcoholic beverage, a slightly (3-4%) alcoholic drink. They mainly only milk the mares during the summer because the winters are harsh, and the animals are still primarily fed by grazing during the winter. It is typical for a horse to lose 30% of its weight during the winter.
The first ger we tried to enter had a boy getting a haircut, so we went to the next one. A group of Kazakhs, many of whom we had seen the previous day, were lounging around the communal table drinking fermented horse milk. They poured us all a bowl (they use bowls to drink), and I had a sip. There are some items traveling that you eat or drink, and you realize that no matter what you have no desire to taste it again. The best way I can describe it is as whole milk you forgot on the counter for three weeks then put in a blender to resuspend the solids and thicken it up. I then thought maybe it will get better with a couple more sips, but rest assured alcoholic sour milk does not taste better after 15 sips.
While I was trying to drink fermented horse without any facial expressions, one of the women in the house was making cheese. It was an interesting process, and they had a couple batches in various steps of the process.
We left after a lit bit longer and went back to camp. The rest of the day was spent on a couple walks, playing settlers, and reading our books on a hill top. We stayed within Mongolia and didn’t get closer than two miles to the Chinese border. One thing about this particular spot in Mongolia is the lack of mosquitos. There were almost none. On the flip side there were a tremendous amount of grasshoppers, ranging from very small to three inches. Whenever you stepped it was like popcorn with at least ten grasshoppers hoping off. Since one of Katy’s least favorite insects are grasshoppers she was not pleased in the slightest about this development.
We got up early the next morning for our final day driving back to Ulgii. It of course was raining… Before we could head out we needed to stop back at the ger to get the meat from the sheep they had purchased (read: slaughtered) the day before. We then started on our uneventful six hour drive back in the furgon.
Arriving back in Ulgii we checked into the same hotel. This time instead of one pillow and one towel we were able to get three towels and two pillows, win. We then gave our laundry to Elka which included our jackets and most of our clothes. We then had our first shower in seven days which was glorious. I decided that I could not grow a beard without patches after 10 days of trying and had a shave.
While we were gone Ulgii had had a lot of rain and flooding. Most of the streets and sidewalks were just standing water. We walked to the market and predictably it started to rain so we had a wet run home. We had a last dinner with the group, including one of Baku’s daughters. They returned our laundry but did not have time to dry it so we strung it out all over the room and packed for the airport in the morning. They said we needed to get to the airport two hours early. We got there 1.5 hours early, which was not a problem at an airport that has two flights a day.