As the title suggests, I have now returned from squat toilets and wide-open plains to running water and dense New England forest. It took me approximately twenty-five hours of flights and four airline meals, but I made it in the end!
(This is a vague representation of my journey; it involved four flights and additional stops in Seoul and Frankfurt.)
As I’m writing this, I’m huddled in a squashy leather armchair after being pestered by my Maltese, who in my absence has acquired a hot pink bow for her fringe—despite my warnings to my mother about the dangers of overdressing dogs lest they turn out like something Paris Hilton would want to hang on her arm. (Phoebe does look incredibly cute.)
So: what was the damage?
· 23 days in Outer Mongolia
· Four squat toilets, complete with maggots
· Approximately 40 liters of iodine-doused water consumed
· One very cold bath in the Great White Lake
· One blissful horse trek that was cut short due to a minor incident
· 80km hiked, mostly uphill, over three and a half days
· Two hailstorms
I’ll elaborate more in a series of posts over the course of this week, but as you can probably tell from the above, it was an exciting, whirlwind adventure through western Mongolia. Despite the parts that weren’t as fun as I might have hoped (I.E. THE TREK) the sense of achievement I felt after getting through it all made them my favorite parts of the trip!
Although we were at first suspicious of the fact that our group leader, John Carr, wasn't even vaguely middle aged, by the end of the trip we were seriously appreciative of both his ability to keep calm while sorting us out during an emergency and his scarily awesome medical skills. (Thankfully, he never had to exercise his right to amputate.) The rest of the leader team consisted of my former ICT teacher, a Geography teacher and a man who does the Duke of Edinburgh scheme at my school, so we were both in safe hands and great company!
Mongolians are a truly laid back, hospitable and perennially happy nation, and I was lucky to meet so many incredibly lovely people, from the children of the Lotus Children's Centre to the always-joking wranglers of Khishig's horse camp. In the end, it's always the people that make the trip, and although I'd expected to have fun with my fourteen school friends, I hadn't anticipated that I'd be reduced to both happy tears and crazy-laughter stitches by people who were strangers just three weeks ago.
Stay tuned for more details of a journey that involved more than one epic detour and a lot less boiled lung than I'd expected. (Though the semolina made up for it, especially that one time when John managed to turn it into dumplings. Enough said.)