Ulaanbaatar to Ulaangom
I sought solitude in the steppes of Mongolia. It was the perfect landscape to get lost. Luckily, my Pocket Earth app was so precise it made it difficult to take the wrong trail. The major road west through central Mongolia was more often than not, a choice between six sandy trails all leading in a similar direction.
I loved the idea of off-roading but just two days after pulling Athena through sandy trails and up mountains, I soon lost all the weight I had gained recovering back in Hanoi and I found several curse words exploding from my mouth and into the Lapis colored sky. My first two weeks consisted of snow storms with head winds that made my nose so cold I learned that ice boogers are a real thing.
I was stuck in my tent for two days at one point, so I made a snowman.
Then it could quickly turn hot, melting the snow and sand coming up for it's glorious display of spring. Sand is a little bit of a show-off and she tends to think she'll go unnoticed if she doesn't hide in every crevice of your body and belongings.
It took me just short of three months to finish my route...
The landscape was beautiful no matter how extreme the weather was. I enjoyed the Mongolian's traditional milk tea and yak dumplings. Yak is quite delicious (but I have a hunch, like most meat, it's still swimming around in my intestines)! I wasn't short of protein in Mongolia- it's about all they have.
Facing my Fear
I couldn't not face it- within minutes it was literally moving at me-fast, in the middle of the night. Not only my fear, but most likely all of you, definitely my friends and family- the fear that comes into everyone's mind when a woman is heading out into the unknown-alone.
An attack in my tent, long after the sun went to sleep.
Let me go head-first to the most important detail- I am unharmed and doing very well now. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, I had no physical bruises from the incident.
There was a fight. And although I remember as a child, my brother playfully smothering some blankets over me so that I had to fight my way up to the surface, I thought that might be what it felt like to "fight for your life".
I had no idea what that would really feel like.
It was devastating but not crippling. I spent three days in a family's guesthouse healing my body and mind. Then..... I kept walking.
I will write all about the experience for any of you feeling anxious or worried. But for now, I am still allowing the experience to ruminate and will eventually translate into a story.
My little Miracle
A week after the incident, I stopped at one of the many Ovoo's to place three stones and circle the mound three times. One of the stones was a wish for a miracle. I didn't know what to ask for so I asked for "a little miracle".
Two hours later, a puppy (in the desert with no village nearby) came running towards me. I put Athena down, sat on the ground and opened my arms. He ran directly into them.
I named him Ogii (ooh-gee) after a small Mongolian fresh water lake.
He walked every step with me, sometimes 20 miles in a day. I had to ask store owners to close their entrance door because Ogii didn't want to leave my side.
He was fierce to strangers, never letting anyone get too close to me or the tent. He was my bodyguard and protector, my friend and cuddle-partner.
We ate canned sardines together and both got excited when a village had tomatoes for sale.
I didn't want to let him into the main tent and gave him the vestibule to sleep in.
But, of course, by day four, we took our love into the bedroom.
(yes, we posed for you! Although Ogii was actually asleep.)
The reason I haven't gotten a dog to walk with thus far is because crossing borders with an animal is extremely challenging. Most of the time they are quarantined to make sure they have all their shots and are safe to introduce into the country.
Ogii was a stray- no papers, no shots and very much with his balls still intact! It is not without much effort on my part that I looked into what it would take for Ogii to walk the world with me.
But it wasn't going to work out. Several hundreds of dollars to get papers "made" for him, several shots and then his adult-hood chopped off (which with a homeless dog epidemic, I think is a good thing).
And this would take three to six months with Ogii in a dog kennel.
And, for those of you that may have entertained the same thought I did, maybe I could sneak him across the border...... if I tried but he was caught, he would most likely be detained and then euthanized.
I couldn't think of putting Ogii through so much just to keep him with me.
So, after Ogii walked me to my end point in Mongolia- I went on a search to find him a home.
The challenge is that most Mongolians don't see a dog as a pet, they are security systems. Most often, they won't touch the dog (even their own) because they're considered filthy. They eat human feces which is a direct result from not being fed by their owners. Now, this is not EVERY Mongolian that does this, it is what I witnessed in many nomadic families while camping nearby and engaging with them.
Then he rode in on his horse......
A teenage boy, mounted proud on his steed, with his little sister. He held her hand as they circled my camp and when Ogii approached them, he bent down and began petting and playing with Ogii.
I new he was the one.
I spent my last night cuddling and crying with Ogii. In the morning, the boy returned and I offered him to care for Ogii.
With a proud smile, he said YES.
To keep Ogii from following me, we invited him into the family's Ger and I gave him my last can of sardines, eating a few bites with him. After a long and teary goodbye, I walked out and closed the door.
I cried. And cried. And cried.
It was harder to keep myself from going back to get him than it was to keep walking after an attack.
I miss you, Ogii.
I don't like filming myself and decided before I began this walk, that although video is one of the most interesting ways for people to engage in a journey like this, I wasn't comfortable with it.
What got me inspired to try it was to think of filming something for my friends and family. And to thank all of you who have supported me and the walk.
So, I gave it a try and this is what happened.
Where I'm at now...
I'm in Tbilisi, Georgia. I begin walking West towards the Black Sea and into Turkey in two days ( July 12, 2015).
My SPOT locator is working and will continue to track my steps every hour.
Thank you for being on this journey with me.
I'll be in touch soon.