Thursday, July 30, 2009

The "Big" Hike

Having scouted out possible routes for an all-day hiking adventure, the four of us set out after breakfast down this one dirt road that seemed potentially very promising. The reason we made this particular choice was pretty simple. For one thing, the path seemed to lead way out into the grasslands, away from any significant trace of modern day living. Yet, at the same time, there were some occasional trucks that would rumble by, suggesting that, somewhere out there, was a Mongolian outpost, just waiting to be discovered.

And what an all-day adventure it turned out to be! This one will surely go down in the annals as a certified Balla family "death march." In the end, we estimated that we walked something like fifteen kilometers that day, over a period of, shall we say, a good number of hours.

From the beginning, we were desperate not to have this hike turn into a "we can go no farther" walk. In other words, we really wanted to discover an endpoint to our journey, rather than simply run out of steam and head back to the yurt at some random point down the road.

Our conversation kept going something like this...

Why don't we walk up to the top of that next little hill and see what lies beyond.

Then, at the top of the said rise...

How about just one more valley?

Finally, just when we were beginning to think that there simply was no endpoint within our reach, we caught a glance of what looked to be a small village in the distance. Now, as it turned out, this village was many more kilometers, and several more hours of walking, in front of us. Did we make it all the way there? What did we find when we got there? How did we get back to our little yurt?

Stay tuned...

~Steve

PS: Every now and then, we encountered along the path things other than grass, clouds, and blue sky. There was a man herding his flock of sheep...On a motorcycle! And there was a truck that passed by us going in the opposite direction. About fifty yards down the road, the truck stopped and began backing up toward us. Before we knew it, two young guys and a young girl jumped out of the cab and started snapping pictures of us with their cell phones. I don't know who was more amazed...Them at the sight of four waiguoren walking down this desolate road, or us for being the subject of an impromptu photo shoot way out in the middle of the grasslands!

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