Sunday, April 22, 2012

the wild (and not so wild) life of inner mongolia

The wildlife of Inner Mongolia is, let’s say, not the most exotic, but I love me some animals and was excited to get up close and personal with pretty much anything that moved, including what may or may not have been dung beetles. Here is a rundown of my interactions with the Mongol fauna.

Sheep—I mentioned this in my last post so I’ll just go ahead and get it out of the way. On our first night, we got all Anthony Bourdain and asked our guide to arrange for a sheep to be slaughtered for us for dinner. The sheep was retrieved from the field and kept in the back of a pickup truck, along with the bloody, woolly skin of the one that went before him. He was hyperventilating (I assume...I do not claim to know the normal respiratory rate of a year-old male sheep). The slaughter was brutal and the man who did it was kind of scary. We ate the meat for dinner that night. The next day, we were served stewed innards for breakfast. I ate a bowl of rice. With some of the broth, which was, I have to admit, quite tasty.

—For a pittance, we went on an hour-and-a-half-long horseback ride through the grasslands. I galloped for the first time and it was fun and terrifying and I was bouncing all over the place and sustained a giant bruise on my inner ass cheek. Also notable: the alcoholic beverage of choice in Inner Mongolia, aside from warm 3% alcohol beer, is horse milk wine. That is, a 50% alcohol "wine" made from fermented horse milk. We bought the one with the old man's face on it hanging on the bottom right of this photo. We each took a few sips and did not save the rest.

—There were some cows. The most exciting thing about the cows was the fact that Mongolians use their dried poop to make fires for warmth at night. And, lo, a poop stove was assembled inside our yurt just before sundown. They rigged an exhaust pipe going out a hole in the top of the yurt, so, fortunately, we smelled nothing. Quoth my friend, “I’ve never had a shit fire before.”

—Camels! We were all very eager to ride the shaggy, two-humped Mongolian camels. We rode them over the sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, which were pretty and majestic and littered with trash and flanked by power plants. But back to the camels--they were super fun, and felt very safe and comfy because you sit between the two humps. They are gassy mofos. The camel in front of my camel farted pretty much continuously for the first half-hour of our ride. The one behind me was burping. We also went on a midnight camel ride, because it was my friend's birthday and he decided he wanted to go for a midnight camel ride for his birthday. One of the cool things about China--ask for what you want, offer up some money, and you will probably get it. One of the cool things about camels--when you pass by they all turn and stare at you.

—During our midnight camel ride, a 17-year-old Mongolian fugitive gave me a desert hamster. He had him (or her, I suppose, but my childhood hamster was a him so that’s what I’m calling this one) in a little plastic baggie. I became fixated on the hamster and played with it for a while, and so the 17-year-old Mongolian fugitive offered him to me. And so I had a pet for two hours. I carried him home to our yurt in an Oreo box and set him free when his nocturnal scratching woke up my roommate. I felt bad about releasing him into the unknown, but, as my friend who actually did the deed said, “I put the box on its side and that way he has the choice to stay or go.” He chose to go. I can live with that.

—I normally hate pretty much all insects, but these little guys were so seemingly harmless and, most importantly, wingless, and they made cool little patterns in the sand.

This one, apparently, had been drinking too much horse milk wine.

—these are just some regular old baby chickens, but the little peeps they made were so cute I had to capture it on video.

We also saw some captive wolves, one solitary captive deer, a gaggle (or whatever) of ducks, the aforementioned giant Tibetan butt-biting dog, a few lizards, one running rabbit, and, unfortunately, no goats. I really like goats.

No comments: