Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mongolia X Journal 12 : Eat Sheep Head // Hitch-hiking with One-Eyed Herder and The Welder hauling the Dirt Load // Microadventure by Brian Peric


My family in North Central Mongolia = The Welder hauling dirt with his family

A few days ago, I visited a town in the middle of nowhere. I met a local hauling a load of soil into his village in a Bongo pickup truck, along with his one eyed friend - we drove together into town. I thought it would be helpful in this region to know some locals, and they looked intimidating at first - never judge others by outward appearance on the Steppe grasslands of Mongolia - 100% are genuine people living an otherworldly life that I have never known completely through birthrights. I do enjoy traveling and have found my global journey to take my permanent life to Asia, so I can relate to where I am traveling in Mongolia, Korea or China - all these are close to home these days for my new family.

We bounced a few kilometers together, I was relieved of biting flies - since there are so many of them in Mongolia. Natural scenery, clean air, beautiful country - and flies, loads and loads of them. I grew comfortable with my flocks though, they essentially kept me moving about 8 hours per day in the saddle, and they encouraged me to take shorter breaks and longer days pedaling. This was useful for me in several ways, on top of all, they kept me on my toes, alert and ready at times to strike back and kill. Flies have no where to go, they are equally or better evolved for the tenacious climate, weather and conditions and seem to hone in methodically on warm-blooded mammals, except this one happens to strike back with a vengeance after having them trail me, sip sweat off my clothing and panniers, and occasionally when their leader - zippy horseflies come in for the kill, or be killed. They bite, and many of their tiny knat fly friends will pay the price along with them. You can't kill them all, it's funny like a War, you win a battle if you stop paying attention to them, but lose it the moment you keep your mind on it. Power of thought, it's an important ingredient to adventure bicycle travel. Most already know this.

Outside town, wooden fences with paint faded and peeling in long strips was the guard stop of a tiny Buddhist temple. We stopped the truck with a squeal of brakes and dust shaken up and blown past as we opened our truck doors. My friends were shirtless, golden tanned and smiling brightly - great characters to meet in person, I would introduce friends to them when I return in the future! They allow me to stroll around, take photos of the building and surrounding, mostly wood buildings, all painted in the same faded maroon red paint, the wooden framed houses constructed as log cabins were the permanent dwellings, while most residents also had their Ger tents in their yards, quartered off by tall wooden fences. The Nomads have come to settle down, and this location was very pleasant - as were the people who I interacted with through shopping and exchanging money at a local bank.

"Some Mongolians suggested I try riding Motorcycles. 
Yes, I tried that many times across North America already. 5 times.
The bicycle is more economical and ecologically friendly than the motorcycle."

My host invited me to an amazing feast of sheep head stew, and with potatoes and bits of other organs, the liver, lungs, etc seemed to be well hashed together to make a perfect meal. It was delicious! I ate the entire tongue, which was cooked tender. Across the road from their lot, I bought Mongolian beer for my hosts and a flat cherry pie, like the pre-cooked instant European varieties.

We sat outdoors next to their log cabin home, there was a garden growing vegetables in their yard in place of a Ger tent, and there was a welding workshop, built of wooden timber in the shape of a small barn. I parked the bike in the workshop, and watched my host after dinner, cutting steel and welding steel to built frames for tables and work benches. He was a local handyman. Earlier today, we drove around town and he greeted everyone and I raised an arm saying "Sainbain au!" We dropped his one-eyed friend at a local convenience store, at the end of a hard manual day of labor, Mongolian men were sweeping their vodka out of these small shops and turning the dirt roads for home and their reward for their work.

In all, I had an enjoyable time here, apart from the annoying questions from a guest, local dentist and her husband who continuously probed for the value of my bicycle (I told them it was definitely cheaper than their motorcycle!), my yearly salary, where I would be leaving my bicycle when I left Mongolia, etc etc etc...that was enough to give me enough anxiety, would the bike be there in the barn where I left it in the morning? - of course, as they sat and drank all my beer!

I went outside in the heavy rain, walked 360 degrees around my tent and tightened the stakes in the Earthy soil, then zipped up my rain cover and took retreat indoors - the tent is the oasis.

The hosts couldn't communicate very well in English, their eldest daughter offered some translations which were the bridge over a large linguistic gap. The sheep head that the Wife of the  Herder Welder hauling dirt prepared was delicious, and their daughters educated and friendly. In all, their group was cheerful, warm and friendly -expecting nothing and appreciative for all the extra food gifts I purchased to leave with them the following day. Thank God, I left with photos and memories of a great night with them. It was unfortunately they had their uninvited and nosy guests, the Dentist and her tooth-pulling sly husband who seemed to drool over my bike, as the price of everything I had had strapped on my back, the bicycle of course (priceless, don't even ask me!) and the constant pressure to give them my banking balances and sources of income to take such a "worldly trip" as it were, visiting Mongolia. I explained the cost of the flight to the capital Ulaanbaatar from Korea was the biggest part of my investment, fortunately, with a return flight back home after this adventure was over. The rest of the bicycle parts were cobbled together and the frame being the most expensive component built by Lynskey in the USA.

Unexpected situations like this have rarely occur on any of my journeys around the world. Today was that 0.1% leading to an unexpected and uncomfortable time inside someone else's property while staked out camping near a vegetable garden on a dark, stormy night. But once I settled into my tent, lighting my guidebook with a headlamp, reading a few pages, I released my grip on the thoughts of of their dentist friend coming back at night with bolt cutters to remove my lock and snatch my bike, nothing more than a myth.  I slept great and left them with a memorable night shared together. It's worth mentioning, that even though the locals were housed and sheltered well, there as in most places in Mongolia today, there was no running water in the their place, nor flush toilets or showers. Just a wood box and hole in the ground outside for a toilet which does it's job. Be prepared for the unexpected. I always do.

Thanks for reading my daily thoughts and meditations written while mountain biking across Mongolia this summer. More adventure is coming soon!!!


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About the Korean-World Author

Brian Perich was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lecturer for a decade, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.

Previously, Brian has led Canoe adventures in Quetico Provincial Park, Atikokan, Ontario, Canada (1993/1999); led Grand American camping adventures (2000); lived at Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Ashram for 5 months (see the film "AWAKE"), formerly worked in titanium welding at Agilent Technologies, formerly worked in Winery industry in Marin County with Kendall Jackson in California; Surfing and Meditation continued for several years in California, British Columbia, South Korea, Yoga training in California 1999-2000.

Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! Brian endured 900 mile/1300km average days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.

Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences on his mountain bikes.

While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanded to cover his recent trek down the TransMongolian highway to the Gobi Desert, cycling 900km east through the Khentii grasslands and in 2012 crossing Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles. HimalayasX expedition Brian previously cycled across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of East Turkestan Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Kham Tibet. Brian successfully completed his 2011 mountain bike expedition with 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles unsupported, on/off road MTB adventure cycling.
Brian has completed his second mountain bike journey, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, an unsupported mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.


In 2013, as a sequel to a trilogy of cycle tours, Brian enjoyed a more leisure bicycle tour onboard his Koga-Miyata World Traveller seeing the northern tier of the United States and western Canada covering 3400 kilometers / 2000 miles in 30 days. This North American cycle tour was called Totherocktour. Enjoying the adventure of bicycle travel and every great conversation started while traveling on the road - has refueled his inspirations to cycle around the Earth. In 2013, while he cycled solo from the Great Lake State of Michigan, United States to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He weaved through local communities and reconnected with friends, family and community after spending almost a decade in Asia.


Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.


The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UK which supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).


Brian is researching support for a 18000 kilometer bicycle expedition across the Americas: North, Central and South America - ONE -Arctic to Argentina
Please contact him if you are interested in helping out.

Twitter: Cycleagain
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea or southern Ontario, Canada.

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Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

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