Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mongolia X Journal 17 // There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. - The Buddha // Nomads, Gers and Happiness

The Buddha - "There is no way to happiness  Happiness is the way."

After visiting the Nomads at Eden, I left with experiences from the edges of the Earth. Family life is centered in their Ger tent, the steel pot stove is their hearth, warmth and life is a shared experience here, not broken, not compartmentalized like it is in cities, houses, apartments and the concrete blocks where most people now live. We turned back the clock, summer time in Mongolia is set on the Sun's two revolutions of two months I traveled and the world continued to spin memories and experiences webbed into the grains of my mind. I have seen a family each passing day, along grassy plains where the Earth's strata is worn thin in a series of months when goats, sheep, yak and horses tramp and feed while the green warmth of summer snaps a glimpse back at the world.

I visit a family, the children run wild and happy and carefree barefoot, the mother takes her youngest to her breast to feed, the children have a red ball we kick around outside for friendly soccer, the husband returns leaving his grazing flock of goats and sheep to pasture, lights a cigarette and relaxes at the back of the Ger on carpet mats, behind him are ornately carved and brightly colored wooden chests containing the family possessions, a picture frame holds important family memories, friends and a few distant locations locked in time. I sit to the left, leaving my shoes over the linoleum mat at the entrance of the Ger,. Sitting and taking swills of  "chai woo", a salted goats milk with herbs boiled in a large kettle pot above the steel stove, the pipe penetrates skyward and leaves a stream of white smoke signals that the family is home for the evening. The father leaves, takes his horse into the night. The children gather round the fire, it's stoked by their mother, long black hair and chiseled features, arms of daily work carved and suntanned, they prepare noodles, rolling and cutting dough in strips, she adds a potato and onion that are hashed and added to the boil, we sip goats milk and they add to mine when it runs low. The sky darkens outside, winds wisp the pot stove chimney, and plastic tarps crack against the felt roof covering of the Ger. Night arrives and I go outside, to see stars, watching out for the dogs, a yelp in the night.  I retire for the rest of the night under headlamp to read and scribble notes into pages and mark the day on my map. The cycle and cycle of daily life traveling in Mongolia is good.

I am headed northwest, clicking the chain along cassettes and cogs with 175mm crank arms supporting revolutions, it's steady as I bump along, these Ortlieb Classic panniers clunk against the aluminum flat racks. I've tied the rope that Mining entrepreneur Egee Enkhbat had given me after leaving his camp near Tuul River. I severed the rope in equal lengths and tied the panniers to the racks to stop the slap and constant collision with the carriers I've built using simple aluminum attached with steel U-bolts, and dozens of industrial PVC zip ties. After 4000km of Asia, my equipment is enduring well.  Names like Ortlieb, Mavic, Schwalbe, North Face, Sony, Topeak, and Arteryx among others provide the water-proofing, the reliable wheel turns, tires impenetrable to burrs and broken glass piles around the Ovoo, a reliable tent, cameras that recharge while I ride, a handy Alien tool, and the Goretex exterior that originated with Rob Hill on the 7 summits series around the world, it now provides what little protection I have from wind, rain and biting flies, I use it as a survival jacket for all conditions. Stretches of grass toward the horizons rise or fall, with 40,000 meters of mountain altitude change ahead, I track towards Siberian borders where a fresh water lake awaits. Maps and GPS guiding lights during 8 hour days of movement, tracking and trekking over mountain peaks on foot, it's too steep to cross over on 18 or 20% grades when I am reaching the peaks.  While far removed as this location is in Mongolia from the meandering bends and smooth pavement that is familiar inside the Himalayas, this course is brutal. I enjoy mountain bike travel and seeing these scenes, meeting Nomads in their environment, so I soak up the majestic vistas over plateaus while delaying pains of traveling the harsh dirt course. I dream of McDonald's coming around the the next bend, it isn't happening. No western oasis, just a herd of goats crossing my path northward, a lone rider on his horse who raises an arm like a toothpick pointing to the blue skies, swirling white pillow clouds wisp away and I turn facing the sun, the mighty glow of power too distance to show the end of this brief journey. I have time for two sun revolutions to reach the far west of Mongolia, and energy stored up in 15kg of extra body weight I gained since last winter, I have protein and vitamins, hydration powder as well, a few chunks of "arroz" cheese and feel no hunger here, no matter how long I ride. When the sun sets, the dirt tracks grow wild, shadows and holes, I come to the end of a page and turn out the lights somewhere beyond the tracks, to stealth camp, where stars light up the scenes of rolling terrain, takhi horses appear and disappear where they came, rare to see,  while domestic horses run together thoroughbreds with glistening hair and spring in every step. Another day has passed me, a day before with Mongolian Nomads, a day later camped remote with moonlight and rocks around my perch between mountain peaks. I light up the orange dome of my North face Tadpole 2 wearing against the weather, nightly rain patters outside and winds whip the rain cover until I go outside and tighten the stakes. I read a few pages from the Lonely Planet guide identifying places that I missed, or places I will discover ahead. I look forward to the next province, the next destination, more calculated risk, the unexpected happiness and the hard graft of getting from here to there - begins again tomorrow.

Up ahead is another civilization, a place with connections to the outside world. I will update my family, reconnect with mobile signals and find some ice cream and beer. Between the start a week ago, what I have witnessed is the way human civilization hasn't changed mostly in centuries. This sustainable nomadic life is tough, beautiful and better connected to the life pulse of Earth without destroying it. Here scattered in empty grasslands, doors are unlocked, families are out and about with their daily work. Here I have my own job to do as I navigate alone, sometimes I feel lonely witnessing the tremendous connections in these families, but I have family of my own elsewhere in Asia, and here I am welcomed too.

Happiness is the way, I think Buddha was definitely right. Thank you for visiting the X Journals from Mongolia!   I wrote these journals while traveling overland in Outer Mongolia by mountain bike.
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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