A Snack Fit For a Khan

20110913-134350.jpg

I could have posted a photo of eagles or vultures. Of yaks or Mongolian ponies. Of Turtle Rock or the sun rising over the hills of Terejl National Park. But no, this was my first encounter with Mongolia, so you get it too.

It amused the hell out of me, both for the Star Trek reference and the fact that, having had a snack box at work for the past 12 years, it does look like they’re the local franchise of Ireland’s famous King Crisps. Sadly, that’s about the only way they resemble them, as they have an appearance and texture not dissimilar to polystyrene packaging pellets.

Right now I’m in a cafe in Ulaanbaatar, having spent last night in a ger camp and yesterday trying all sorts of Mongolian activities, from archery to anklebones, with a little horseriding thrown in too. I’m off to museums this afternoon, then heading out in search of Mongolian beer.

And yes, photos of all of those other things will appear on Flickr before too long. I’m not whimsical all the time…

Advertisements

Wasted in Irkutsk

20110910-205045.jpg

I’m currently sitting in a train station in Irkutsk, about as tired as I’ve been so far this trip. Which is a neat trick, seeing as I’ve spent the last two days by the shores of Lake Baikal, in a room in a log cabin with the balcony view above, enjoying sunshine on a par with the best Irish summer day, doing nothing more strenuous than going for a dip. Yes, it was bloody cold, but still.

In about an hour, I’ll be jumping on a train to Mongolia, specifically Ulan Bator, where I’ll spend a night in a get and a night in the city before hopping on the train once more. If I have anywhere near the amount of luck I’ve been having so far on this trip, I’ll be flying. (In this very waiting room, I ran into a couple travelling the opposite way, who were able to give me some pointers on the Japan portion of my trip, having just spent two years there.)

Anyhow, night is falling, and I must be off. Will do my best to keep the updates coming, wherever I and the Internet happen to intersect.

This is where I’ve been…

…for the past four days.

20110908-200854.jpg

I’m currently chilling by the shores of Lake Baikal. Literally – the first fingers of the Siberian winter can be felt now, even though the sun has been out all day.

In lieu of a real update, some cheering words from one of my heroes, from the postscript to his “Voyage of the Beagle”, which I managed to finish somewhere in the vicinity of Perm. Definitely spoke to my particular situation.

“But I have too deeply enjoyed the voyage, not to recommend any naturalist, although he must not expect to be so fortunate in his companions as I have been, to take all chances, and to start, on travels by land if possible, if otherwise, on a long voyage. He may feel assured, he will meet with no difficulties or dangers, excepting in rare cases, nearly so bad as he beforehand anticipates. In a moral point of view, the effect ought to be, to teach him good-humoured patience, freedom from selfishness, the habit of acting for himself, and of making the best of every occurrence. In short, he ought to partake of the characteristic qualities of most sailors. Travelling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover, how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance.”

Not my ride, unfortunately…

20110903-193826.jpg

Sadly, my travels from here on won’t involve replicas of the Soviet Space Shuttle. At least I assume it’s a replica. Seeing as I’m in Moscow right now, one can’t entirely be sure. Still, it’s a very cool thing to find by the river in Gorky Park, or Park Kultury as it’s more properly called. (And to demonstrate my cultural bankruptcy, every time I think of the words “Gorky Park”, I don’t think of classic novels but rather the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change”. For shame…)

Anyhow, there are plenty of folks on wheels in the park – roller blades, scooters and bikes. And tomorrow I’ll take to some iron wheels of my own: a four-day expedition by train to Central Asia, specifically Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.

St. Petersburg and Moscow have eased me into the Russian travel experience, but this is where my traveller’s credentials get tested. And given my recent troubles ordering dinner, that could be a test I’ll flunk. Still, there’s nothing like a challenge to force you to step up your game. And my game may benefit from some time in the wilderness. I’ll see you on the other side of the Internet…