We start the day making apple-almond rice pudding, and cinnamon French toast for our friends. The morning feast is a huge success! As Tom (a saint) washes a mountain of dirty dishes, we receive our morning Mongolian visitor. He is on horseback, and this time, it is Tom's turn to go for a ride.
After another late (but delicious) start, we head into the hills as our road rapidly disintegrates.
Everyone teeters along slowly, carefully piloting their vehicle over ruts and rocks. Freddie and Richie in particular are being very careful with the Jimny after their recent "repairs".
Where do these rocks come from?!
Halfway up this rocky mountain we realize we're going the wrong way. Not only did we leave Altai late yesterday, and leave camp late today, but we've been traveling in the wrong direction. Somehow, the road leading east out of town wasn't the right choice, and the only way to continue on to our next stop of Bayankhongor (located east of us) is to return to Altai.
We stop for directions several times, making sure we have to backtrack all the way to Altai. Our spirits sink a little when everyone we meet confirms the unfortunate news. We pass our camp late in the day, circling around the area until we find the right road; it doesn't seem to be heading east yet, but it sure is well-signposted.
As we drive, speeding over the corrugated rocky roads, we stop regularly to wait for our slower comrades. As the sun races towards the horizon, we're having a tough time shaking a sour mood that has befallen us. Our journals are piling up, and we're having a hard time compartmentalizing this reality so we can enjoy now. As well, Tyler still hasn't caught up with his client's projects. Things are starting to feel insurmountable. Normally, we're very good at "leaving work at work", but we've never been so far behind.
Over the last few weeks, we've really come to realize how much we enjoy our journaling process. It has become a cathartic exercise we crave, even though it is hard at times. It is the way in which we make sense of this crazy adventure, and a tool we use to avoid self-destruction through experience-overload. Without our writing fix, our emotions are in turmoil, and the avalanche of new experiences we've encountered, an untamed beast
We knew Mongolia would likely be the hardest part of the trip, but we mistakenly thought it would be because of the terrain or the sparseness of villages or the lack of resources. It turns out, the trouble (as usual) comes from within. Somehow, we have to be happy ignoring our work, and have faith in ourselves that we can complete the task when we take it up again.
Ultimately, there is something we need to learn here, but we're not entirely sure what it is. For the moment, we need to adapt, accepting and enjoying our situation as it is, or we need to let go of the group, set boundaries, and take care of our apparently introverted selves.
This conundrum has reached a point today where we're willing to give up the camaraderie and support of the group up in order to take care of ourselves. We need to take some time for just the two of us in order to be happy and effective human beings. We need time alone. We need to work, totally undisturbed, preferably in a cool, dark room, for hours on end, creating order out of this chaos.
With much hand wringing, we decide to leave. We've camped not too far out of Altai (again), and everyone is around the fire, having fun. We're enjoying some curry Gem miraculously made out of the slim pickings available in stores here.
Just as Richie pipes up with another round of praise for the breakfast feast Tyler and I made this morning, requesting another delicious round of "eggy bread" and rice pudding for breakfast, we break the bittersweet news to everyone. We're going to leave early tomorrow, and will race to Bayankongor, a full 300 kilometers away.
It is our hope that we can make the long trek in just one day, take some time to rest and work, and wait for the team to arrive so we can finish the drive to Ulaan Baatar together. Just in case this doesn't happen, and for whatever reason we never see our team again, we head to bed with many hugs and reluctant goodbyes. Though we know this is the right decision for us, it sure isn't an easy one.