We just want a quiet night to ourselves, maybe at a nice Italian restaurant with a glass of wine or two? But, as we get dressed, we're bit sad about the prospect of missing out on the festivities. We decide to head to Marco Polo, just to say hello.
I'm not usually one to prance around in short skirts when the season and the weather dictate that it is a ridiculous, uncomfortable thing to do. But, I've grown more than weary of my dirty, dusty attire, and the prospect of going out somewhere nice has inspired me to dress up.
So, I take a shower, then don my black Icebreaker t-shirt (it isn't clean, but it doesn't smell either) and my cycling skort. From a distance, to the untrained eye, it might just pass for a little black skirt, though it's obviously padded cycling wear. Still, for the first time in weeks, I feel ready for a night on the town. Too bad it is freezing outside.
As we walk hand in hand through the bustling streets of the coldest capital in the world, we happen upon D'Arcy and Erika, walking around in much more practical jeans and winter coats. We learn that our decision to take the "less adventurous" southern route was a good plan. Their car had to be hauled in with a truck and it took three days! While beautiful, the path is impassable for anything but the most well-equipped 4x4s.
Before we part, they tell us that the restaurant on the ground floor of Marco Polo is really good, and that the strip club upstairs is totally harmless. On the way, they say we should we stop at a nearby restaurant to say hello to Jake, another rallier we met in Altai. We find him eating alone, so we tell him about the possible Rally goings-on at Marco Polo. Excited, he says he'll stop by in a bit.
We've only been parted from the convoy for a few hours, and somehow we've missed a boatload of drama. When we sneak into the strip club to tell the guys we'll be having dinner downstairs, we learn from Charlie, Matt, and Tom, that the evening has gone pear-shaped. While they give us the abridged version of the story, a topless woman gyrates aimlessly in front of us.
Richie is in here somewhere, in a drunken stupor, throwing away wads of cash on the, erm… services this place has to offer. Earlier, he very nearly got everyone kicked out of the hostel they checked into, yelling incomprehensibly about not wanting to take his shoes off. Oh, and Tim adopted a puppy…? ? ?
Our stripper eventually realizes nobody is interested, rolls her eyes, and moves on to a more profitable crowd. The guys seem exhausted, so we tell them to come join us at the restaurant downstairs when they finish their round of beers.
We return to the first floor restaurant, eager to join in a celebration of our team's success without the booze and strippers. Eventually, the guys join us, and Charlie wearily recounts his night. He just spent several hours babysitting Richie, taking him on a nighttime city tour in an effort to keep him out of trouble.
While he steps up for a responsible night of being on drunk duty, everyone is fawning over a baby puppy at the hostel, rescued by a young cycle tourist who is trying to find it a home. Tim wants to smuggle it through Russia, Western and Eastern Europe, and finally, the UK, where it will have a happy home on his newly purchased houseboat.
Just as we're getting up to speed with the oddities of the evening, Mette and Gem come into the restaurant wearing silly outfits and fake mustaches!
Oh, and Tim has one too:
Next, Jake, whom we've only met once or twice, appears with two seemingly random Mongolian women. Neither of them speak any English, but they are all smiles and giggles. As best we can tell, he will treating them to dinner at our long table.
Later, someone rushes in to tell Mette her car isn't parked in a safe area. When she leaves to move it, Jake runs off in pursuit, worried that he needs to chaperon her in the dangerous city. Mette doesn't realize he is trying to come to her rescue and drives off without him.
When she returns, Jake tells her how upset it made him that she didn't even say thank you for his assistance. Mette is first confused, and then unsympathetic and mystified as to why he would think she'd need him to rescue her. We have to chuckle a little at the idea that anyone would consider Mette helpless, let alone scold her for not accepting their chivalry. The whole encounter is thoroughly bizarre.
While we wait for our food, Tim tells us more about the puppy he is seriously considering adopting, while Charlie plays devil's advocate, raising issues about the safety of bringing an adorable newborn canine (who needs 'round the clock nursing from a bottle) back home, both for them, and the animal.
Meanwhile, Alex is shaking his head at the bizarreness of everything (is it the full moon or something?) and comes to our end of the table to escape awkward non-conversation with the oddly-present Mongolian women. It's like watching a reality TV show. So much for our quiet dinner!
After a very strange evening, we head out into the cold night, shivering, arms linked at the elbows. A random Mongolian guy sitting on a stoop shouts to us "Stay warm, guys!" We tell him thank you, and hurry to our hotel. Time for bed, at last.