It has been an hour and a half, and still no one has come to help. I am journaling and Tyler is working when Freddie leans over to us and asks, "Could you drive me back to town to ask about the guy with the truck?" Tyler is is so far gone in programming-la-la land that I doubt it even registers there is a person in front of us.
I don't want to go – fifteen kilometers in Mongolia is not like fifteen kilometers in the normal world. Not only that, but I have a distinct knowing in my gut from a year and a half of traveling experience that whatever arrangement Freddie thought was made, was not actually made. This isn't going to be a short jaunt there and back. This is going to be a massive, messy, complicated ordeal that could take hours and hours.
Above all, I don't think it is wise for Tyler and I to be separated. After our fire experience, we've decided to stick together. Freddie is still hovering overhead and Tyler is dead to the world. "I'm really involved", he mumbles, fingers a blur on the keyboard, his intent gaze never leaving the screen. "I think we should go together…" I begin to offer, but Tyler's eyes are glazed over. Normally I'd shake him back into the real world if I needed him, but Freddie is hovering, waiting for an answer. I sigh. Forget it.
Stuffing all of my concerns, I resign myself pessimistically to the fact that whatever is about to happen will probably suck a lot, and consent to take him. Besides, I can't really say no. He's stuck out here in the desert with no working vehicle and our LRC is the most reliable of the bunch. We're part of a team. We help each other. I don't want to be a selfish jerk.
So, off we go. It is fifteen kilometers to the barely-village. Really, it is just a collection of three or four gers set up by the roadside. Fifteen kilometers is a long way in Mongolia. Anything could happen. I speed over bumps and rocks and uneven ground, realizing that I could easily wind up stuck out here. Now I am praying we don't get a flat tire or have something happen to our car.
At last, we arrive safely in town, and I wait as Freddie goes to find the man he spoke with before. He is nowhere to be found, but in the meantime, we sure are creating a huge fuss. Kids come to say hello and peer in our windows. Adults come too, equally curious. Finally they point us towards a ger. We go inside, and there's Freddie's guy.
With zero miming, Freddie asks why he never showed up. Now he's emphatically tapping at his watch, saying "you said one hour, you said one hour." If things went like this the first time around, chances are strong there was never any clear agreement. The past behind us, Freddie begins anew, trying to explain the problem with his Jimny.
Once I realize this is going nowhere, I try to help. You can't just talk and expect that people will understand you. You can't make vague sweeping gestures, you have to act the fool and really play charades if you want to communicate!
Eventually, we get our point across and the man assures Freddie that he has a truck. Then, the two of them begin to haggle over the price. The Mongolian man isn't willing to budge. Freddie scoffs repeatedly, feeling he is being ripped off. Even if he is, I don't see what other options there are.
Gas is expensive, and a truck that is big enough to carry the Jimny is sure to be a guzzler. As well, it's a full 80 kilometers to the next major city of Altai. It's not just the vehicle he has to pay for, it's the time as well. He can't really expect this man of humble means to up and drive him for next to nothing, taking a day away from his family and all the work that needs to be done to take care of his animals.
I just want to go. We've been gone far too long already. Night is fast approaching. This was supposed to be a quick there-and-back. Now I'm the one tapping my feet. Let's go, let's go, let's go. Just fucking agree to the price already; you don't have any leverage here! By now, there are many more people in the ger. Some are laughing at Freddie as he tries to demand a lower price.
"I just don't know, I just don't know", he waffles. I want to shake him and smack him and make him agree. What other choice do you have!? This little ger village is the only one for miles. The Jimny can't be towed, and the group doesn't have the food and water required to wait indefinitely, hoping that a big enough truck will pass by.
The guys are punching numbers back and forth into a calculator, trying to come to an agreement. The Mongolian man is holding firm. Finally, after a half an hour wasted on attempted haggling, Freddie agrees on the price the guy demanded in the first place. They shake hands. Then, the man casually informs us that the truck in question is twenty more kilometers away. In the wrong direction.
Are you fucking kidding me? I am livid and fuming, but Freddie claps his hands saying, "right, let's go!" At this point I feel stuck; I can't say no, sorry, I'm driving back to the others, leaving you here to catch a ride with the shifty guy you just made a deal with.
As Freddie and I walk towards the car, I notice that the Mongolian guy is following us. He's coming to our car. He opens the passenger's door, and hops right in. Freddie crawls over our stuff into the cramped backseat, asking if anything is breakable. I tell him no, and he tries to make himself comfortable.
It's going to be a bumpy ride.