After arriving by train from London to Ulaanbaatar a year to the day before starting this blog entry, I was reflecting on slow travel, slow food, slow development and slow tourism in Mongolia. After the exhausting return from Arkhangai 'Art Camp' on a jolting 11 hour bus ride from Tsetserleg, it was a joy to take the night train to Erdenet, shortening the bus trip to Lake Hovsgol. Our cabin mate Gankhuyag turned out to be a (hearing) Mongolian Sign Language teacher. After wandering around Erdenet (10km from the station), we waited four hours for the bus to Mөrөn at the market and took the 15 hour journey. Somewhere by a roadside, as we took a 'comfort stop' in the green mountains by a river, a man on a bicycle held a fish aloft by his ger. I walked over and he showed me his catch of large trout and smaller fish, cleaned and silky to touch. Hours passed in the darkness until we (25 passengers and driver) stopped for 'Tsiuvan' (noodles) at a 'Guanz' eatery with one solar powered bulb. Everyone dozed on the bus rocking through the night, the fat brown farmer next to me leaning on me and nodding off to sleep.
After dawn in Mөrөn, we had a shower at a Batgaal's Ger guesthouse "5-8-7" and lay down for a couple of hours. Later we shared a car with two French tourists, mother and daughter, to Khatgal at the edge of Lake Khatgal. We borrowed bicycles from some local lads. Looking for air for a tyre at the local petrol station, it being a hand-pump affair, the proprietor (of 25 years) took me to her ger nearby, and her husband improvised a way of inflating the tyre.
In the past year I have gained a lot of experience of slowness. Speaking Mongolian has been a slow but rewarding process, but in the countryside slowness is emphasised: seeing the simple and slow way food is often hand-reared and prepared, seeing each joint of boiled mutton apportioned among a party, feeling every bump and creek crossing on the roads, boiling each cup of river water for tea. The hot shower at "5-8-7" was operated by the guest house owner, who boils a pot of water over a fire, then pours it into a tank on the roof of the shower house, mixing it to the right temperature.