Tuesday, 30 November 2010

three feet of ice and counting

Well, it's been crazily cold for several weeks in Ulaanbaatar now. Proper Mongolia cold like -30C not that wimpy stuff they're complaining about in the UK. All vegetation has died, as have most of the wild dogs and cats. Restaurants are mostly meat stew.

The Tuul River, where I was swimming a few weeks back, has up to three feet of ice. Where Ulaanbaatar had only two bridges connecting the city to the other side of the river and mountains where I live those normal thoroughfares no longer matter. If you want to cross the river you simply walk, or drive, over it. The ice is frighteningly thick and grows as you watch it.

With the ice has come a new game/sport I've never seen before. Think curling-cricket-archery. Men stand at one end of a 50 metre polished ice bowling lane. The project ornately carved stones down the rink aiming for a red piece of felt at the other end. There is one large piece of red felt which is flanked by two others on each side.

Players wear thick felt boots, fur hats and dels. Dels are the traditional Mongolian dress worn by many throughout the country - it is warm but easily opened if the weather heats up, I liken it to an Asian kilt which being St Andrew's Day has a nice feel.

You get five stones and different points depending where your stone goes. Players have no special footwear for the ice. To give them a little bit of grip they dig a niche into the ice to push off from. I tried five times and fell flat on my bum each time much to the amusement of the locals. They have said I can come back to play anytime though I think that was meant as a joke. I call that cultural integration.

Mongolian of the day:- ice :: mos