Monday, 14 March 2011

landing in St Jean de Luz

The moment that Chinggis Khaan landed in the sleepy Basque fishing port of St Jean de Luz he knew that he had found a second home. He would have struggled to find a more removed place from his wild and frozen Steppe. A multitide of brightly painted fishing boats sat berthed; enormous nets drying across their masts. Tall neatly packed townhouses in equally colourful resplendour watched on from the rim of the harbour, their windows crammed with curious faces. After ten months at sea the sight, sound and smells of this Basque fishing village embellished a maternal caress. The townsfolk lined the dock to welcome their new resident.

"Ahoy there!" shouted a swarthy looking Basque man, "Ongi etorri!".
"Sain baina uu!" replied Chinggis mimicking the welcome.

The dark, olive-skinned man leaned over and offered the Mongol emperor his arm. Pulling him ashore the two men embraced. It had been a long time since Chinggis had last been made to feel this welcome. A young child carrying a white terrine offered the stranger a splendid assortment of freshly caught fish. Chinggis had never tasted fish before but as the crowd looked on in anticipation he quickly swallowed three sardines and gulped greedily from a bottle of Irouleguy wine his new Basque friend had thrust into his hand. His eyes looked around at the people. They looked very different to those from his homeland. He looked forward to finding out more about them; particularly the women.

Basque of the day:- welcome :: ongi etorri

Friday, 4 March 2011

fond farewell

"The time has come" the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
Of cabbages - and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings."

The Walrus had most certainly spent 10 months in Mongolia. Each day has presented its own magic and now that the time has come to leave this land I feel that the sorcery will be left behind. It will remain to be rediscovered another day but new friends made will travel with us...

As for Chinggis and what made him so darned angry? I can only surmise two possible reasons. The first; as an avid cultural explorer he was wont to write poetry but failed in his pursuit to find a word that rhymed with his name. The second; have you ever tried to run the world's greatest ever empire from a remote felt tent surrounded by camels in -40C?

Ae fond kiss; and then we sever...

Mongolian of the day:- thank you :: tand bayarlaa

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

the times they are a changing

Today when I woke up in Mongolia it was -40C. On Sunday when I wake up in St Jean de Luz it will probably be +17C. A delightful swing of +57C. In the meantime a nice wee walk across the hills.Hat frozen to head? Check. Nose snot truly frozen? Check. Chilblains across body? Check. Frostbite appearing? Check. Eyelashes carrying icicles? Check. Closing eyes becoming more difficult and viscous? Check. Stupid arse for being out walking in this weather? Check.

Three days before I depart and this wonderous country is still throwing me surprises. I have already started planning my next visit. Too many new friends would be missed otherwise.

Mongolian of the day:- cold :: khuuiten

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

at the bottom of the garden

In recent weeks there has been a marked increase in the number of animals in our garden, I say garden, the grounds of our rather lovely ex-Politburo apartments total some 500 acres.

As the winter marches on herds of animals have moved nearer Ulaanbaatar to escape from the Steppe and surrounding mountains. Looking out of my bedroom window in the morning there are generally three options: goats, wild horses or big hairy cows.

Other creature residents include woodpeckers, marmottes, wild dogs (some rabid), the odd cat, Steppe eagles and more carrion than you can find pellets to kill. No sign of any wolves yet. Similarly the bears and snow leopards are staying away for the time being.

The animal visits serve to remind just how much more difficult life is further away from Ulaanbaatar. This year has been relatively soft compared to recent years. Not sure how I would have coped last year in -50C when some 30% of animals in Mongolia died; oddly enough nobody ever reported what % of the Mongolian people moved on...

If wild horses and dogs can't survive what hope for humans?

Mongolian of the day:- animal :: aimtan