Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shake, rattle and slide!

After I left Mongolia you may remember that I was hanging around in Beijing for a while. Then I set off for Delhi to help the Manager there for a couple of weeks. Oh yeah, I might have been there near where 2 of the bombs went off, but that is a whole other story.

Then it was my final trip. What a doosy! I went to Pakistan again, and if you were with me for the first adventure, you will remember it was a little interesting. The fun bit this time was the Muslim fasting time of Ramadan. That means that getting food in daylight hours was somewhat of a challenge for our Pakistani guide, he had to be careful not to offend some religious high person. So one day found us eating in a darkened hotel restaurant, another in a local eating place that looked closed from the outside but was crowded inside...only with men...except for my group with 6 women of course and lots of others just in our hotel because nothing else was open. The hotel in Lahore would feed us, but only with room service!

Anyway, the group included a man who was 81 and a lady who was 78! Yay, that sound like fun for long bus rides at altitude doesn't it. But wait, both of them could barely walk more than 300m, they couldn't do stairs, even a short flight, they had no flexibility, so I was considering a cattle prod to get them in and out of the bus ,and they wanted to eat dinner at 6pm every night cause the lady told me that 8pm was her bedtime!

So Pakistan conquered, yes I did that crazy hike to the glacier again, we went to China. Now I love China, it is a fun place to be...except in an earthquake...shake rattle and roll. Again another story for another day!

I made up about the first 4 days of the trip as there was no leader notes, the we finally got on the train to Tibet. Yes, after waiting 6 months, the Chinese finally allowed us to enter. It was worth the wait too. Lhasa was really cool, Potala Palace that you are sure to have seen pics of is great, but the highlight of course was getting to see Everest. We were lucky with the weather too.

Then there was the landslide.....

Finally made it to Nepal, on my birthday for the second year in a random! Where I officially hang up my leading boots.

From there it was a lightening trip to BKK, then back to Wollongong for some family time...and the beach!

Retired and new blog

Well my time has they say! I have retired from GAP Adventures and am going off on new adventures with my friends.

You can follow the new adventures at

or better still if I were you I would look at Jo's blog, it is more likely to be up to date than mine!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Olympics pool and stadium

So ok, I missed the Olympics but a close margin arriving as the closing ceremony was on.

I did however go off to see the stadium and the water cube. Couldn't get in of course as it was in lock down for the paralmypics, but the venues from the outside were amazing. The cube is awesome.

I got some photos with blue sky behind so it looks like a big pile of blue bubbles. Really cool. The stadium really does look likes a bird's nest.

We tried to get tickets for the opening ceremony of the paras, but they were sold out. It is pleasing to see that the Chinese embraced that as well and were lining up at the ticket office for ages. There was also heaps of Chinese out sightseeing like we were, so it was still a great atmosphere.

I also had 3 chinese lessons while I was in Beijing and after that was able to tell the taxi drivers where I lived, so I was pretty chuffed about that.

I really like Beijing and think I could live there if I had an ex-pat type job because like all these Asian cities, it is great if you have good accommodation and the money to spend at nice restaurants and bars.

I even found an Aussie bar so I could watch the first round of the AFL finals and Sydney beat Kangaroos, which was great.

Marriage in Mongolia

No don't worry I didn't get married. However, Joy the pax from the last trip, said that I should tell you that I seriously considered it after I found out that the Mongolian government gives newly weds 500,000 tugriks (about $5000 US). Apparently to help them buy a ger etc.

She did say at the time that she didn't think the monetary reward was sufficient though!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mongolia photos

Somehow I managed to create a website for the photos in Picassa as the Flickr one is full.
So check these out. I don't know how to do captions...sorry...but I thought I was smart getting this far!

Mongolian Olympics GAP style

As many of you know I am a bit of a sports fan. I was devastated to be so close, yet so far from the Olympics in Beijing.

So in the spirit of adventure and to keep the pax occupied I devised the scheme of having our own Olympics. The pax and even the guide took to the idea very well. With terrific support from Joy, a Pax from California, we devised a series of events to test our skills.

I am pleased to say that I managed a tally of 3 gold medals for Australia and tied with Mongolia for the tally total.

So the first event was somewhat impromptu with Joy yelling at me and the guide, Muuggie, while we were standing on top of a pile of dirt, that the Mongolians call an ovoo. They have all these things on there like rocks and blue material and they walk around the pile 3 times and throw a stone on as a sort of prayer for safe travel. So Joy yells 'you 2 race down there'. So being stupid we did just that, and the event was called the Ovoo Dash. I came a dismal second as I fell on the way down and managed to collect some grazes for my trouble.

This got us into a creative mood, we made a flag, gold medals and a medal chart to record the victors. Gold medals were whatever creative thing we could come up with and included beer bottle caps, lolly (candy) wrappers, and stones.

The events were the Dune dash...4 of us lined up about 30 metres up a sand dune and raced down. I had somewhat of an advantage because the others had just returned from climbing the dune, so they were tired. Nevertheless, we needed a final to separate me and Joy. This improved impossible with the 2 judges giving different verdicts, so we decided on a joint gold in this case. My first.

The camel race was rigged, with John from Canada being led by the camel man and then coercing him into getting in front before the race, so he won by a long way. At least that is the loser's point of view. He was awarded the medal anyway.

Bone toss was a test of accuracy with throwing a bone from a sheep. We had to get closest to the bush. I am pleased to say that many years of cricket may have helped me win this.

The Cowpat Discus was a quite a challenge. First Joy and I scoured the area looking for a suitable cowpat. As is always the way, there was plenty in other areas we had been in. So in the end we found one, but as it was the only one, we had to put it in a plastic bag to try and keep it together. It didn't really hold together too well, but served the purpose. Muuggie, our Mongolian guide, proved that she has the power in this and threw the cowpat alot further than any of the rest of us.

Ellen from Florida easily took out the horse race, as her only opponent John admitted that he wasn't game to challenge her because it was likely to be her only gold medal, and he didn't want his eyes scratched out.

Next came the stone skipping. There is a great lake called Khorsovol in northern Mongolia, looks alot like an ocean. On the lake edge is oodles of flat stones perfect for stone skipping. We had 5 attempts each and I was a clear winner with my 4th attempt skipping around 10 times! I was awarded a pink stone as a gold medal.

I had to sit out ping pong because we couldn't figure out how to do a draw with 5 people and limited time..there was a queue for the table! Joy from California proved too good for her opponents in this one. The competition was intense, Muuggie from Mongolia looked decidedly depressed after losing her first round.

Camel drawing really bought out the creative side...or not...most of our camels looked like horses, but John took this one. His camel at least looked realistic.

Of course being in Mongolia we had to finish off with wrestling, like in the Naadam Festival. Muuggie proved way too strong for me and Joy (Ellen and John sat this on out). We did Japanese style and Mongolian style, and this is harder than it looks, especially for an unfit tour leader!

Our little escapades kept many of the locals amused as they watched us compete in our events.

It was alot of fun and congratulations to all who participated.


A flower in the Mongolian countryside Gandan Monastery in Ulaan Bataar. The most important Monastery in the country.

Returning to China

I flew into Beijing the night the Closing Ceremony for the Olympics was on. From the plane I saw the fireworks that kicked of the ceremony.

What struck me most was the lack of traffic on the streets, maybe they were all inside watching tv, but it was sooo quiet. The traffic plans have reduced pollution as well, so the skies have been blue most days, and it is amazing to see this in Beijing.

I tried to get tix to the Opening of the Paralympics but it was sold out. Unfortunately I have to leave town so I will miss the Para events as well.

I am off to BKK then India, Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal, before heading home at end October.

Safely out of Mongolia

I finally left Mongolia after completing 3 laps of the middle part, didn't even get to the western or eastern fringes. I travelled about 10,000km in a russian 4WD van that resembles a Kombi. It was not comfortable and now I have a sore back.

This is a pick of one of the guides Zobs, with one of our many flat tyres.

I managed to escape the clutches of the weird Sharmanistic reindeer lady. I didn't visit them guide wouldn't let me, so I had a nice day sitting around camp reading and going for a walk by the lake instead.

Here is a pic of the dude...ok not so attractive!

I left Mongolia on the day that they won their second gold medal and second silver medal. The people took to the streets in their cars and drove around hanging out the windows and yelling and waving the flag and beeping the horn. It was great to see such celebrations.

The week before the judo man won their first ever gold medal, and he has become a national hero. The private companies were competing to reward him and last I heard he had been given 5 houses, a car, a year's worth of petrol and cash as well. They told me it was about $7 million USD worth. Amazing!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Mutton mutton mutton...ok never thought I would say it, but I am a bit sick of mutton now. I was craving chicken, go figure. Apparently they don't eat lamb here, they saw it is too sweet.

Had lots of beef (or maybe yak) too and salad is tomato, cucumber and capsicum (red peppers). Each meal seems to have meat and rice and potato. Nothing like a carb high!

Still can't complain, I thought I would lose weight in these 2 months, and despite cutting back on beer, I am drinking alot of coke, so not good for me either.

Yakkity yak

Lots of yaks here in Mongolia. I have eaten the best yak cream, it was so thick I spread it with a knife on bread and was sweet and creamy. The milk is good too but I prefer cows milk still. Not a fan of horse milk and reindeer was ok. Don't think I tried camel milk many milks!

No joking with reindeer people

Apparently the Sharmanistic reindeer people don't have a sense of humour. So my conversation with the old lady caused some consternation with our guides.

We were in the old lady's tee pee (yes like the American indian style) and we asked about her children, grandchildren etc, what it was like to live way up north, wow 70 cm of snow is quite deep. Oh you eat the reindeer and drink their milk...tried some milk, it was ok. Blah blah usual tourist stuff. Remember all this is being translated by our guide.

Anyways, I had a photo of her son that I had taken on my previous visit to the reindeer family. The old lady wanted to see it and then chastised me for not having been in the teep pee before...weird. So she says he is the ugly one, he is not married. As we were about the leave the tee pee she says to me, will you marry my son. Of course, I said, I'll be back in 3 weeks, and she stuck out her hand which I duly shook. We had a big laugh and we left.

Then my guide spoke to me, she was white faced and looking worried. She said she was afraid for me because this was a very powerful sharmanistic woman and she would do magic on me to make me stay. She said it was not a joke to her and she told me I am not allowed to go back there on my next trip. Then the other guide started on me, same story. Now they really have me worried.

Turns out that this woman can actually speak English, she was just pretending she couldn't, because another pax came late and had a tour with the lady in fluent English! Then the driver tells me that the husband we saw was magiced (is that a word?) into marrying her, despite the fact that they were both already married. The 2nd guide calls her family to see what protection she can give me, and comes back to tell me how worried she is!

Great - so now I am banned from going there, which is good, I have been twice anyway, so will spend the time in camp reading!

Naadam Festival

Naadam is the most important festival for Mongolia. Folks come from all over the countryside to enter the competitions. There are horse races that go for 15-30km depending on the age of the horse, and the jockeys are mere young boys and girls up to 12 yo! We actually missed the horse racing because the traffic was so bad, we couldn't get to the finish line on time as it was about 20 km from the city.

The wrestling is the main event in the stadium, with men of varying sizes locked in a sumo style of wrestle and the winner being the one who manages to throw the other to the ground. There is no weight class, so the first round saw an uneven contest between skinny little army guys and big fat wrestlers. The eventual winner was a big guy who gets to take home a big cash prize and get lots of accolades. The winner of each bout goes to a flag stand where he does a little dance around and then comes back and gets to slap the bum of the loser on hi was out!

Other events were archery and knuckle bones, contested by men and women. The archery was great, the contestants wore local clothing and had great aim. When they hit the target, the people standing around it put their hands up and sing a bit to indicate they did well. Knuckle bones was a bit like marbles. They shoot a square flat bit of bone at a group of knuckle bones from the sheep. We never could work out the scoring system or who even won. I had a go at it, and it was really hard.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mongolia - what a start

Well, the first 36 hours in Mongolia have proved somewhat eventful.

First I was a victim of the airport taxi scam, an unfortunate thing that as a non Mongolian speaker, you are really stuck with. First a man followed me around the airport while I was trying to find the bank and change my money. I eventually told him to back off as I wanted to take the official taxi. Having been in Asia a while, I know that there are many illegal ones prowling the airports.

Problem 1 - I already knew that there was no official taxis (sometimes Lonely Planet is good ($5 they said) and I have been here before anyway). So any car acts as a taxi. They told me 30,000 Mong things, (about $25). I tried to bargain to 20,000 but got the same boring lecture they sprout all over the world about fuel prices. Still I knew $25 was excessive. I got in the car none too happy. On the 20 minute journey I decided that I was not going to pay 30,000, so when the driver showed me 30,000 in his phone, I gave him 20,000(a bit over $17) and grabbed my bags. He held out his hand wanting more, I gave him the filthest look I could muster (not hard after 4 hours sleep and a few hours on a plane) shook my head and left. He didn't argue, why would he? He already got twice the going rate. I later asked our tour company who told me I should have paid 10,000.

After I got some sleep, the next day I headed off to meet the tour operator. Nice people, they invited me to an opening party for a new cafe that they have called Amsterdam cafe. The owners are Dutch eh! So I trotted off to the party, it was officially opened by the Queen of the Netherlands (OK so I just googled her and found out that I was duped - I thought she looked a bit young) then I ate their food and drank their wine and left.

On the way home, I caught a man with his hand in my backpack, helping himself to my calculator. I don't know what made me turn and catch him as I didn't hear anything. So I got the calculator back and then chased him down the street yelling a few unlady like words at him. If I caught him I would have made him sorry. Lucky I had just moved my phone to my pocket. I saw him again today, and felt like giving him a good thumping, but this time watched my bag very closely.

Today I went sightseeing. Ulan Bataar is quite modern, about 4 new big glass buildings are under construction and the whole Russian feel that was here last time has gone. There are many pubs, western style food places and internet around. The shops are funny though, they look like someones house and the little market near our hotel looks like a toilet block in the middle of the carpark. I only went in there cause I saw people coming out with what looked like groceries.

30 June - heading off into the wilds of Mongolia, will be back in UB on time for the Nadaam Festival.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where will I be?

Check these out. There are places on the 14th July and 4 August if you want to book!

First trip is the Festival trip

Second and third trips are Nomadic Mongolia


Yes, you read that right. I am going to be in Mongolia for 2 months starting 27 June 08. So that means I miss the Olympics...rats.

But I do get to see the Mongolian version of the Olympics, called the Nadaam Festival. Some of you might remember I was there in 2001 with Jo.

So there will be wrestling...think sumo, archery, and bare back horse racing...for 30km! Also a thing called knuckle bones, which looks like a cross between jacks and ten-pin bowling.

So I will write again when I get internet, which will only be in Ulan Bataar (UB). The rest of the time I will be camping...noice!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


This is the Pakistan side of the border with India. This is during the day so no big crowds to contend with. The man standing at the gate said "Welcome to Pakistan".
Charming man and (maybe) his son. This is the one Ailsa keeps telling anyone who will listen that I was last seen driving off west with him!
This is at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Like my headscarf?
mmm, this man was a little too friendly. A Pakistani roadside stall cook. He is holding my hand as you can see and I am probably the only woman he has eve touched besides his mother!