Friday, November 9, 2007

Travels far and wide

Like most New Yorkers, I often fall prey to habitual paths. By this, I mean our tendancy to only stay in our neighborhood and to simply zip to work and back and basically remain isolated in our tiny orbits. And then someone will send me a note or tell me about something so wild and different that I want to leave everything and go travel the world. Recently, a co-worker sent me these pictures and the following note:

Go to maps Google and put in Sainshand. That’s the provincial capital in Gobi – it’s about 200 miles from the capital, connected really only by a railroad. The map shows a road but it is fictional as far as I could tell. It’s the last major town before the Chinese border. The holy mountain is ten or fifteen miles outside the town. You reach it by driving across the desert. There’s no road, but believe it or not, there are road SIGNS! It is surreal to drive through the sand and come across a sign…I don’t know what makes the mountain holy, but there’s a shrine about a quarter way up; people get little written prayers and try to burn them in a little tiny altar – very difficult in a strong wind (which is perpetual). Women are not allowed to go beyond the shrine. Once again, I’ve no idea why. The men and boys go up the mountain, which comes to a perfect peak at the top with a level space maybe ten or twelve feet across with a stone altar in the middle. Or rather, an altar made of lots of loose boulders and pebbles. People tie prayers to it. Also, they have this strange habit of flinging vodka in the air whenever they’re near an altar (or indeed, even before they have a social drink) so as I was gasping and dizzy on very wobbly knees clinging to the tiny level space between the altar and the edge, I was suddenly doused by flying wind-driven vodka. Bizarre. But everything about the trip was bizarre.

I am grateful for reminders that this Earth is full of strange and unexpected treasures. And to always remember that there is more to learn and see and experience.

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