Once the sun came up they started appearing. They were just puffs of dust off in the distance and as they got closer you could see 3 or 4 people squeezed on the motorcycle. They were curious about what 2 little tents and a car were doing in their flat rocky landscape they call home. Or maybe they simply wanted to come and say hi. For whatever reason, they came, they stopped, they smiled, and they shared.
This particular morning at our camp near the village of Dariv we had lots of local visitors. Our camp site wasn’t one of my favorites as we had arrived in the dark the night before and had to choose our camping spots carefully among all of the rocks and prickly weeds with our headlamps. But this morning when we woke up and could actually see our surroundings, I was warming up to the place. It even had a toilet nearby! The toilet was so nice that I had to take my camera with me to capture the spectacular view!
Visitors started arriving shortly after we had cooked up breakfast. It wasn’t just the locals, it was also camels! We apparently were camping next to a favorite resting spot of camels; they cam meandering towards us in the morning and all sat down in a huddle not too far from our camp. Dave and I decided to go greet our furry, flatulent friends. We walked up slowly and quietly so as not to scare them, but soon realized that they weren’t at all intimidated by us. We practically could go up and pet them…that is if you could stand the smell.
Families on motorbikes started showing up and looking in wonderment at our car and tents. Little did we know that they were sizing them up as they wanted to buy them! They made the ‘universal’ sign for “How much” (rubbing your thumb and two forefingers together). We had to tell them that nothing was for sale and tried to explain that we were driving to Mongolia. We showed them the map on the front of our hood and they all huddled around to see the details excited to see the map of Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
One family pulled up, got off their motorcycle, started digging through a big bag on their bike and brought us each a piece of hard goat cheese. Just to set the record straight – this goat cheese is not like what you buy in the store at home – it’s hard, salty, and a bit tangy/sour. It’s definitely an acquired taste. But we graciously accepted their gift.
They sat and watched us pack up our camp smiling intently and then when satiated with watching the foreigners, they all got back on the bike and drove off. It was one of my favorite mornings of camping; the toilet, the camels, and the locals – you can’t beat that! We got a late start driving that day, but it was totally worth it!