Inner Mongolia

    My first big trip out of Anshan.  This was a nice one but not great.  I didn't know what to do and didn't trust my bad Chinese to get me far so I ended up going with the other foreigners to Inner Mongolia.  It was a bad time for travel, the was the first May 1st holiday (Labor Day everywhere but the US) the Chinese had several days off so everybody was going everywhere.  We had to stand up most of the way on the train.  I got smart and made a seat of my bag, a trick that's helped me more than once.  Catherine had heard that the Monguls were in their Yurts, a sort of tent, and that if you brought them 2 bottles of bijou (hard liqure) and 200 RMB they would put you up for the night.  I wasn't looking forward to sleeping on the ground but I went along with the plan.  What happend you can see below.

We went to a small town and I can't remember the name.  It was north of Tongliao and not on many maps.  We took a walking tour of the countryside.  This is the other three precariously crossing a bridge someone had tossed up over a shallow river.
A small village outside the city.  I think it was mostly farmers.  The government built their housed here together.  It was probably easier to provide services here then letting them live near their fields.
The grasslands were endless stretches of barren hills and valleys dotted by the occasional farm or flock of sheep.  This pic is of a group of peasents planting seeds for the summer.  The peasents don't own the land, the government alots it to them.
Another endless track of land.  We hired a taxi driver to take us to the Yurt, or Mongu Bao as they called it.  He took us on a tour of the grasslands around the town.  The shepards would tend 20-30 sheep as they grazed along the hills.
Inner Mongolia is famous for it's grasslands and deserts.  This is a dirt house in the middle of no where in a desert.  It was taken from the train.  You can see a small dirt wall surounding the house, probably to keep the good soil they plant with inside.
On of my favorite picturess from this trip.  Our driver stopped here so we could take pictures.  This is Catherine petting a baby sheep held by a young Mongolian girl.  She spoke a few words of English and Catherine had her red dictionary.  The girl was watching her sheep while lying on her back against the hill.  I imagine it was quite a shock to her to see 4 foreigners walk into her field.  Catherine sent her some pic we took and we got a reply from her.  She had dropped out of school at 16 to help on the farm.  It would seem that's common in the countryside.
Below, my other best picture.  Sorry its so big but I was far away.  The girl, crop in hand, was going to gather her sheep.  As we were leaving she turned and I snapped a picture.  In the distance, on the right, you can see what I think is her house.  It's appears to be dug out of the ground with a structure build around it.  Probably the best way to keep warm in the winter.  Sometimes the snow reaches 37cm.
Another dugout house.  You can get an idea of how spread out everything is.  A nice break from crouded Anshan.
Catherine and Arturo watch as a shepard whacks a few baby sheep back into the heard.  Like the Chinese themselves, sheep are taught to do everything and go everywhere together.  There's danger in distance from the flock.
Below, An abandoned mud house with a courtyard.  This was common in the farming areas.  There are very few trees that grow in Inner Mongolia so people make their home out of what ever they can.  These people have probably moved to a better brick house.  As China develops scenes like this are becoming less common.
After a while we began to wonder when the driver would take us to the Mongu Bao.  Arturo asked him, so he turned around and drove toward town.  He pulled up into a park and showed us this thing.  This is not a Bao, this is made of wood.  Its for any tourist who happen to pass by.  The driver thought he'd done a great job.  Catherine didn't.  You can see her steaming on the far left.  I was laughing, this is the sort of thing that happens in china.  It turnes out that the Mongus wouldn't enter their Baos for another month or two.  We did see one from the train, though, this was the closest we got to one.  The driver had done such a good job that when he tried to stick us for more money, we just gave him the bijou.
And this is me.  We stopped for pictures atop on of the hills.  Just a few days before I had shaved my beard.

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