We have missed the first day of the Naadam festival, which included the preliminary rounds of Böhk – where anyone can compete, and seven-year-olds wrestle burly champions. That could’ve been me and Tama, should’ve been me and Tama, and our unitards … but we missed it. Without this participation factor, Day Two of Naadam is pretty disappointing – like the kind of bogan country rodeo that I wouldn’t be caught dead in back in Australia. Peasants selling their grandparent’s jewellery, big disturbing bear skins complete with head and claws …
Lots of Huushuur (mutton pancakes).
I watched the finals of this really quite slow and boring sport, feeling tired and disappointed and only slightly relieved not to be taking on big burly Mongolians after yesterday’s killer ride. When the winner finally wins, I crowd around with my flipcam and tripod trying to capture the moment, and it’s only then that I notice all the other tourists crowding around with their videocameras and digital SLRs and an entire Singaporean film crew complete with sound guy & shotgun mic, all trying to capture the moment. I realise I don’t have a clue what the moment even is, I’m just here because I feel like I should be. Everyone starts packing up and leaving straight away.
I look around for Tama, and he’s standing in the middle of the field, aviators on, talking on his mobile, looking like he’s just arrived by helicopter, while peasants trot by on horseback in the background.
And we bike home, my gears squeaking and slipping, I feel sunburnt and bloated with mutton, bad, the whole thing is a strange letdown. I knew that Moron was going to be a shithole, but this was different. Lame. When we get back to our ger, I want to have a nap much more than spend an hour trying to help Tama fix my fucking gears on my brand-new fucking bike. As I’m unlocking the door, this paunchy middle-aged guy rumbles up to Tama and shakes his hand, slurring in Mongolian. He grabs Tama’s crotch, then laughs and gives him a big thumbs-up. He turns to me and lurches over, reeking of Chinggis, and doesn’t bother with the handshake. I bat his hand away from my cock a couple of times, he’s harmless but very cheeky. So. “Böhk,” I say, and place my left hand on his right shoulder, like I saw them do it. “Böhk?! … okay okay. Böhk!”
And so, me and Tama go five or seven rounds with this fat, drunken, chinggis-reeeking old Mongol, and his slightly-less-fat but just-as-drunk friend. After three rounds I retire, undefeated, having thrown both the dirty boozers face-first into the turf. “Good, Thomas, very good!” our landlord, Batbot, exclaims. We choke down a toast of Chinggis with the drunks, and avoid going off with them for a massive Chinggis bender (they stagger off with one and a half bottles of the stuff). I lie on the ground, quietly retching from the exertion.
This seems like a throughly appropriate, perfectly moronic way to observe Mongolia’s national holiday.