Contemplating Solitude: The Mongolian Steppes

75830_627564384152_2339912_n‘End of tourist season…end of tourist season’ echoes through my brain as I sit alone in my ger. Mongolia, the land of extremes – geographically, socially, emotionally. Minute by minute struggling to adapt to the quiet, the isolation, the barrenness of the Mongolian wilderness.

Yet I am not alone, of course. I only feel this isolation because I am not sharing the new experience with anyone, and the language barrier along with cultural differences make it difficult if not impossible for me to confide in anyone here. I hate to say it, when surrounded by such jaw-dropping scenery, but I think that if it weren’t for internet access and my ipod, I would go insane.

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The lonesome feeling is a strange one. I feel bereft, as though something has been ripped from me, as though I am being deprived of something essential to my happiness – to my survival, even. I have been observing the Takhi, riding, walking, preparing English lessons… I have been relatively busy, but it is the moments when there is nothing to do that are the painful ones. Trying to refrain from reading, because I have only one and a half books left(!), collecting stones and pressing plants for mum to see, sketching, writing…

149499_627528705652_5286070_nRocks are the bones of the Earth jutting through its skin

I have realised that this pitiable, pathetic, lonely feeling won’t be leaving any time soon – and I shall have to absorb it, assimilate it into my being somehow. So very strange. In some ways this is heaven – an expanse, a landscape I have always dreamt of. Something to be absorbed into; to become nothing, insignificant, in its presence. In other, more surprising, more revealing ways, it is also hell. So strange, so confusing, so perplexing. I feel that I should be happy here. I thought I was an independent being, satisfied with my own company, content with being alone. Perhaps I am not the girl I used to be. Perhaps I was never that girl?

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When we strip back the skin, the sinews, the complications, the human being is essentially a sociable animal, and apart from a few anomalies to the rule, we all need companionship (or at least the option of companionship) for happiness.

‘The silence is deafening’ – such an overused phrase, and yet so precisely relevant, here. When I am alone in this Mongolian desertscape, and the deer have momentarily ceased their desperate, yearning cries, I listen, and I hear nothing. And yet my ears seem to buzz deafeningly loudly. It is almost as though my senses cannot comprehend this silence, this soundlessness, and in a panic-stricken way they over-compensate.

Panic. It is what I have felt time and again, when I begin to dwell on the solitude. Utter, animal panic. If it wasn’t so excruciating I would call it intriguing.

The grass rustles and rattles as the wind passes through. It sounds like fire.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello, Can I ask, what are you doing in Mongolia? Why are you there? n It is a beautiful place, so boundless! I always thought it would be a lonely place, your post really gives a lot of emotional insight to the country, I really enjoyed it!

    1. imogenoxley says:

      I’m not there at the moment, but when I wrote this I was at Hustai National Park. I went as an Ecovolunteer, helping the rangers and scientists monitor the movements of the Takhi (Przewalski’s horse). It is indeed beautiful and boundless, and breathtaking. Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the piece

  2. Probably going to visit Mongolia in March (I say probably, as I haven’t yet decided if the expense is worth it). I am only going to be spending a few days in UB, but I really want to explore the city and maybe get to Terelj!

    1. imogenoxley says:

      That’s great. It’s definitely worth the trip – even though, as you point out, not exactly cheap. I didn’t go to Terelj, but it’s not too far from the city as far as I can remember… If you are thinking of travelling for an extended amount of time I would suggest combining it with a trip to Beijing or an adventure on the trans Siberian railway. A few days in UB would be plenty – you could even go to an opera! It’s definitely a unique experience – natives singing in Italian with surtitles in Mongolian?!

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