birthday camping

This was my birthday request: Camping in China with friends!
It was an adventure to say the least!! ...and our friends are brave souls!!

Five kids in the back seat of the van? Not squishy at all!

We rented a van & driver who drove us up into the mountains and dropped us off. We brought all our food, clothing & gear for two days/nights! We were able to stay in a wonderful Kazakh Yurt, which already had blankets & bedding, and a coal burning stove too. Yurt-camping sounds so rustic & adventurous.

BUT - out of nowhere, the temperatures dropped - and we were freezing COLD! Luckily, we brought winter jackets, etc - and we basically wore all our clothes in layers for the entire 48+ hours! The bedding was very lumpy & thin, so we didn't get that great of sleep, well - hardly any. I guess that is to be expected when you camp! Despite the cold weather/lack of sleep - we still had so much fun! More on that later. :)

When you go camping in America, you expect to get dirty - and the DIRT seems normal. In the mountains here, you have to take the dirty-factor UP a few dozen notches to fully grasp the filth that is "normal" here. I am not joking. Cattle & sheep roam all over the place, so the dirt is laced with animal dung everywhere. You can smell it. When we go to the mountains though - you just have to CHOOSE to overlook all the obvious signs of dirt and muck & poo. Otherwise you can obsess about it. And most of the time we just laugh really hard about grime & germs. Or else I might go crazy.

Then you have GARBAGE lurking from tourists in every possible cranny. And some of these tourists decide to drink large amounts of alcohol for hours on end, resulting in lots of loud vomiting. It's very sad. We try to find the humor in it all, but we mostly feel bad for the locals who live there and witness this type of behavior. I am glad we can be a positive reinforcement of families having fun, enjoying nature - and taking care of the world we live in. We had some neat conversations with lots of people this weekend. :) We also had to ask our local host to move their sheep one night, because it was tied up right outside the yurt, bleating every 5 seconds right next to our head. So they tied it up about 4 yurts away instead. SOOO much better!

Also, there are no showers in the mountains, so local people who live here year-round can only wash themselves in the trickling river water, but never a complete bath or shower. I can assure you they go months without a normal shower. Especially in the winter!! There are no bathrooms with running water or sinks. The outdoor squatty consists of a brick outhouse with 2 holes in the ground. You have to squat standing over 2 cement slabs. Surprisingly, these were cleaner than I had expected! Not that I mean to complain - just trying to give you a better idea of the differences. The girls preferred to find a tree or a convenient ditch to do their business. The outside air-flow is definitely a bonus!

And finally....
Things we loved about camping
eating picnic lunches outside
going for a nature scavenger hunt
riding horses up the mountain & through a flock of sheep
taking a hike at dusk up to the top of a crest
digging in the creek bed
roasting marshmallows over a coal-burning stove
warming ourselves by the coal stove
learning to play Dutch Blitz
cuddling under covers with the girls
brushing our teeth by flashlight & a water bottle
finding bugs & neat walking sticks
getting dirty
throwing rocks
the quiet of the mountains & nature
seeing a herd of camels
the brightness of the stars at night
sleeping in a Kazakh yurt!
bonding with friends even more!

Eden is our little animal lover. She wanted to ride all by herself, but this horse belonged to this Kazakh boy...who helped escort her up the mountain. She was so happy!!