Mongolia has about 40 million livestock: sheep, goats, horses, cows, and camels. That means that there are probably billions of turds lying all over the country. Mostly, they are harmless things which add some nutrition to the parched soil. But this weekend, I appreciated the power of turds to lead lost hikers out of the wilderness.
I just spent the last few days in Terelj National Park, a beautiful place about one hour from Ulaanbaatar. My kids found some playmates, and my wife was busy painting. So I had the rare opportunity to go off for a good hike. Alone.
I chose a nearby mountain range. It consists of rocky upthrusts with soft, slightly-wooded areas in between. Up I went. Of course I got lost. But luckily, there were animal turds in the area. Some were tiny pellets, probably sheep. Others were bigger. Cows, most likely.
I followed the turds. If there was a choice, I followed the larger ones. They led to a mountain pass with a gentle descent roughly in the direction I wanted to go. After a few minutes, I found a cow path, and quickly adopted the view that any place a cow would go was good enough for me.
I was grateful to the turds for leading the way. But I was also very happy to see a little purple-blue flower - a very clear sign that winter is over. It is still chilly, but the sharp edge of winter is gone.