We said goodbye to Plessen
and off we went at 5.30 a.m. in the morning, when the sun was shining over the
palace and hundreds of swallows flying round it. Our destination was a lama’s town and temple called Beidzemiao
where the second most important Living Buddha in Outer Mongolia was staying. There was an early morning haze over
Mongolia. The sentry at the gate was
snoozing and another sang a Mongolian song reading it from Mongolian
writing. A woman was squatting on the
floor arranging a silver headdress. Priests squatted facing the sun. A boy with crooked legs strolled about.
We passed a Japanese
hospital, which had increased in size over the last three months, and then by
four long, low buildings and three gasoline tanks built on ground close by
where the Japanese planes land. The
Mongols dread the aeroplanes and have fantastic legends about them, because the
Japanese once took a skeleton away for research. Even the camels are terrified by the shadows of the planes.
The Mongols are frightened of the Japanese;
they said there was no snow last winter, because of their presence.
We drove over uncharted land.
No map contains the features of the roads or
rivers. Perhaps the Japanese have
military ones. The roads were terrible,
just ruts here and there. We very
nearly bumped the roof every other minute. The lorry-car nearly tumbled over.
It was like being in a tank during the war. We went on for hours and hours. How we stuck it I don’t know and how the car kept together I also do not
know. We had to go the long way round
the Sacred Mountain, as we crossed the southern fringe of the GOBI DESERT. (Did you think a year ago that I would be
crossing part of the Gobi Desert?)
It was very sandy and the scent from the wild thyme
was beautiful. Fine birds and eagles
circled in the sky and antelopes crossed our path. Skeletons of cattle lay strewn on the wayside.
There was a sudden descent in the track and
we could see ridges and plains stretching for
miles. There were very few yurts to be
seen and eventually we came to some temples where we grinned at a solitary