We dumped our food on the table, stripped to our underwear, and took off down the track towards the river. The river ran between muddy banks (not the usual stones), and was freezing. I decided it was now or never and had a dip, which was actually not nearly as painful as I thought it might be. We returned to the pools and gradually immersed ourself in water that was pretty hot. Rolling around in the mud and clay (a deep blue colour) we soaked and steamed until we were bright red and puffy, and there was nothing for it but to run back to the river and jump in. Putting your head under stimulates the mammalian diving reflex (in a BIG way), which is probably why the experience wasn't fatal! After a while we scraped off most of the mud, dressed, and ate most of the food we'd brought. Nikolai poured his leaves into a cauldron and cooked up an amazing tea. We left in quite a hurry to meet the taxi driver, and sadly I forgot my wet underwear, which I'd left on one of the pipes to dry.
About a 40 minute walk back (no sign of bears), then a series of 3 buses taking about 2 hours (one of which was full of men from the navy), and I was home. I cooked about 60 ANZAC biscuits (though some went missing in action...), then walked across town to meet another couch surfer (Tanya), her family, and two couchsurfers from Australia. They are the first Australian tourists I've seen the WHOLE trip (there were 3 others, geologists and mining engineers in various places), and to my delight I discovered I had not forgotten how to speak the lingo. We chatted for the rest of the evening. My knee had got a bit sore (from the bus ride after climbing the volcano, crammed into a tiny seat!), but Olya, who is a physio, confirmed that it was nothing too serious. I put my raincoat back on and struggled through wind and driving rain (which looked amazing under yellow street lights) to my flat, where I took a shower (win!), closed the door (win!), and slept on a bed with sheets (win!!!).
Today the weather is awful, so I slept in, then ate food and uploaded photos. They are visible here:
This album completes Mongolia, meaning I'm only 46 days behind now.