Sunday, September 08, 2013

You Want a Mongolian Travel Wrap

When the temperature drops outside, I mean, really drops, not this oh my it's chilly here in suburban DC but HOLY CRAP I CAN'T FEEL MY NOSE, nothing else matters but finding a way to Not be Cold. As your core temperature drops and your ability to reason goes out the window (freezes and shatters into dust), you will realize you want, no, need, a Mongolian Travel Wrap.  Oh my, yes you will.

But first, let us consider the source.

This*, my friends, is a Yak, known to clever folk as Bos grunniens.  Say hello to Mr. Yak.

Now I don't know about you, but this does not look like a docile, hey buddy, come on and grab some of this sweet, sweet hair I'm sporting here and turn it into a blanket, I'll just hang out until you're done.

No, it looks like something that would run you down and turn you into something only vaguely reminiscent of a bipedal hominid.  And it wouldn't care.

Thankfully, two bright-eyed, clever fellows named Julian Wilson and Aaron Pattillo made nice with some much heartier, yak-friendly types in Mongolia and figured out a way to separate the yak - actually, a rather large number of yaks - from their sweet, sweet hair:
Their pursuit took them back to the far reaches of the Tibetan plateau, and then north to the steppes of Mongolia, where they experienced yak wool auctions, tortuous rides in Russian made jeeps, large mugs of yak butter tea, fiery local drinking sessions of the homemade yak milk liquor archi, and, naturally, a lot of yaks. 
Flush with piles of yak hair, they have crafted something you can use to keep your sorry ass warm.  Brilliant.

And, they've been kind enough to share some yak facts which I, being an unscrupulous blogger, will copy and share with you:
  1. Over 90% of the world's yak population of nearly 15 million lives on the Tibetan Plateau in the Himalayas.

  2. Lamps in Tibetan monasteries are fuelled by yak butter.

  3. Yak cheese has higher amounts of heart-healthy fats than cheese from dairy cattle.

  4. Yak polo, played on yaks instead of horses, was pioneered in Mongolia a decade ago.

  5. The first yakalo, a cross between a yak and an American bison, was produced through selective breeding in Alberta, Canada in 2000.
  6. A major use for the yak’s coarse tail hair is to create fake beards worn by actors in Chinese opera.
  7. In local communities, yak bone is often made into exquisite handicrafts, including combs, buttons and ornaments.
  8. The only natural predator of the wild yak is the Tibetan wolf.
  9. In Mongolia yak milk is fermented in a leather pouch and distilled as a "milk wine" called archi.
  10. In winter a wild yak can survive temperatures as low as - 40 degrees (C).
  11. A wild yak doesn’t reach full size until six to eight years of age.
  12. Amongst yaks living in the wild, births usually occur in June and a single calf is born every other year.
  13. Dried yak dung is used as fuel on the treeless Tibetan plateau.
  14. The male wild yak can reach up to 6.5 feet high at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 2,200 pounds. Wild female yaks are up to a third of the male’s size. Domestic male yaks are much smaller in size and weigh up to 1,300 pounds while domestic female yaks weigh up to 560 pounds.
  15. Even in the below-freezing winters, yaks have been spotted bathing in lakes and rivers. This is because yak’s warm coat provides insulation through a thick outer coating of long hair and a dense inner coating of matted, shorter fur.
  16. It is believed that the strength of yak wool comes from the high levels of amino acids contained within the fibres.
  17. Yak wool is very resistant to static electricity meaning garments a less likely to spark or cling to the body during dry conditions.


*photo by travelwayoflife, cc-by sa, from wikimedia commons, sourced from EOL

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