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I was half-awake watching the flames of the fire when the sound of a jeep rousted me to my feet. Guarding my relief, I looked closely to see if it was Jagaa’s familiar white Russian-made four-door. He opened the latch. “Jagaa, it’s good to see you,” I said. The vague glow of dawn crept over the mountains as we sat around the fire and shared beers in celebration of our reuniting.
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It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong with our shuttle mix-up, but I’ve had similar things happen in the States, where we share a language and a culture. Take away those commonalities, and shuttle follies are bound to occur sometimes. We were just glad to be back with our friend, and our gear.
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After a few hours’ sleep everyone rallied to continue downstream. The river was now called the Shiver Gol. Jagaa insisted that the translation for “shiver” was “foot odor.” Taking his claim with some suspicion, we coined the stream as the Stinky Foot Fork, and followed its penetration into the rocky front range of the Harhiraa Mountains.
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The rapids were perfect class IV, with chutes and eddies spilling through round stair-stepping boulders.
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Several drops in, we were surprised to see vertical walls emerge, closing the river between sinuous smooth cliffs—a real gorge.
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The upstream Khagartin was perhaps the hardest whitewater in Mongolia, but the downstream Shiver Gol was almost certainly the best. As the gorge grew, the rapids diminished, allowing our worry-free gaze at the soaring walls.
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Tumbling out of the mountains and into the desert, the river refused to flatten completely, constricting into class III sluices beneath steep low banks. Finally, the Shiver Gol split into multiple channels, as many Mongolian rivers do, once reaching the valley plain. Jagaa was waiting patiently at the take-out, standing in the smoke of a dung fire to keep the horseflies at bay.
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