Yurts 201: Reeds & Rats

So remember those Yurts I showed you? Super awesome, right?

Well, like any good vacation story, they come with some (I’m going to say hilarious because that’s how I hope I will look back on them in 20 years) downsides.

You’ll remember that the reed mats yurts are lined with are hella hard work. I mean hours and hours of labor. And their single-string stitch technique is both efficient and beautiful. But it also means they are impossible to patch.

You can’t swap out a broken reed or two, it’s an all or nothing deal. So understandably, sometimes a yurt will show wear and tear. A few broken reeds is small potatoes if thousands and thousands of them are still in tact and it’ll take you months to make a new one. (Sadly I’m not privy to whatever 10-second-rule equivalent Kyrgyz ladies use to decide when to retire a reed mat, but I am sure they have one.).

So yes, sometimes you sleep with a hole to The Outside right next to your face. Unadulterated wilderness wafting in. Sounds idyllic, no? Bu imagine you are wussy never-been-camping me. Here are three things about yurt travel you really should know:



How big of a hole does a turkey need to break into something?


Like microscopically small. They are like mice or bats or some creature that can squeeze and collapse their skeleton down to pass through impossible spaces. Though, lucky me, once they get in through a broken-reed yurt-hole they are too stupid to figure out how to get out again and they just run around the circular room like loons until you come back and chase them out the (now open) door.

Result? A freaked out turkey panic-pooping (yep, it’s a thing.) on my bed.





The outside layer of yurts are made of animal. Does this come with any downsides?


Well, for one, the fresh felt of newly shorn sheep, when rained on, smells like a particularly potent wet dog.

For another, animals smell other animals like it’s a super power. You know when your dog smells another dog has been near your mailbox and promptly pees on it?

Now imagine it’s dawn, and the calves and donkeys are being herded away from the sows during milking. You are still snuggly in your (poopy) bed, trying to get the remaining droplets of sleep into your brain. And the calves, smelling wet animal hide and missing their moms, all start to rub against the sides of the yurt, like cats marking their territory, which rocks the timbers like a wobbly canoe and causes you to leap out of bed in a bleary-eyed earthquake alert. And then they pee on it for good measure.

On second thought maybe wet felt doesn’t smell like mangy dog. Maybe that’s just old cow piss.




That’s gross, but not like scarring or anything. I mean, is there anything as terrifying as the scary clowns on the merry-go-round?

First Answer:

Yes. Yes there is.

A rat, scurrying around the edges of your pillow in the pitch darkness of the desert, with its snuffly little noises and frantic, unpredictable movements.

It is worse than anything you can imagine when the candle finally dies out with a tell tale hiss and you know it’s only a matter of time before IT comes.

No wait, Second Answer:

Finding out that rats and other flea infested beasts of this region (a long-time Silk Road Trading Outpost) were almost certainly responsible for spreading The Black Death through traders and caravans into the Middle East and then Europe, eventually killing 1/3 of the European population as well as thousands if not millions of people in China, India, the Middle East and elsewhere.

And this, THIS rat was right up in my face. Seriously people, I almost DIED. A horrible, pustule, Bubonic death.




Now I know. Rodents with diseases and animals breaking into campsites is really not that remarkable. I know this. I am fully aware raccoons and bears and all sorts of mice would be more than happy to infiltrate a Michigan tent given half a chance. However.

Plague rats ate my face and incontinent turkeys shat on my stuff.

That is just ridiculous.

I mean come on. This is so wildly, stupidly unfathomable I barely believe me and I was there! I had to clean the poops. I saw the nibbled edges of things in the morning light.I know in my heart I narrowly escaped an ugly death of fowl pink eye and the plague.

Most people exaggerate in their vacation stories, you may think, she probably doesn’t mean it. I’ll forgive you if you don’t believe my rambling. I probably wouldn’t believe me either.

But I know better, so help me. I KNOW.


ps, I know I’m disgusting. I promise to tell you a nice story tomorrow.

2 Responses to “Yurts 201: Reeds & Rats”
  1. throckmorzog says:


    But you didn’t write about how, when faced with face-eating plague rats in the pitch dark, normally rational women suddenly believe in voodoo like magic scarves ..


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