We set up camp next to a stream on the side of the road and started a fire with scattered wood and yak dung. Our guide, Inke, had fire in her eyes and wasn’t much for small talk. Dinner was pasta and beef—so was pretty much every meal.
We didn’t hear a car pass our campsite the entire night. The country felt immense and limitless, with not a fence post in sight, like you could camp anywhere and no one would notice, let alone give a damn.
Thick mountain woods transformed into snow-dusted alpine passes, which then revealed golden taiga beckoning us on the other side.
We followed the precocious reindeer-herding boy to a nearby river to fish with him and watched as he approached two girls from a neighboring camp. He slapped one of the reindeer they were riding on the butt—a ten-year-old’s version of flirting.