Welcome to Mongolia, land of the big blue sky. I’ve spent the last week and a half in Mongolia and it is not nearly enough time. However, it’s freezing cold here and I am not prepared for this type of cold. What this means is that I will need to return to Mongolia in the summer time when it’s warmer. In August, everything will be open and camping will be more enjoyable.
The Mongolian countryside is gorgeous. I loved the view of snow covered plains and mountains. The sky was always blue and the clouds made occasional appearances.
The sight of camels sent me over the edge with excitement. When I arrived in Mongolia, I wanted to take a tour into the Gobi desert, but I was unable to go due to being ill. Instead, I opted for a 3-day tour into the countryside, knowing that I would not be able to see or ride a camel. Well, as you can see from the photo above, I did see camels -although I decided not to pay to ride them.
One of the things I loved about my time in Mongolia was staying with local families in their Ger (Yurt). During my short time in Mongolia, I had the opportunity to stay with two families. The Kazakh family was the second family. They owned three Ger’s, many sheep, goats and some cattle and had a little more land than the previous family. Their hospitality was humbling. We were offered tea or milk tea, milk cream, fresh homemade bread and jam within minutes of our arrival. Our dinner was a massive platter of beef and noodles with a kind of coleslaw on top.
At night, when the fire in the little stove would go out, the Ger would become quite chilly. This is when warm sleeping bags and blankets came in handy. The one thing I dreaded during the night was the need to pee. I’d hold off as long as I could before getting dressed and running outside to the outhouse. I don’t think I have peed so fast in my entire life!
I strongly believe that our tour driver and guide were part-time sadists. Togo was always looking for some “fun” and if he was given the slightest amount of encouragement, he went full force. During our 3-day tour, Togo injured many of us. Poor Martin received a couple of invasive massages and Rachel became his favourite torture target. Togo was desperate to wrestle and looked for any excuse to attack us. Unfortunately for him, our group was anti-wrestling.
Travelling through Mongolia, the landscape seems barren, cold and harsh at times (Probably due to the fact that it’s winter here), and in many respects, the buildings feel the same way. There is a definite Russian influence here and many buildings and homes feel cold and institutional on the outside. However, when you walk through the door, the view changes. Space is tight, but there is a feeling of warmth. Walls are covered in handmade rugs or paintings of horses. The beds are small and it’s hard to believe -coming from a first-world nation- that so many people can live happily in such a tiny space.
Aside from the yummy food, I loved interacting with the children of the families we stayed with. Our first stop was in Terej National Park and little Ano was a curious little thing. She would open the door to the Ger where we were sleeping and watch us briefly before backing away. No matter how hard I tried, she would not step over the threshold. The next morning, things changed. Little Ano finally came into our Ger and crawled onto my bed. She and I spent the next few hours colouring in my travel journal and playing with my iPhone. For me, it was more fun than being outside with the others.
Mongolia is a country of great diversity. There is so much to see and experience here. I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent here. I still have many things to write about and share with you about my time in Mongolia, so check back soon for more information on my Mongolian adventures.