We arrived in Mongolia early in the morning (6:30) and as the gobi hostel was providing free transport to their hostel and because we heard good things about it, we took their bus to the hostel.
When we got there, there was alot of people – but also breakfast and coffee and a shower and a toilet. So we took care of all that and thought about what to do next. Luckily that sorted itself out as two swiss guys (francois and steve) asked around if anyone wanted to go on a two day/one night tour with them (it’s cheaper if you go more people). We said why not and joined. We left that very same morning at 9am.
The tour included a driver, an english-speaking guide, gas, overnight sleeping in a ger (see picture) at a nomadic family, horse riding, trekking, food and various entrance fees.
We got out to our ride which I must say I was quite envious over! I would love to go roadtripping in it and that’s definitely on my to-do list for next time I’m in Mongolia. Our driver was called Eaggi, didn’t speak much english but was still pretty awesome!
The first thing we did was drive to an ovoo (a shamanistic symbol) which is a pile of rocks. It serves to please the spirits in the mountains. In Mongolia believe that every mountain has a spirit and therefore you will find these ovoos on every mountain in Mongolia. To please the spirits you take 3 rocks and walk around the ovoo. Every time you’ve gone a full circle, you throw one of the rocks.
I also tried holding a vulture. You know how I love animals!
Next stop was our lunch spot but we didn’t get lunch yet. We did, however, get some tea-milk which is not as good as it sounds. It was a mixture of warm cow’s milk and water that tasted… well weird. We had a cup and I drank it but it wasn’t exactly my favourite. Later we trekked to a monastery and then we had lunch. Good lunch!
After that we went to the Gorkhi Terelj National Park and saw some spectacular landscapes as well as the turtle rock. It’s called that because it looks like a turtle!
Finally we went and saw the Genghis Khan statue. It is approximately 60 meters high! Quite big and you could get into the horses head:
After that we went for another bumpy ride over the fields. No paved roads – just some dirt tracks far away from the city until we finally arrived at the nomadic family we were supposed to spend the night with.
Let me tell you a little about the family. It was the parents and (if i remember correctly) 4 kids. They seemed very comfortable with everything and weren’t bothered by such petitesses as rain, cowpoo, the toilet basically being a hole in the ground or eating/drinking insane amounts of milk. Or trekking 3kms up a mountain and back. The parents didn’t speak much but they were very friendly providing food, shelter and lighted up the stove inside our ger to keep us warm. The kids were very active and spoke a little english. We played basketball with them and they followed us around 🙂 Other than the family – we were the only ones there!
When we arrived they served milk. All kinds of milk. Milk candy you chew, milk cheese, milk cream, milk butter, hot milk, milk tea, sour milk and of course just milk. It was a milky bonanza! They also served bread and “normal” tea. We tried some of it and some of it was very nice, some of it wasn’t so much. Live and learn 🙂
Here are some pictures I took while at the family.
In the afternoon we went for a trek to the nearest mountain. It was very fun. Two of the kids and our guide joined us. A funny note is that we wondered what crickets were called in Mongolia but they kept making such a “tschaa tschaa” sound and therefore we just called them that. We later found out, that that’s pretty much also the mongolian word for it!
The kids had fun picking up some straws that turn into some kind of small leafy spears that stick to your clothes. They spent alot of time throwing that on us and all in all it was good times! We also picked up the crickets with our hands and held them. They were actually quite slow!
On the way to the mountain we saw this thing on the field. Our guide told is it was to protect from evil spirits. This thing attracted the evil spirits and held them captured inside. To go near it (cross the rocks on the ground) would be a very very bad idea and would cause you great trouble later!
We finally got to the top and I snapped some pictures. Taking pictures from your smartphone really doesn’t do this landscape justice!!
In the evening we ate, played some cards and a had a few beers with the father, our driver (Eaggi) and our guide (Anand)
The next morning we got up early and went horse riding. That was also great fun. Nikolajs horse was defective and didn’t really want to go but the 3 of us (me and the two swiss guys) had a great race between us where suddenly all 3 horses started galloping (and i almost fell off) but in the end i won! My horse (bin laden) beat sarkozy and Putin (the swiss guys horses)by a horses hair while Obama (Nikolaj’s horse) didn’t stand a chance.
We saw a monastery and rode back. This time galloping almost all the way. We were become real pros!
After the horseride our guide had secured us (after a lot of begging) a place where we could try some airag which is a traditional mongolian drink made from fermented mare’s milk (a mare is a type of horse). It had a little bit of alcohol in it from the fermentation but not very much. It tasted a bit like sour milk but wasn’t all that bad really. I had half of bowl of it and could see why alot of mongolians like it
After the horse ride we drove back to the hostel but not before stopping to see another mongolian symbol. This is the opposite of what we saw earlier, namely an object holding good spirits. This thing held all the good spirits and blessed the sorroundings. It also holds alot of buddhist books as when they are no longer needed you can’t just thrown them out or burn them. They are holy. They are then kept in here for protection.
We arrived safely back at the hostel in the afternoon and took a shower! All in all a great great trip with lots of things learned after which I truly feel that 3 days is not enough for Mongolia. We need more time! Luckily we still had the evening and a full day the next day.