Mongolia Part 5 – Nomadic Living – Terelj National Park

Day 186: September 14, 2018

We woke up at 8:00 am in our tourist ger camp and didn’t want to get out of bed. The mattresses and blankets were such a luxury compared to the previous night’s. Both of us slept very well.

Breakfast was served at 8:30 am: wiener, egg, bread and cookie. We then all got in our SUVs and drove into Hustai National Park. We were able to see our sweet guide from a couple of weeks ago and we are sure she recognized us. We all watched the video on the park and then drove in.

Around the fourth parking lot, there were some Takhi wild horses up on the hill side. We all got out and hiked up closer. We could see three, but figured there were more in the valley next to the hill. When we looked back across the road, the opposite hillside had a group of seven Takhi. We climbed back down then hiked up the other hillside to get a closer look. We were able to sit and watch them for a bit. There is something very serene about watching the Takhi.

Takhi wild horses

On our drive out of the park, we saw tons of marmots scurrying about. Back at camp we were served lunch: potato salad, vegetable soup, rice, fries and a beef stir fry. Then we headed back on the road again.

Our first stop was near Ulaanbaatar for some groceries. Our drive continued into Terelj National Park. Driving through, the landscape changed from rolling hills to rocky hills.

We parked at a hotel and our drivers helped us to carry our bags down and across the river. There was a bridge covered in metal sheets and some would pop up as you walked along. As I was walking across, with my hands full, one edge came up and I ended up sprawled across the bridge. I got a nice scrape and bruise on my knee. We did some quick first aid and put a bandage on it. Everyone on the trip was very prepared with first aid kits.

A group of nomads arrived with an ox cart to carry our things and a horse for each of us to ride. We said goodbye to our drivers and mounted our steeds.

Our group with our drivers

My horse seemed to not be happy from the start. After our first puddle crossing, we stopped to wait for the others and my horse kept doing odd things. I told the guide, but he said it should be okay once we started moving. It didn’t get any better. At one point, my horse and I did half circles back and forth for what felt like ten minutes. He kept wanting to return the way we had come. He wouldn’t even do a full circle or just stop moving. I felt like I was struggling with him the full way. Eventually, a nomad came and whipped my horse to get him going.

We arrived at the camp and I just wanted to cry. Falling down and then the crappy horse was a bit too much on me. We ate supper inside our ger of five girls. Then I went to bed fairly early.

Day 187: September 15, 2018

Breakfast was at 9:00 am, although our ger was up at 7:00 am because two of the girls thought breakfast was at 7:30 am. Breakfast consisted of bread, clotted cream and tea.

We had a free day so we threw around the frisbee a little bit. We decided to try a game of four on four ultimate, but it ended with a rolled ankle. The field had a few too many rocks, but it was a fun game while it lasted.

Nyamka brought out a bow with two arrows and we practiced some archery. None of us managed to hit the tiny target of piled wood.

Archery

The family had two dogs, one we named Hugh Jackman and the other Rebar. Rebar was the friendliest dog. He liked to chase the goats and sheep a bit too much landing him a two foot pole of rebar attached to his collar. It really didn’t bring him down though.

Rebar

Lisa, Danny and I went for a nice walk along the river. It was very beautiful with all the fall colours. When we returned to camp, there was a mommy kitty and three kittens. We sat petting them for awhile then chilled until supper time.

Me sitting with mommy and kittens

After supper, our host showed us how to make cheese. She boiled milk then poured some yellow milk (remnants of boiling yogurt) inside. Eventually, it started to separate and she pulled the liquid out then strained the cheese. After placing it in a cheese cloth, she took it outside and placed it between two boards. A rock was then placed on top and she let it sit there to get the liquid out.

Cheese making

That night there were more good times had in the boys’ ger before bed.

Day 188: September 16, 2018

Breakfast was at 9:00 am and included fresh cheese and boorstog (bread). In the morning, the view from the toilet overlooking the river was spectacular. To the left, you could see the family milking their cows.

View of the nearby river

After breakfast, we saw how they made butter. Milk was placed in the top of a machine that separated the milk and cream. I even helped turn it for awhile.

Butter making

Around 11:00 am we rode about an hour to a nearby nomadic family. This time, my horse was much easier to control.

We were served lunch when we arrived then were shown how they made vodka from yogurt. The yogurt was boiled in a still and the liquid was their vodka. It had a sharp yogurt taste.

After we sat in a ger and were shown how to make symbols with ribbon. It was very relaxing to do some crafts. The lady sewed them on to some cloth and made us cellphone holders.

Symbol making with ribbon

After, we took our horses back to our camp and I sat with the cats again. Mommy kitty sat on my lap then Rebar came over which she didn’t like. I tried to send him away, but he sat about a foot from my feet then he rolled around closer and closer until he could gnaw on my shoes. I could feel mommy rolling her eyes.

For supper, there was potato salad, rice, sautéed cabbage and sheep. After supper, we had some drinks and laughter then I snuck away for some sleep.

Day 189: September 17, 2018

We were up for breakfast at 7:30 am to prepare for our departure. It felt sad to be leaving our ger life behind. We loved the quiet and openness that the nomadic lifestyle holds. We mounted our horses and started our ride out.

Packing up the ox cart

Danny and I hung to the back so we could walk our horses and enjoy the scenery. My horse was awesome. He had a fast walk and was a great listener. Danny really became a natural at riding. Everyone commented on how skilled he looked.

Back at the hotel that our drivers had dropped us off near, we waited a bit for our bus. A sweet doggy had followed us up from the river so we gave him some love. The bus ride back to Ulaanbatar was uneventful. We arrived at the hotel and felt very out of place in our dirty, smelly clothes.

We dropped our bags in our rooms then went to a nearby burger place. It was a nice treat after so much mutton. We all noticed how loud it felt compared to being out with our nomadic families. What an adjustment it must be for the nomads when they come to the city.

We returned to our rooms, had glorious showers and put on fresh clothing. At 5:00 pm we went down to meet the group. On the first floor, the elevator doors opened then slammed closed on a guy exiting. The elevator then went down slightly and the doors would not open. We were stuck inside for a couple of minutes before someone came to pry the doors open.

We walked with the group to a theatre where we enjoyed some Mongolian singing and dancing. The throat singing was spectacular and I wish I had gotten a better video.

We said goodbye to two of our new friends after the show as they went to the airport. I think we all felt our hearts hurt a bit as our new family was torn apart.

We went for supper at a very nice place. We had a Caesar salad (stupid mustard on the chicken) and pizza. After supper, we went for one last drink with the group at a pub. Then we went back to the boys’ room for one last shot.

Finally, we said farewell to our guide, Nyamka. Danny and I went to bed so we had to say goodbye to two others as well. It has been hard saying goodbye to people we became so close with.

Day 190: September 18, 2018

We met the remainder of the group for breakfast then said goodbye to two others. Danny and I returned to our room and each called our parents while the other finished packing. My stomach was not doing too well. It might have been the change in food. I think we had gotten used to the mutton.

At noon we had to check out. I hung out in the lobby watching Netflix while Danny got a very nice haircut. At 2:30 pm we said goodbye to the brothers and took a taxi with the Australian girls, Celina and Beth, to the airport. We had a bit of a wait and spent the rest of our money on some souvenirs.

The flight to Beijing was under two hours. We arrived and said goodbye to Celina and Beth. We then switched terminals to pick up our luggage.

As we exited into arrivals, we saw our names on a piece of paper and met our guide for the next couple of days in Beijing. She is an interesting character. I think the only way for us to handle her will be for us to laugh.

Our guide, Catherine, told us some facts about Beijing. It stands for north because it was the northern capital. Within the city there are 22 million people and 6 million cars. It was about an hour drive to the hotel. Catherine made sure our room was acceptable then left for the night.

Our nomadic living in Mongolia was a dream. It was so different from other tours we have been on. This was more about the people and their culture and lifestyle. We grew very close with our tour group as well and it did feel like we were one big family. It was exactly the type of experience we were hoping for and not something we will soon forget.

Now we have about eight days in China to hit some of the highlights before our next adventure.

M

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