I travel with Eternal Landscapes, Jess tour leader extraordinare and Turuu, the best driver in Mongolia. Both owners of the company. The other member of our party is U.K.Sue from Cambodia.
The adventure begins in Ulaan Baatar with shopping on our way out of the city and then travelling south to the eastern Gobi. Baga Gazryn Chuluu, Ikh Gazryn Chuluu – great campsites and fabulous rock formations leading out to the Gobi steppe and home to White Paw (named by Sue) , the dog who befriended me when I was out walking and slept across the mouth of my tent even when the rain came.
|The glorious rock formations of Ikh Gazriin Chuluu|
A stop at Mandalgobi, to share a meal with Byamba and Radnaa. They have a voluntary project called Gobi Oasis. They propagate trees and plant them on the northern side of town to help protect the town from the effects of the prevailing north wind. We plant trees and help water the trees planted by previous visitors. I have my first shower in a public bath house. A very welcome clean up. Mandalgovi has been a great stop.
|Radnaa and Byamba – dedicated to Gobi Oasis|
At Ikh Nart, we meet Ulzii who takes us to find Agaili sheep. After driving through some amazing craggy landscapes we locate several to observe through our binoculars. Another group is spotted and we care able to drive closer, a short stalk on foot and the photos of a lifetime. Ulzii invites us to stay in his ger , he plays his guitar and he and Turuu sing. Wonderful.
Off to the Khentii, birth place of Chinggis Khaan. Traveling the enormous eastern steppe, driving in the same valley for a whole day and not getting to the end of it. I have stood where the Mongols galloped their horses, fought battles and formed a nation that became the world’s largest empire.
At Baldan Bereeven Monastery we absorbed the peaceful atmosphere as we completed the meditation walk and visited the restored Tibetan style temple. The site is stunning and the building beautiful. A huge thank you to the caretaker for opening the buildings for us.
|Peaceful Baldan Bereveen Khiid|
I sat beside the campfire listening to wolves howling in the forest across the valley, a 1200 year old wall beside me. Magical. We are camping at Oglogchiin Khererm, the wall encloses a small valley and uses natural rock formations to complete the enclosure. I sit and try to imagine the ancient people’s who have passed by here.
Dadal, a lovely town of log buildings and a very fine guanz (restaurant) serving great khuurshuur (mutton pancakes). This was to be shower stop but the public bathhouse was under renovations and because there was a power supply fault somewhere the camps could not heat or pump water. We stayed at a camp where the people went to great lengths, there was a fresh water spring that fed a sort of spa, the people started the wood fired boiler and heated water which was then used to fill baths by bucket. My first bath in 7 years, how luxurious. Dadal is the birth place of Chinggis Khan which is evident by the numerous monuments dedicated to him.
A new taste sensation at Tolson Khulstal National Park. We are camped beside a pretty little lake on he hunt for white tailed gazelle which we see in the morning as we drive through the park, two large herds and several sightings of smaller groups. The herds numbered 100 plus, and speed off, bounding across the steppe their white rumps disappearing over the rolling hills. While at camp we are visited by a young herder ( we were often when camping), he is invited to dinner, but goes off and later he returns with a bag containing some hard cheese and beautiful, thick, clotted cream and a bottle of fresh milk. Clotted cream with muesli and milk, delicious. Extended to biscuits and the different styles of breads, with or without jam, even better.
|Sunset at Toson Khulstai|
As part of our itinerary we have stayed in a variety of provincial hotels, an intriguing experience not to be missed. They have all had their own quirks that make your stay memorable. The toilet cisterns that did not work, a bowl provided to pour the water down, no wall sockets but the wires were taped up, the hot shower where the water lasted for 30 seconds and took 45 minutes to heat again, peeling wallpaper, peeling paint but all were clean, the staff as helpful as they could be and the beds comfortable and warm. I would happy use them all again.
I have only touched on this memorable trip. There have been many other amazing experiences, every day providing something new, from ferry crossings, shopping, food, learning shagai, and meeting the wonderful people. We drive the ever changing landscapes, so enormous and beautiful that there are not enough words to describe them. Mongolia will touch your heart and cause you to look inside yourself, the experience is rewarding beyond words.