One aspect of our responsible tourism philosophy is our focus on forming long-term local community partnerships with Mongolian people, rural families, and communities – slowly building up relationships with them and providing long-term support. Naraa and Bujee are part of the network of herding families we work with countrywide. This is their introduction.
Although Gorkhi Terelj National Park is within 100km of Ulaanbaatar and (overly) developed for the tourist industry, it remains an area of great alpine scenery. The dramatic Mesozoic rock formations are what make Gorkhi-Terelj famous and exploring them provides magnificent views.
Its varied topography also means that it has a rich biodiversity which provides good pasture and water sources for herders and their livestock. One such herding family that makes use of these natural resources is Naraa – together with his wife Bujee and their son (Tsindee) and daughter (Bayasaa).
Naraa and Bujee’s home is located in the Baruun Bayan Valley in Gorkhi Terelj National Park near a small tributary of the nearby Tuul River in the further reaches of Terelj, accessible only by fording the Terelj River. Herders based in the region need to move less frequently than their steppe or desert counterparts, as they have all they need within a short walk of their camps – water, shelter, fire, food. Naraa moves roughly just 8km between camps at the end of summer in October and during spring in May. The advantage of his winter settlement is the altitude, which allows him and his livestock to escape the cold air that settles close to the frozen valley bottoms and rivers where he lives during the summer. His winter place is also in the lea of a large mountain which protects them from the bitter northerly winds.
Naraa though is actually a qualified mechanical engineer – with a Bachelor’s Degree. Naraa and his two siblings grew up with their grandparents who were herders and at his grandfathers request (whom he was very close to) he remained in the countryside to keep the traditional nomadic herding way of life going within their family. Naraa’s brother is a brain surgeon in Tokyo and his sister is a linguist in China.
In this short video, Naraa is interviewed about his way of life and explains that ‘a herdsman’s life has a very big freedom.’ Link to the video here.
Toegther with Bujee, Naraa provides additional ger accommodation for guests to stay in. Staying with Naraa and his family provides a great insight into how herders are adapting – setting up micro-businesses as a way of supplementing their income. Naraa’s local knowledge of the extended area also allows him to offer horse and foot treks – taking his guests everywhere from the famous sights such as the ruined Princess Temple to the mighty views from the 2656 m flat-topped Altan Ulgii Mountain.
Tsindee often works alongside his father leading the treks – whether that be a two-hour horse trek or a multiple-day experience. You may not feel comfortable with such a young man joining you – but see him as an apprentice.
One of our way of supporting the local families we work with is by allowing them to bring their sons or daughters as helpers on the treks. It helps to create a space where traditional Mongolian knowledge can be passed from older to younger generations, as it always has been. This helps keep it alive, in a real, breathing way for the future.
Younger Mongolians come with their fathers or brothers and start off learning to load horses and getting to know the routes, water sources, place names and the stories of the land. You become part of this.
If you’re interested in joining us and Naraa and Bujee at Gorkhi Terelj National Park on an extended trek or for their homestay experience, why not look at our range of Mongolian tours and experiences. We look forward to welcoming you.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes.