Back at the start of Eternal Landscapes, I remained as a guide on the tours we ran whilst we were building up our Mongolian team. This blog post is a review from the road during two small group experiences – our Journey Among Nomads and Untamed Mongolia.
I write this on July 10th. We are en-route back to UB on the road from Ugii Nuur on our Journey Among Nomads experience. 1t’s 0800, we’ve been on the road an hour and have already spotted a Little Owl, a Saker Falcon and a Rough Legged Buzzard.
Our Journey Among Nomads Mongolia small group tour has taken us slowly through the Khangai Mountains, passing through the landscapes of Ovorkhangai and Arkhangai. Staying with the Davaasuren family at Khogno Khan, with Gaya in Kharkhorin, with the Tomorbat family at Ulaan Tsutgalan and Jargaa and Batbold at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur. We have eaten the food of nomads – feasting on yoghurt, orom (clotted cream), banshtai shol (dumpling soup), khuurshuur, buuz, mare’s milk, shimiin arikh (yak milk vodka), khorkhog and suutei tsai.
The last trip we led was our Untamed Mongolia – 20 days of travelling through and wild camping within the Gobi, Khangai mountains and northern Mongolia including sacred Lake Khovsgol. The trip review could be divided into calendar dates:
June 5th – World Environment Day
We did our bit and with rubbish sacks and rubber gloves we cleaned the litter lying throughout Dungene Am in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
We were staying at Tsagaan Suvraga, with Zorgio and his family. In the 2013 Lunar Calendar, June 10th was an auspicious date and the family were busy preparing for what is called ‘Ber Guikh’.
(In brief, the parents of Zorgio’s eldest daughter’s boyfriend were travelling from UB to the southern Gobi to ask Zorgio’s permission for his daughter to enter into their family. Tradition states that Zorgio can be asked three times and refuse on each – accepting on the fourth request. A khadag is also presented as a sign of honour but again can be refused.)
No other reason than driving to the Selenge River we spotted a Grey Wolf (Canus Lupus) loping across the steppe. Wolves feature heavily in Mongolian culture – The Secret History of the Mongols states that:
‘There came into the world a blue grey wolf, Whose destiny was Heaven’s will, His wife was a fallow deer.’
For a Mongolian man to see a wolf is considered good luck and a source of strength. For an English female that spotted the wolf in question first – I’ll let you know! In fact, it was quite a trip for wildlife – as the sunset on one of our Gobi camps we were joined by Siberian Ibex and Lammergeirs – we had already travelled parallel to groups of White-Tailed Gazelle.
June 26th – Presidential Election
En-route we watched the local population turn out to vote (just over 66% voted and Elbegdorj was re-elected for a second four-year term. Although the President must resign from their political party, Elbegdorj represents the Democrats. Elbegdorj delivered the following speech on his re-election:
‘Thank you my people. Thank you my mother and father. Thank you the eternal blue sky and the Lord Chinggis Khaan. I will work loyally for my nation and for my Mongolia. I will strive to make my people feel freedom and happiness, and I will strive for justice and for a better future of Mongolia by intensifying the country’s development and achieving greater accomplishments.’
Naadam horse training event – the Sungaa. This is when race horses complete medium distance training – meant to develop the horses’s breathing pattern and to determine the results of the training. We were lucky enough to watch the four year old horses – Khyazaala who during the Naadam race cover a distance of between 15-17 km.
And that brings us up to July 11th and 12th, the dates for the Ulaanbaatar national Naadam Festival. I love the atmosphere, the crowds, the noise and the colour – it is a true Mongolian celebration of ordinary people taking pride in their country and century’s old tradition melded together. I’ll be posting a Naadam update both here and on our Facebook page so feel free to stop by and pay a visit if you have the time. For now, thanks for listening and I wish you Saikhan Naadaarai!