Most travellers have a desire to experience the ‘real’ Mongolia – and that means the people and culture as much as the spectacular landscapes and the diverse wildlife that inhabit the landscapes.
|Local life – Bulgan|
Often towns in rural Mongolia look bleak and unproductive but communities, both stationary and nomadic, have existed in these locations for centuries. For most of those centuries, the only major permanent settlements were the monasteries – they were considerable institutions – often sited at the juncture of trade and migration routes or at summer pastures – the centre of an ecclesiastical estate of pastures and flocks.
|Amarbayasgalant Monastery – providing a hint of Mongolia’s history|
During the communist era, the administrative centres of the negdels or herder’s collectives were often based within the communities that had been created around the monasteries (destroyed in the political and spiritual purges of the 1930’s) and became the towns that our guests now experience.
Our trips focus on supporting ‘local’ and a stop in a town to stock-up the food supplies (the most recent purchases in Mandalgobi in the middle Gobi were a few kilos of mutton straight from the steppe, some fresh homegrown Gobi tomatoes and cucumbers , a watermelon from Khovd (the best watermelons ever), a couple of peppers, a few kilos of potatoes, carrots and onions (all Mongolian grown), as well as some raisins and apples for afternoon snacks at camp), to use the community shower house (brilliant invention!) or even to spend a night all help to put money into the local economy as well as providing a glimpse into a community’s way of life.
Certain towns on certain routes provide natural stop over points and Mongolian small town life provides a distinct contrast with nomadic life on the steppe – I always thoroughly enjoy the juxtapositions that small town life creates.