Untamed Mongolia – By Our Guest, Lynn McCaw

February 3, 2015
In the Abode of the Gods – Mongolia and Altitude
February 14, 2015

Untamed Mongolia is one of our Mongolia small group tours. In 2014, Lynn McCaw joined us on our June departure.

Lynn wrote  a series of blog posts detailing her time with Eternal Landscapes in Mongolia – covering subjects including the landscapes, Mongolia’s climate, the history, its people today, ger life and Ulaanbaatar.

Lynn also documented the trip in photographs which are used throughout the post (some descriptions are mine and some Lynn’s).

So, here is the first of Lynn’s posts on traveling with us through the glorious immensity of Mongolia. As we say in Mongolia – Sain Yavaarai – Journey Well!

Mongolia Introduced

I spent 3 weeks travelling overland in Mongolia, covered 3300 kilometers and yet only skimmed over perhaps 15% of the area of the country. We travelled in a Furgon and slept mostly in family gers (details coming up in a later blog post) and occasionally in provincial hotels. We ate picnic-style for most of our meals, and occasionally in guanz or small-town restaurants. We shopped in the local markets. We visited a hospital. 
Our beloved Furgon which took us 3300 km in safety and comfort
Our first luncheon picnic amidst the course grass and flowers of the Middle Gobi. From Jess – this is not a one-off picnic photo – we really do choose our picnic spots for their beauty or cultural interest

We rode horses and camels and fell in love with the baby goats. 

Grateful livestock enjoying the water we put into their troughs
We saw the main city, Ulaanbaatar, the Gobi Desert, the mountains, the volcanoes, the grasslands, the monasteries, the lakes. We walked through fields of exquisite wild flowers, climbed sand dunes and granite “rock castles”, visited ruined Buddhist chapels, explored red sandstone gullies where dinosaur skeletons can be found, watched rare ibex silhouetted against the sky-line on cliff tops. 

The Two Sides to UB

This is what you see as you come into Ulan Bator on the Trans-Mongolian railway. Look at the variety of housing. As mentioned in a later part of this blog, Mongolian laws allow every Mongolian 0,7 hectares of land. However this must be fenced in if it is to be legal and if the owner is to  be allowed to send his children to school. What he does within his 0,7 hectares is up to him. There are very few planning restrictions so he can keep his animals, set up a small business, fill the space with gers, build a luxury house. 

UB from the “Blue Sky” highrise office building. As you can see UB is a “work in progress” with a pollution problem from its coal fired power generators. 

The Gobi

The strange granite “pancakes” of the Baga Gazriin Chuluu formation which rises from the flat bare plains
The “Flaming Cliffs” on the horizon. The Flaming Cliffs are eroded sandstone. All this area was once a soupy swamp much enjoyed by dinosaurs. In the 1920s expeditions of paleontologists began to find skeletons, some unknown before. The dry climate and the isolation had preserved them far better than in most places in the world. 

This taken as we crossed the Gobi towards the Three  Beauties mountain range .Sand is only found in small areas of the Gobi and in the inaccessible far south of the desert. The rest is rough barren gravel-like ground like this.

We found canyons choked with ice in June in the middle of the Gobi Desert , we watched horses and trainers preparing for the Naadam races in July, we drove through the heat and the hail and the rain and sunshine from the Eternal Blue Sky, we planted trees, we walked under such stars as you have never before seen, we saw Bronze Age carving on pillars in the middle of nowhere that not even the experts know much about. 

And this is what you find as you walk further into the Yolyn Am canyon. Ice! In June! In the Gobi Desert!The temperature in the Gobi in the winter can descend to minus 40 degrees so you can see how the ice would build up.
Rain on the mountains as we cross from the Gobi into the central steppe land
One of the young jockeys practising for the Nadaam races. This young lad won hands down in the practice session we saw.
From Jess – we placed our picnic lunch spot at their finishing line so we got a great view!

The Central Steppe/Heartland

Change again! Now we are in the central steppes. From the steppes rise the granite formations of Khogno Khan. These gigantic boulders really do look like some giant’s toys scattered over the steppe. Some of the boulder look like Henry Moore sculptures. And  believe it or not there is sand! Yes here 400 kilometers north of the Gobi on a parallel with the city of Ulan Bator is a strip of sand dunes. It is often referred to as the Mini-Gobi and attracts those tourists who don’t have the time or stamina to go the the real Gobi.
This is the quintessential view of the nomadic life–the isolated ger (we tend to call them “yurts” which is a Turkish word), the herding family and their flock of goats and sheep on the green green steppe.  Wide open spaces and the herds of animals.

Khangai Mountains

The view on our horse trek at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

Northern Landscapes and Khovsgol Nuur

This photo does not do it justice but the ground was covered with a wonderful display of all colours of wild flowers. The country becomes more lush as you go north and there are more streams and more trees.

The ger camp we stayed in beside Lake Khovsgol. It turned out it was a rest and recreation camp for members of the Mongolian armed forces so most of the gers were occupied by soldiers and their families  who had driven hundreds of kilometres form the far west of the country over two days drive away to reach this spot. They were having a wonderful time on this brief one week’s holiday. 

The view during one of our picnic lunches. This is large-scale crop growing, a legacy of the Soviet farming collectives which were for the most part abandoned when the Soviet Union collapsed. Here the soil and terrain suits crop growing and so it has become the bread basket of the country.

I seem to prefer places without many people! And so Mongolia fits that bill rather well. However the people of Mongolia tread lightly on their land and their character and history are also fascinating. 

Eternal Landscapes specialises in bespoke trips in Mongolia with small groups and a personal touch. I cannot think of a better way to see the country. 

Coming next…Mongolia, the land.

From Jess.….of course, Mongolia likes to throw in one or two challenges of its own on any trip so if you thought the above was all rose tinted spectacles….

One of our driving routes from the Gobi through to the central steppe! Lynn travelled with us on our Untamed Mongolia adventure. Find out more about this trip and our others by going to the Mongolia small group tours on my website.  As an added bonus, I’m currently offering a 5% discount on our 2014 prices until the end of February. I’m always happy to be of help so please do get in touch if you’re interested!

Please help to spread the EL story by sharing this post. Many Thanks! Jess

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