I climbed a hill somewhere to get away from the tensions arising in the group. Hills offer a different perspective, and of course the chance to catch the wind. Accompanied by a few ovoos, this felt like a special place to be. I did what I do best, sit in silence and listen to the wind, it speaks to my heart like no other element…except the otherworldly fiery stars at night. Speaking of stars, the stars that night were magnificent. It was amazing camping out there amongst the aroma of wild onion flower beds. The prettiest mattress I’ve ever slept upon. In fact, the tough mongol mutton I consumed so much of owes its flavour to this purple prettiness.What a desolate drive that afternoon. Clashing personas and godforsaken heat just added to the pressure cooker environment in our van. We stopped at a place I call “Mars” for lunch. Nothing but red stones and sand that would consume you in a day if given the chance. One good thing about my fiery travel mate, Magali, was that she taught me how to look at and look for stones. Well, in all honesty, Nara our guide had the real knack of picking out and collecting stones. I found some keepers that afternoon. I remember finding an oddly shaped black stone and then a couple of feet away his partner! It was like finding the other half of your scallop shell on the beach. When put back together they made a perfect match, quite cute.
We stopped by a gas station, somewhere in the sticks. I was greeted by the most adorable little munchkins who decided to put on a show and wrestle with each other. This little girl kicked some serious butt. The mongol kids are a rough and tumble lot. Wrestling is in their feisty blood.
We had airag, cheese, butter and chai with a legendary horse farming family. They own a handsome herd of some beautiful mongol horses. The tireless care and attention devoted to these horses is quite incredible. Each member of the family had something unique and important to contribute to the well being and success of their champion horses. In return, the mares offer their milk which provides a vital source of nutrition and local income for the family. The young son of the family is a champion horse racer. The family ger is decorated in the utmost pride with the countless ribbons and awards he has won. His awards adorn the area of the ger on the north side, called the hoimor, located behind the fire. It is the most honored place in the ger, and is reserved for religious images and statues. This little thing had a broken arm after falling from his horse. Did that stop him training for the next championship? No. He and his little brother decided to quite school and concentrate on their horsemanship. Some strong hiimori here I tell you!
Onwards to lands anew and finally some greenary and water to gaze at. What a change in natural landscape, from the thirsty deserts and shrub wastelands onto stunning Orkhon Khurkhree. The guidbook says “the roads leading to it are often washed out, making transport here very difficult.” That would be an understatement if there ever was one.
I liked cooler greener central Mongolia. I washed my hair for the first time in 11 days. Well when I say “wash” I mean dunk it in the river that feeds the most gorgeous waterfall at Orkhon Khurkhree. Always on the lookout for waterfall rainbows, this one didn’t disappoint.
I love gorges and the ferns and moss they cultivate. There is a precarious little path down this 22m deep gorge which lead to one of the most peaceful delightful places I’ve ever come across. I made friends with a ladybug and a “dassie”. I also managed to spy on some fishermen hoping to catch some lenok trout. It was such a peaceful sight.
On the way back up to the ger, I ran into some burly mongol men who grabbed me. Their deal was they’d let me go if I kissed them All in good humour of course. I decided not to ruffle any feathers and took the plunge…
We stayed a restful two nights here back in the cosy ger. I rode my first mongol horse in this beautiful place, we didn’t exactly canter but we trotted along quite politely. I also saw my first yaks, all shaggy and cute. I also met Jo, one of the most amazing women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She’s just full of life and all things crazy. I remember her saying “Imagine, je veux euun appareil dans mes yeux.” Little did I know, we’d reconnect by chance again in UB and have a wonderful week of misadventures in the capital.