14 June 2013
I write this on our first group trip of 2013, where we are currently in the provincial capital of Arvaikheer enjoying a shower (note the lack of the word hot!) before heading on to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and then to sacred Lake Khovsgol. However, I arrived into Mongolia on May 1st and since then it has most definitely felt like returning home. From May 3rd, we've been out on the road - our first trip was a private 20-day tailor made itinerary titled Untamed Mongolia which took us through the vastness of the southern Gobi and into central Mongolia dominated by the spectacular Khangai Mountains.
Our clients arrived on the 06.10 from Irkutsk and after a few exploratory days in UB, we headed south. May 11 was National Reforestation Day here in Mongolia. Although we were a few days early, we did our bit and spent an evening at the home of Radnaa and Byamba - the owners of Gobi Oasis, a tree planting project based in Mandalgobi, Dundgobi Aimag. The spring time wind whipped up during the day, but although sand and dust were blowing hard out on the desert steppe, within the project area all the soil remained in place providing evidence of the benefit of tree planting in the Gobi.
We obviously built up an appetite as not only did we make these khuurshuur (mutton pancakes) but we ate them all as well. Can you tell the ones we made compared to the ones prepared by our host?! Our finishing skills weren’t quite up to scratch!
A natural highlight of Mongolia, Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park encompasses an area of wild nature - volcanic craters, rugged mountains, river valleys and rolling steppe. After a day spent high on the hills, we cooked a Mongolian barbecue using the hot rock method. We enjoyed this delicious and traditional home cooked meal as the light from sunset faded and the candles were lit and as the vodka was slowly finished to the sound of the wind on the lake shore (sorry for the poetics but it truly was a glorious evening of simplicity and friendship).
On our return to UB, Carlo and Helen kindly volunteered to be our guinea pigs for the first of our ger district walking tours arranged through the Buddhist NGO Asral. We are hosting the second of such walks on June 28th and I will write more of an update then.
On our last evening in UB, over a ice-cold draft Chinggis beer, I asked them to describe one of their favourite moments on the tour...
Helen: 'Waking with the sunrise and climbing to the ovoo (sacred stone shrine) that overlooked our campsite in Dungene Am (Gobi Gurvan Saikhan). It was just me, the view, the silence and the space.'
Carlo: 'Every location was more beautiful than the other. The size of the country and camping within it gave a sense of freedom and an incredible sense of its epic landscapes.'
Of course, a trip wouldn't be possible without the driver and so I asked Turuu the same question: 'Knowing that summer has arrived and that we will be spending the next 5 or 6 months out on the road showing our Mongolia to others.'
I completely agree!
(There's a couple more updates on their way - watch this space!)