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Published: November 30th 2011
We spent more than we had to in UB due to my silly eye infection caused by cold wind presumably. But one thing we had to do for sure when in town was a visit to a ger camp. There is plenty of excursions available to choose from and you can be confused about what to do and where to go. If not the cold weather we would have probably gone to many more places actually. Unfortunately the temperatures went way below the typical level for November and we had no suitable clothing for Gobi or Northern region trips. We could visit nearby Terelj National Park though, situated only 80km from UB. We checked few agencies including our guesthouse and we were surprised to see that even winter season pricing was not that low ;-( 40$ per person per night was the typical price, so again, we decided to do it on our own. The only thing that we were not sure of was the number of Ger Camps that remain open during winter.
However, we thought that there must have been some families leaving there who are eager to get some extra income, so we decided to try anyway.
The night before we left we met a French couple in our guesthouse who did exactly what we were planning so it only confirmed to us that the trip is really doable ;-) At that point Cyril – the guy we met in Russia – joined us as well as Lukasz (Polish student) so there was four of us. We managed to convince Cyril to come to Mongolia – how great was that (and how influential of us hahha).
The information centre in UB seemed very helpful to us until we kept waiting and waiting for the 11 am bus to Terelj. It did not come so we were really praying that the 3 pm one would show up. We found some nice Mongolian Fast Food (just called that way but in fact it is a restaurant for local people with insanely low prices and massive and delicious portions of food, dish around 3000T/1,5£) and we had some home made noodles with meat and veg. Not even sure how it is called as we ordered it by pointing at someone else's plate ;-)
The bus did arrive and in short 2h we were dropped by the crossroad next
to the Turtle Rock. This rock formation is a central viewing point of the park and some people only go to the park to take a snapshot of it. It does really remind us of turtle but so do other rocks if you look long enough hahha So so far we paid 2200T each (1.1£) to get to the Terelj – nice ;-) The French couple told us they stayed at the Ger about 1-2km away from the Turtle Rock so we were heading into this direction. On the bus we met another French couple – Valerie and Sebastian (I think there is no one left in France as everybody is travelling around the world now) and they had their pick up arranged so were picked up with them to the camp. It saved us some walk as this particular camp was at the very end of the valley just next to the rocky wall of mountains. Amazing views over the valley were just in front of our Ger/Yurt – incredible. We were quoted 15,000T (7,5£ each) for a night including 3 meals. Now, that was a good deal when compared with the 40$ per night agency fee. This just
The Turtle Rock
main picture spot in the park
shows how the UB tourist business is not exactly supporting nomad families but their own pockets. 10$ vs 40$ per night - shocking!!!
We got the 4 bed Yurt with a beautiful furnishings and very very warm fireplace in the middle. Boys got the quick guide to: 'how to keep the Yurt warm at night' process and then we were invited for a dinner to our hosts' yurt. It seemed smaller then ours but it just could be because of all the furniture, shelves, TV, DVD player, sink etc We were greeted by a warm tea and we could watch a women preparing our meal for the night. We were also given some butter/cheese spread with bread to try which was actually quite tasty despite my dislike of fat dairy products.
They prepared exactly the same meal we had for lunch but much much better. It was very tasty and all made in front of our eyes – great evening. Valerie and Sebastian already spent few days with Ger families so they briefed us in on 'do's and don'ts' such as: never knocking on the door, coming in from the left side or tripping on the door step
(when entering but never when leaving) and keeping your hat on until you enter the yurt. All of those behaviours have sth to do with prosperity and wealth brought to the household. We said goodbye politely and we went to our yurt to have some vodka. There was no built toilet and actually toilet was a hole in the ground with a short build around wooden screen.
In the late evening we could observe cows and horses coming back home (because they walk themselves around all day) and almost knocking to the ger's door asking for food. There is surely not enough food for them to gather through the day especially in the winter when everything is covered in snow. Our host made them some kind of mixture of leftovers with hey and grains and they were all fed a bit. I have never seen cows fight for food before. They are usually so gentle and laidback. I guess the rule of stronger and bigger applies here as well. The younger cows had to give up their bucket to the older and stronger – how said ;-( And the dog obviously slept outside. I could not stop thinking about
this poor thing as it must have been lower than -10C and just started snowing ;-( I gave him all the leftovers I had from lunch and few pieces of bread as well but I could not invite the dog inside. For sure they are used to the cold but it is still heart breaking for me to see them like that.
The next morning we were greeted by hot coffee and huge breakfast. First there was bread and some delicious jam, followed by egg sandwich and then when we thought it was all we got some onion pancakes as well. In the morning the valley was all snowed in and the temperatures must have dropped by more than 10 C when compared to the day before. At least there was just a little bit of sun. We had all day trekking planed and we started to make some plans which way to go. It was not necessarily possible to walk far in the snow and freezing weather but we made the most of it anyway. We had to break at mid day for lunch and come back to our ger as it was soo cold. We cooked some
instant noodles, had some pate sandwich and we were warm and ready to continue.
The monastery I mentioned in the previous blog was definitely the hit of the day but the walk to the Turtle Rock and back was spectacular as well. Boys even climbed the rock a bit to take some stunning sunset photos. The whole valley looked so beautiful in the warm sun making the snow glitter all around. Cows and horses were making their way home again so we had to go back as well. That night we had some delicious lamb soup with pasta - ideal for the cold day like that. That just reminded me of how Cyril ordered this big portion of food in Mongolian restaurant in Irkutsk, thinking he would never have opportunity to taste the food in Mongolia hhaha He was now enjoying big portions in the ger camp - crazy how travelling is unexpected sometimes ;-)
We were thinking about staying another night or two but with such freezing weather it was really difficult to do anything outside. To keep us warm in the night guys were taking shift to wake up every two hours and put more wood
in. Apparently due to the lack of wood and need of having a good sleep some families don’t do that at all. Crazy!!! Fortunately we did not witness any animal killing (like some people told us they did) although for Nomads it is a natural way of survival. They cannot grow plants so they mostly eat meat. At least their animals have great life, walking freely around and they are killed quickly and with respect.
We had to get up early in the morning to catch the bus back to UB and it was just freezing outside. 45 min walk back to the bus stop was almost painful. I could feel how my trousers were all frozen up and Tomek's beard was all white from frost hahha At least the bus came and we could move back to our cosy and warm guesthouse for another few days. We had some border crossing to plan and we had to start thinking of our planned itinerary in China ;-)
Maybe weather will be better and warmer over there....
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D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Loved your ger
My cousin lived in Wyoming for 13 years in a yurt community. I've stayed with her and would like to go to Mongolia to stay in one there. Can't wait to read more. Sorry to hear about the unexpected temperatures. Happy travels.