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Published: November 1st 2017
Typically as the curtain closes on a trip, there is a brief stroll down memory lane to capture those significant moments. Dad, Kyle and I always take time to discuss what was the best part of the trip for each of us, our favorite meal, our biggest surprises, anything we would do differently, what we missed most from home and so on. Since I did not have my traveling partners for this exercise, I thought it might be best to just sum up what I learned during my time in Mongolia.
This is a glimpse of what I learned in Mongolia: 1. A camel is a camel is a camel.
I did not know what to expect with Bactrian camels since all of my exposure has been with Dromedaries. These camels were a tad shorter and stockier. They put on a smidgen more winter hair. They seemed to cud up more than any camels I have ever been around and I got the impression they are a little slower to warm than their Arabian family members. But they were still wonderful in every way.
Around the world, camels look to share some very similar traits. They
are curious, don't rattle easily and crave attention. They are smart and gentle. They are playful and silly. They like their herd, but they adore their humans. They are talkative and intuitive. Whether it's the big black Majahim of Saudi, the overly hairy Bikaneri of India, the golden Aayel of the Gulf States, the playful bottle baby, the mischievous teenage or the graceful mama camel, they all share these identical traits. They want to nuzzle. They will throw their feed pan for entertainment. They always know what is happening around them. And, of course, they all love to be hand fed! 2. Mongolia is not cold. Mongolia is damn cold!
The photos look daunting and when the winds were blowing snow, it felt like winter. Only problem, it wasn't winter. It was fall. When winter settles into Mongolia, late November to late March, one can expect daily average temperatures in the single digits and the nights dip down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures get so low vehicles need to be parked overnight in heated buildings to prevent engines from freezing and special accommodations must be made to keep the airplanes warm. I know the Flint Hills
can expect similar temperatures on the occasion, but the terrain, winds and dry climate of Mongolia seems to exaggerate the brutal nature of this season. 3. Feeding livestock overseas can be a real struggle.
We live on Easy Street when it comes to resources in the States and the lush, abundance of food for our Flint Hills livestock is never lost on me. But after witnessing the labor to get food for these camels, I will be forever grateful for our privileged life. No longer to take for granted the conveniences we enjoy at our local animal supply stores and Co-Op. In Mongolia, it was nearly impossible to locate mineral and the salt came in big rocks that had to be busted up for camel consumption. The staple meal was nothing more than bran mixed with a bit of water. And I am still thinking about that hay supply.
A great deal of effort was put into getting hay for the Steppes to the West
camels. By chance, we were able to find two different types of hay. The one hat seemed to be most in abundance, looked like a thin meadow hay (not the
density of prairie hay) and the other type was bright green in color like alfalfa, but not nearly as leafy and much woodier. The only hay available was small square bales, which was best for Camel Camp. Bales sold for about $3 per bale, but they probably weighed 2/3 of what our bales weigh. I never did see any big bales.
The bales were very soft and loose. They would be the equivalent of those first 2-3 bales of the year when the baler needs a little more tightening. When we cut the twine the hay did not fall into flakes. It was more like just a pile of loose hay. Needless to say, if all of our Flint Hills bales were of this consistency, stacking a solid load in the field would be nearly impossible. However, this hay was being transported on semi-trucks with very high stacks. Now, to be fair a day did not go by that we did not see at least one truck stopped because bales had fallen off the bed onto the highway. 4. I really like traveling solo.
Don't get me wrong, I love
traveling with the two men in
my life and won't be trading them in anytime soon. But, I cannot deny, I am rather surprised how much I liked traveling alone. I am not even sure what I liked most, but it was effortless, quiet and empowering. I had it easy, there were no issues, I never felt unsafe and all of my plans unfolded without even a slight hitch. So, maybe this wasn't a true test, but solo traveling was even better than I anticipated. The good news is now I know it and won't hesitate to do it again...hopefully soon!
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