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Published: June 28th 2014
Sheep and Goats
First views of the flocks
GOLDEN GOBI GUESTHOUSE
GOBI TOUR 6/19 to 6/27 2014
When we met outside the Gobi Guesthouse Joanna and I discovered we were the only ones on our tour to southern Mongolia, at least for a while. Two other travelers had cancelled at the last minute. So it was a women’s tour for a couple of days (except for the driver, Gumba), until a young couple joined us on the third day. Joanna is from Poland and speaks wonderful English and was an easy going travel companion. We left Ulaanbaatar for our eight day tour on a good paved road that soon cut off through the eternal grassland on a very primitive dirt road. We were rewarded with views of herds of goats, sheep, cows and horses and our first gers (Mongolian yurts).
Our guide, Soko and her assistant, Inga gave us lots of information about the land and its people. Gumba and his van, a ten year old indestructible Russian Uaz, took us steadily on our journey. Traveling through Mongolia is much like I imagine crossing the plains of America in a stage coach would have been; the vehicle rocks
Our lovely hostess and her adorable children
In the background you can see the felt behind the lattice work structure of the walls of the ger. Also the carpet covering the wall behind the family.
side to side and clambers up steep little washes and crosses small gullies with ease, for the vehicle but not for the passengers. You bounce forward and back and side to side with little respect for those sitting close to you. Twice we got out and walked while the van followed us; once through a narrow gorge and once up a particularly steep sandy hill. What an experience. How the driver knows which track to follow is beyond me; once I saw at least five “unimproved roads” side by side. In all that empty flat landscape he homed in on our destination with unerring accuracy.
That night we got our first close look at a ger. It was large, we guessed it might be sixteen feet in diameter, designed to be moved with ease once the flocks consume the surrounding pasture. The family can take it down, move, and set it up again in two days. Although most of them have a truck now, they can load the entire ger on two to three camels.
The first family we met was a young couple with a darling two year old daughter and an adorable,
My friend Joanna from Warsaw
Note how short the doorway is and the goat curd (yogurt) drying in the shallow box on the roof of the cooking ger (w/stovepipe). A traditional padded robe is hanging on the compression strap to air.
confident five year old boy, both with the ruddy cheeks of children who spend lots of time outside in all kinds of weather; this day it was very wet but the boy ducked in and out of the ger without even seeming to notice. The aged grandpa was very spry and curious about us foreigners. Extended family members dropped by as well. When we arrived we were served a cup of hot milky salted Mongolian tea with homemade cookies and dried goat curd (yogurt). It is dried in the sun on top of the yurt.
Most of the families we visited had TV. The most popular show was a Korean soap opera. A car battery provided electricity. The first night of our trip we slept in the family ger. The family members slept in the beds, while we were made comfortable on the floor. There were six or seven of us the first night and we did not feel crowded.
The next day we took a little hike before continuing our journey. Soon we were surrounded by sheep and goats. The men who tended the sheep wore traditional garb but rode a motorcycle instead
of horses. It was pleasant to sit and relax in the sun with them. It was quiet except for the animal sounds, and the land was lightly greened because of the recent rains.
While sitting on a hillside enjoying fine weather we watched the old man smoke his pipe and Soko explained how the felt is made. She said there would be a gathering of many families because making the felt is labor intensive. The sheared wool is washed many times, then stamped and formed into a long rectangle. After that it is rolled up and tied to horses who gallop away from each other, stretching and squeezing out the water. Then it is left to dry in the sun.
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