A Travellerspoint blog

Addendum to day 5

Acrid cheese

sunny 31 °C
View From Menopause to Mongolia on kelshell's travel map.

Kellie and I keep thinking of things as we discuss the tour. One important thing we neglected to mention on day 5 was our introduction to horse milk cheese which we all thought were chunks of pound cake. After being invited into the family ger upon our arrival, we were given milk tea. Our hostess passed around a tin with what looked like chunks of pound cake. Given our knowledge of the Mongolian's love of sweets, this was a fair assumption to make. It wasn't until we touched it that we realized that it was like a chunk of Parmesan cheese! And already we could see the looks on the faces of those who chose before us as they bit into their pieces. Imagine a bag of salt and vinegar chips. You reach in and instead of a chip you pull out a chunk of the salt and vinegar flavoring. This was what we were eating! Looking around the ger we could see people trying to pawn off their cheese to their neighbor. What made this worse is that later our guide told us that the etiquette is to break off small chunks to eat when the tin is passed. We had no idea and felt terrible as we had probably just taken 6 months of the family's cheese supply! Luckily these are not wasteful people and Kellie noticed later that the family was cutting off the bitten ends of the cheese everyone left behind! Live and learn!

Posted by kelshell 10:04 Archived in Mongolia Comments (3)

Reflections

Things we didn't discuss

sunny 25 °C
View From Menopause to Mongolia on kelshell's travel map.

So there are a few things we would like to note:

  • livestock on public roads - Mongolian drivers honk at everything and we haven't quite figured out the why's and wherefores - but certainly necessary on highways and off road as cattle, horses, goats, antelope and camels cross at will
  • menus - what is shown is unlikely to be available!
  • use of English - even if you think you are being understood, it's unlikely that you are! Examples: I don't like smoking (they bring you an ashtray); we don't need water (they bring more water); can I try a taste (they bring you the entire thing and you've now purchased it);
  • walking in crosswalks is taking your life in your hands
  • people have such a national pride
  • people are genuinely trying to please or absolutely don't care at all
  • a Styrofoam cooler was in the back of our van for the Gobi tour but the lid kept bumping off; in it was meat - and no ice or cooling packs
  • it's a country of contradictions - modern and old; friendly and not friendly; wide open spaces or jam packed in the city
  • They love processed foods - there are stalls and markets every few feet selling junk food
  • seat belts - what are these? Babies sit on driver or passenger laps
  • call bells in restaurants - little discs on the table to summon server
  • Towels on the floor at every entranceway - easier to clean than mats
  • rows and rows of candy and chocolate in the shops and grocery stores
  • never bring your bill in a restaurant
  • countryside really smelled like animals - the scent was in the air
  • beauty shops and products as plentiful as junk food

Posted by kelshell 09:31 Archived in Mongolia Comments (0)

Day 8

Terelj park meditation center and Chinggis Khan statue

We awoke to light rain which became a huge thunderstorm. Our walk to the meditation centre was postponed to wait out the storm. Danj came into the meal tent to let us know that Deborah had been up throughout the night vomitting. Since the rest of us were fine it must have been some bug she picked up. After the thunder and lightning abated, we were driven to the base of the meditation center entrance. Kellie was unsure if she would do the walk up the center stairs but we all walked the lengthy meandering pathway. A large prayer wheel was spun by most in the group and where the wheel stopped was a number through 108. Wherever it landed indicated the number of the teaching that a person needed to work on. I continued on to the meditation center and unfortunately again had taken my camera which we are unable to retrieve for these posts. The light was incredible in the center. I continued on a short path to a smaller building from the 16th century and was able to meditate for a few minutes in the outdoors. A beautiful view of the park valley was viewed before descent.

We went back to the ger to pack up and have lunch before leaving for the largest horse statue in the world, the statue of Chinggis Khan on a horse. Deborah was starting to feel better which we were happy about. As we got into the van the realization that this was truly our last night to sleep in a ger was surprisingly bitter sweet. While the trip had many challenges, it was also filled with amazing experiences, including living like a Mongolian nomadic person and seeing the rugged Gobi and all it had to offer.

While entering the Chinggis Khan statue park I think we were all in awe at the actual size of this monument. Given it is constructed of stainless steel, it shone in the sun like a massive beacon. While I headed into the museum and area where you can go into the statue itself, Shelley remained on the ground to take part in seeing an eagle and vulture stall where you could have your picture taken. We met later on in the museum and we both enjoyed seeing the various artifacts and historical items on display. I even fell in love with a leather wallet made in Mongolia that I had to buy. It was very cool to take an elevator up into the horses head and then climb three flights further (boo the elevator didn't take me to the top, lol). The view from there was impressive and seeing the statue that close up was neat.

As we got back in the van and headed back to Ulaanbaatar I know I was dreaming about the hotel room and shower I would have, not to mention sitting down for a you know what! As we arrived back at the Sunpath Tour building we said our goodbyes to our tour mates and exchanged email addresses. Emilie, one of the women from France invited Shelley and I to contact her when we are in Paris for a city tour and lovely meal, I am sure Shelley and I will look forward to that. Now, off to the hotel we went!!

The hostel room we had was glorious and our showers were second to none. After cleaning the 8 days of Gobi off our skins and out of our ears we headed out for something to eat that was not going to be mutton, noodles or pasta. The neighborhood we found ourselves
in was very local and finding a less traditional restaurant was a bit challenging. We settled on a place called Chicken Beer and ordered a big salad to share and we each had fried chicken and rice with veg. We both had a cold beer, which was heaven! The meal was simple and incredible. See the picture for proof. It tasted so good. After finishing this meal we headed back to have a peaceful sleep in a real bed with both a mattress and a pillow. Ohh how spoiled we are! During our meal Shelley and I recounted some of the highlights from our tour and even I agreed that I was so glad I decided to finish it.

Conehead at turtle rock

Conehead at turtle rock

Kellie selfie kinda!

Kellie selfie kinda!

Park landscape

Park landscape

Landscape Terelj

Landscape Terelj

Ger door

Ger door

Budha stop on meditation pilgrimage

Budha stop on meditation pilgrimage

Prayer wheel on pilgrimage

Prayer wheel on pilgrimage

More Budha stops

More Budha stops

Kellie selfie on pilgrimage

Kellie selfie on pilgrimage

Impressive Chinggis Khan statue

Impressive Chinggis Khan statue

KelShell selfie at statue

KelShell selfie at statue

The imposing ruler himself

The imposing ruler himself

Large traditional boot in museum

Large traditional boot in museum

Old chess set from museum

Old chess set from museum

Traditional horse head insrument

Traditional horse head insrument

KelShell selfie with bronze horseman

KelShell selfie with bronze horseman

Vulture at statue

Vulture at statue

Bow for Kris

Bow for Kris

Chainmail for Micah

Chainmail for Micah

Tour finish meal at Chicken Beer

Tour finish meal at Chicken Beer

Ahh salad

Ahh salad

Posted by kelshell 05:41 Comments (0)

Day 7

Terelj National Park

sunny 26 °C
View From Menopause to Mongolia on kelshell's travel map.

We awoke this day getting prepared for our horseback ride. Horses are such a significant part of the nomadic culture in Mongolia it was great to take part in this. The guide helped me get my chaps on and provided a brief lesson regarding the Mongolian horses. These horses are a bit shorter in stature when compared to our Canadian equine but they are very strong. The saddles are different and quite shallow and once having a look at what it might take to stay on the horse (the group the night before spoke of cantering and galloping), I, Kellie, chickened out and said " nope I'll stay back". Our guide was very surprised given I was all ready to go and even though I felt a bit guilty, I felt better not taking this chance. So, I removed my chaps and settled in watching Shelley get on her horse and saunter away.

As mentioned in the previous day's blog there were incredible rocks a hike away from the ger camp that Shelley went to the evening prior. I was expecting the horse group to end up there so I was determined to hike to the rocks and get some footage of Shelley on her horse. I did make it to the rocks but the horses never came. I hiked back to camp to find Shelley had returned. For some reason the horse guide didn't want the group to ride independently and so they were roped together for the entire time. Shelley was not impressed with this ride and given her previous riding experience was hoping for a bit more freedom.

It was now time to get back in our Russian van and hit the road (yes pavement!) on our way to Terelj Park. We dropped our English friends Rich and Emily at the side of the highway and waited for them to be picked up. Santiago had been left at the camp for return to Ulaanbaatar. While it was better to be back on paved roads this day of driving was hot and sticky. On our way we followed a shallow river as we got closer to Ulaanbaatar and were envious of the locals taking refuge in the water. To reach Terelj National Park we did need to cut through the city of Ulaanbaatar, which unfortunately was jammed with cars and we were stuck in traffic and often in gridlock. In case we haven't mentioned this before, while our driver was a quite soul, and a great navigator, he was also relentless when driving and never slowed down for anything or any type of road hazard. The slow moving traffic must have bothered him as much as us and we found ourselves making a quick turn off of the main road down a small side street that actually went nowhere. So, our driver jumped out of the van surveyed the surroundings and all we could see was a dirt hill about 15 ft high. He looked on the other side of the hill, jumped back in the van while Shelley yelled "everybody hold on!" ( she was in the front seat and could see we were in for a roller coaster ride). We all grabbed on and up and over we went with tour mates trying to video this off road experience! Holy moly the fun never ends lol!

This crazy detour did appear to help and after a short while we arrived at the park. It is known for a giant rock formation that is called Terelj rock (turtle rock). We were taken to a family ger camp within the park. Much like Banff and Jasper national parks, people live there in houses and gers. The elderly couple hosting our group were very friendly and the toilet was a western toilet in an outhouse! I (Shelley) walked over to the next property to pet a camel. Camels are not found naturally this far north but I guess they are there for the tourists. We played Yahtzee and taught 1 of the drivers how to play. Our ger smelled like the animals had been housed there but luckily Kellie found some of the wonderful smelling juniper like plant so we hung it from the roof of the ger. Later in the evening the French girls hosted another vodka party before we all went to bed.

Landscape Terelj

Landscape Terelj

Park landscape

Park landscape

Ger door

Ger door

Conehead at turtle rock

Conehead at turtle rock

Kellie selfie kinda!

Kellie selfie kinda!

Posted by kelshell 19:19 Archived in Mongolia Comments (1)

Day 6

Khugnu Khan mountains

sunny 27 °C
View From Menopause to Mongolia on kelshell's travel map.

We did not get to say goodbye to our hostess as she was not around when we left. She had graciously answered about 50 questions from our group via translation through our guide the evening prior. She has one daughter in UB (locals call Ulaanbaatar UB) at university and a younger son and daughter. She hopes her son will carry on in the nomadic traditional life but said he didn't like it. Only 10% of Mongolians are nomads now with 60% living in cities and towns and the other 30% working and living abroad.

We started driving again, heading for the Erdene Zuu Khiid working monastery near Kharkhoum, previously the capital of Mongolia. This monastery had some parts destroyed by the Russians but many buildings were preserved. Buddhism represents about 70% of the religious population of the country with some Christianity and Shamanism comprising the rest. Buddhism was brought to Mongolia as early as the 3rd century but really flourished in the 16th century as Mongol monks travelled to and from Tibet and India. In Mongolia the yellow hat sect is practiced, following the same teachings as the current Dalai Lama. We asked our guides many times why the Mongolian population isn't vegetarian given the Buddhist teachings but they couldn't explain this. When we left this monastery we drove about 1 km to an archeological site. Kellie and I are still puzzling over this stop on the tour. It was explained to us that this site housed ancient Buddhist stupas and a German/Mongolian cooperative had worked on this dig. We were told we could see through windows set into the white cement raised structure, approximately the size of a football field. We saw one window at ground level showing the remains of a wall. We walked around the remainder of the site - no more windows! Walking on the top of the site, we thought there would be windows to look down into the excavation. But no! Apparently all the artifacts found are in the local museum!

We parted company with our French friends Maxime and Julie as they were continuing on to the North. The remainder of the group drove on to the Khugnu Khan mountains, again staying with a local nomad family who primarily raised horses. They lived on a plain below some spectacular rock structures and we had a beautiful view of valleys in all directions. Kellie and I were sent to a ger that was already inhabited by 2 people off hiking. They returned soon after our arrival, Marie and Ignacio from Spain. They were on a private tour and Kellie really wanted to eat some of their cucumber when their guide entered our ger to prepare their dinner. They were happy to share but we got a couple of slices with our dinner (they had at least a whole cucumber). After dinner I hiked up to the rock formations to get some lovely sunset pictures.

IMG_0613.jpgIMG_0614.jpgBB094A3ED218E81DAF7984810A940CED.jpgKhugnu Khan mountains

Khugnu Khan mountains

Khugnu Khan mountains

Khugnu Khan mountains

Landscape

Landscape

Juniper scented plant

Juniper scented plant

Sherry early

Sherry early

Desert succulent

Desert succulent

Desert flower

Desert flower


Khugnu Khan mountains

Khugnu Khan mountains

Sunset at Khugnu Khan

Sunset at Khugnu Khan

Gorgeous light from setting sun Khugnu Khan

Gorgeous light from setting sun Khugnu Khan


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnAFtLncuTQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL9FeKMUq4w

Posted by kelshell 17:57 Archived in Mongolia Comments (0)

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