Marvellous, mad Mongolia
Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
96Trip End Apr 16, 2011
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We’d arrived into Ulan Bator on the train and despite all the horror stories we’d heard about UB but we really enjoyed ourselves there and didn’t have any problems
Whilst we were stopping at one of the only towns around it was also the World Cup Semi-final that Germany were playing in and Patrick being German we thought it only fair to find some way of watching it and cheering on Spain. We managed to find an Irish Pub (what else) that would be showing the match even though it was on at 2:30am Mongolian time but had to be dropped off at 11pm. It then turned out that it was 'Black Wednesday’ when no alcohol is meant to be served so having arrived at 11 they couldn’t serve us until 12. Except that the bar was technically meant to close at 12. And so we found ourselves watching the semi-final in the middle of the Gobi in a lock-in and having to hide our beers whenever someone knocked on the door in case it was the police
After the Gobi we stopped overnight in a Arvaikheer town where we were able to catch the local nadaam festival, an annual festival with Mongolian wrestling, archery and horse riding. The wrestling in particular was brilliant; they start with an eagle dance and the only rule seems to be that you can’t touch anything other than hands or feet to the ground. We also tried the festival drink, airag (fermented mare’s milk to those not in the know). The pictures probably give a good idea of how much we liked it.
After that we then headed up north to Orkhon waterfall and then on to the stunning Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, or white lake. This was another complete change of scenery as we went from desert to alpine meadows covered in edelweiss, forests and mountains. The Orkhon waterfall was pretty cool (although no Devil’s Lip pool Mel & Steve), especially when we shocked the gathered Mongolians by going swimming in it
The white lake was beautiful and a great place for swimming, some more hiking (a little harder than we’d anticipated at 2000m) and riding with some better trained horses (great gaucho moment Phil). Whilst we were there marmot season also started so we had to try some if only to witness it’s being cooked (veggies look away) as they cut its head off, stuff burning hot rocks down the inside and then blowtorch the fur off. Novel, although in comparison to the rest of the diet, a culinary highlight. The food wasn’t disgusting to be fair, just very boring. Despite being surrounded by wild thyme, spring onions and mushrooms none of this is used in Mongolian cooking, nor are any spices or seasoning that we could tell. We ended up rebelling one evening and went mushrooming ! (Debs & Isa you would have been proud!)
Having been staying in gers for two weeks with no running water or electricity (we won’t go into the toilet situation), getting back to Ulan Bator meant hot showers, flushing loos and huge steaks for supper. Bliss! Mongolia has been completely mad but stunning and really good fun. Patrick, Max and Anneline - thanks for a fab trip and the great company (we think that we might have been the final and therefore permanent winners of Ars*hole)! Next we’re off to Japan for no doubt a complete culture shock!!