When is a Tent, not a Tent.

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mongolia. In the middle of nowhere. It looks fairly small compared to Russia and China that squeeze it, but I can assure you, it's a massive country (17th largest in the world), yet contains only 2.5 million, half of whom are squeezed into its city and towns.

We were met off our train by our city guide, Hash. He's a really cool guy and his English is fantastic. We head to our hotel and get our keys before we even get our bags out of the bus (I'd take at least 30 minutes before everyone got their keys in Russia). We had our customary 2-3 hour sleep in a bed before agreeing that we were ready to face the world again.

I'd heard that the food in Mongolia is not to be messed with, with the promise of an abundance of Mutton I had my bottle of spicy sauce with me that I'd bought in Tesco. We were at a restaurant which had a good selection of food, but like a fool I had the mutton noodle soup. Bring on the sauce. Saying that though, I still haven't had any more mutton since then. The food here is actually really good, perhaps a little fatty sometimes, but that's the way they like it. You may also need to splash out a little for the nice restaurants, perhaps as much as 7 USD for your entire meal but it's worth it.

The city itself was nice and sleepy, just like I'd imagined it to be. I'd heard stories about having to run across roads because it's just too busy, and the cars don't slow down for you, cods wollop. There are a few cool things to see (check out a guide book for more details), some buddist temples, a hill to climb up, a square to take pictures in. All very nice. People don't come here for the town though, it's the countryside that attracts people to Mongolia.

On our second day we packed up our bags and headed east, to Terelj National Park. We saw the hills that sounded Ulaaaaan Baaaaatar and it didn't take long until we were amongst them. I can confirm that the scenery truely is stunning. At times it reminded me of Scotland if I do say so myself. The Ger camp where we stayed was in the middle of the most stunning valley. Before I go must further, let me explain that a Ger is large round felt tent traditionally used by the Nomadic Trides of Mongolia. It's so old that Ghengis Khan would know how to put one of them up if he turned up today. The trip so far has just kept on moving down gears. I thought that Lake Baikal was nice, relaxing and chilled. Well, when I turned up at the Ger camp I just wanted to go to sleep. However Hash had different ideas for us.

First up was a quick visit to another Ger to visit a family there. We had to be careful of the Ettiquite since if I'd rolled up my sleeves inside there then I'd have been challenging the owner to a fight, alough to be fair he was a fairly small guy so I'd have been able to take him. It was nice visiting these guys, and even though we were told that we were the first people that had visited him, I don't think so. The whole area was set up as a tourist area, In some ways that's bad as perhaps you don't see the real Mongolia. However, at the same time you don't get hoards of tourists everwhere bothering the locals, I can't decided if it was truely good or bad. So anyway. We took a few horse out on the range, and mosied on down to a Monestary on a hill. Being as it was only my second time on a horse I elected to be led by a local boy of about 12 who rode his own horse and kept mine in check as well. They say that in Mongolia, they're born on a horse and die on a horse. It was really fantastic, the walking was good, the trotting was too bouncy, and the cantering (I don't know if that's the right description but it was going fast) was amazing, and it was smooth. I have a new found respect for jockeys. I ended up walking back a fair amount of the way as I'd had enough of the horse for a while, I'd be walking like John Wayne for days.

The next day we helped to contruct a Ger, although I use the term 'help' quite loosely. There are lots of pictures of me 'helping' to put it up. In the afternoon the more energetic of us took a walk down to a cave. Although the cave was a little small and a little disappointing, the walk down there and back was fantastic. I made my first attempt at viewing a sun set since the trip began, and although it was pretty the sun went down without much of a flourish.

We returned to Ulaaaaan Baaaaaatar on the following day. Where did all those cars come from? We'd arrived on a Sunday, and it was quiet. We returned to the city on a Wednesday and it was madness. The stories that I'd heard were in fact true. You had to wait for a gap and then make a run for it. The Green Cross Code man would have a fit here. The cars don't even stop for you at a pedestrian crossing. In fact pedestrian crossings are only meeting points for people that want to cross the road, once there are enough of you there you apply mob rule and force your way across the road. It's crazy.

The first part of my trip was on an organised tour, I'd always planned to stay in Ulaaaan Baaaaatar longer than the itinary. Today the guys from the trip got on a Train heading for Beijing, I'm now only a 30 hour train ride from there. David, Nicola, I'm going to get there before you. I'm now in the process of trying to organise another trip to the countryside, this time to the west. There's gold in them there hills. Hopefully I'll get away soon, perhaps tomorrow or the next day. And when I get back, I may even update my travelpod, who knows.

Have fun everyone and thanks for reading.
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andrewjerome on

I really like Mongolia, and this blog brings back good memories

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