A Ger in the Country

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

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Where I stayed
UB Guest House

Flag of Mongolia  ,
Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hello to you all again. Apoligies for the large delay in getting this out to you, but please be assured that it's because I was having too good a time to update this blog!

So my organised tour came to a premature end when I elected to stay in Mongolia a bit longer while everyone else continued onto Beijing, I just couldn't rush through a country as beautiful as Mongolia in only four days. I reluctantly left my rather lush hotel room in the morning knowing that I was heading back to true backpackers land, in the land of the $5 bed. I'd recommend the 'UB Guest House' to (almost) anyone, it's cheap, clean, friendly and very central, everthing that you want from a Guest House. The other thing that the guest house specialises in is the organisation of trips into the coutryside, this is a great place to organise such a trip. So with minimal hassle I organised a four day trip to the west of Ulaaaaaanbaaaatar with two others from the guest house. I'd also like to say at this point that I miscalculated how long I'd need in Mongolia. I wasn't able to take the 10 day trips that leave for the Gobi Desert or to Lake Khovsgol as my train was going to leave in 10 days time. So if you ever head to Mongolia, then I strongly recommend that you leave at least 3 or 4 weeks for it, you'll not regret it - assuming that you enjoy trips into the countryside!

So after saying goodbye to the 3 Americans and 2 Scandanavians from my trip, I was off for a few days with an American and a Scandanavian. Our driver had some unpronouncable name so we had to give him the nickname Arry, which he seemed happy enough with. The first day's ride was 7 hours due west, the road was actually ok despite the stories that we'd heard about the state of the roads here. As much as I'd love to say that something really excited happened, nothing did. We got to our Ger in the early evening and settled down for a little chilled night in. The big event of the next day was our visit to the first monestary ever built in Mongolia, Erdene Zuu Khiid. This was a walled city which contained hundreds of temples before to Soviets instigated the Religious purge in 1937. They destroyed practically all of the temples here, murdering many of he monks at the same time. In order to save many of the artifacts that existed here monks would remove articles and hide them in the hundreds of miles of countryside in the surrounding area. Now that these temples are being restored many of these articles are being returned to Erdene Zuu, but rumour also has it that there are heaps of 'Treasure' still hidden out there, either because the saviour of the article died, moved away or perhaps even just forgot exactly where they hid everything. It'd be a true shame if Mongolia wasn't able to retrieve all of these items to their riteful place before hoards of treasure hunters decended on the area in order to sell Buddhas and other articles to people in the west wanting them for their own decorations.

Ok, so back to the monestary again. It was within a white walled area with 108 stupas embedded into the walls. 108 is a very significant number for Buddhists. The few temples that had been restored looked great. It was just a shame that we were forced to take a tour guide around with us (no choice) to show them to us. We weren't allowed to take pictures on the inside because we were too stingy to pay the extra $10 in order to do this. This is something that really annoyed me about Mongolia. If I'd payed $10 everytime I'd wanted to take pictures inside somewhere then I'd be a whole lot poorer. I'm distracting myself again, what can I say, it was really cool, relaxed, chilled.

We headed back to the Jeep again for today's travel. This is when I found out the true state of the road network in Mongolia, and I can tell you that it's poor. It makes me realise just how fantastic the road network is in the UK. so the next time you're stuck in a jam due to roadworks, content yourself with the knowledge that not only are they actually repairing the road, but there is also a road to repair. The 'Roads' that we took were just dirt tracks that has been grooved into the grassland through time, this was fine for a part of the time, there were large spells where we'd bump our way through rocks, stream and pot holes. Not a trip for those that get car sick. After four hours of this where I'd retreated into my mind thinking of cool wet grass we arrived at our next Ger in the country. We all got a horse and were ready to go off to explore the Waterfalls that weŽd come to see. IŽd wanted a lazy horse when I went riding in Terejl a week ago, this time I was ready for a horse with a bit of Va Va Voom. What I actually got was a broken, shopping trolley type horse. IŽd point it in the direction that I wanted it to go, give it a little encouragement to go forward and wait. ItŽd take a few steps forward and then slowly drift off to the right as if it had a broken wheel, before coming to a halt. It was a bit of a pain to keep pulling to the left and saying Choooo, but at least I got there. MaiKhoiŽs (The American) and AnneŽs (Danish) horse both refused to go at all, and if they did it was in the wrong direction. I took advantage of these times to bond with my horse. IŽd find a nice bit of green grass and then let it eat for a while while the guide would head back to rescue the other two.

The first waterfall that we saw was superb, set down a little hill, extremely picturesque. Our guide led the horses to the water and they drank! The second waterfall is supposed to be the great one, a drop of 50 feet with water spilling into the pool below. However due to low rainfall this spring this waterfall had dried up. You could still imagine how great itŽd be.

The next day we started heading back to UB. Bump. Bump. Bump. Maybe it wasnŽt such a bad idea that I didnŽt do the 10 day trip afterall! We stopped off at some sand dunes on the way back. Not nearly as impressive as the ones I heard about in the Gobi desert, but great all the same. We even saw some horse bones on the way, including a leg which still had its hoof and some fur intact, yuk. ItŽs a real pain to climb a sand dune, two steps up, one down, one up, three down, two up, one down, one up..... and you get sand everywhere, watch out for the health of your camera if you ever do this. Fortunately the views from the top were magnificent. Hills in the background, a lake over there, more sand dunes in the other direction. We eventually had to make a quick retreat as a heavey rain storm came in to give us a good drenching if we didnŽt get a shifty on.

The last thing that we did was to watch the wild ŽPrzewalskiŽ horses at Hustai National Park. These horse used to roam every part of Mongolia and elsewhere but due to hunting and habitat lost they were eventually made extinct in this part of the world. In the early 90Žs a Dutch charity reintroduced them from zoos to this national park, bolstering their numbers every couple of years until they had a core of horses that would be self sufficient. These horses look very vey similar to regular horses except that they have larger heads and their legs are stripped below the knees. It was nice to see them, and they did act differently to regular horses. TheyŽd walk along and nod their heads, apparently this was get rid of the flies that would hang around them. Despite the fact the Julia Roberts had been here a number of years before IŽm afraid the park left me with a small feeling of disappointment. Oh well.

We headed back to UB after this, getting back in the early evening. WeŽd done loads of driving over the previous four days and perhaps on the surface weŽd done very little. Despite this, I had a great time. The 2 others that I went with were great fun, we saw some great things from the jeep, including streams where horses would stand in order to cool off. Our driver Arry was also a great laugh, he had a camera with him which we assumed heŽd only just bought. He was just a big a tourist as the rest of us, taking photos all the time. He was also super obsessed with his car. EVERY time we stopped somewhere heŽd get out his car cleaning kit and clean the car till it shinned. This appeared to be kind of pointless since as soon as we got going again itŽd get covered in dust again.

I still wish IŽd allowed myself more time in Mongolia, but as they say, you live and learn.
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