Traditional Mongolian living

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Where I stayed
Elstei Ger Camp

Flag of Mongolia  ,
Monday, June 9, 2008

We had an amazing stay at the Ger Camp and the first thing we fell in love with were the wide open spaces and rolling hills that are typical to Mongolia. After being cooped up in a small 2m x 1.8m cabin for almost 30 hours it was invigorating to have so much space.
The camp consists of about 30 Ger's, a small restaurant and is surrounded by miles and miles of crazing land used by the local nomad families. Since the Mongolians believe it is bad luck to 'break the earth' to plant grains and vegetables their diet predominantly consists of meat and dairy products, so not many vegetarian Mongolians nor any vegetable farmers. We did however see a few open pit coal mines and I wondered how much bad luck the owner got for that one?
A Ger is a traditional Mongolian tent used primarily by nomadic families and consists of a wooden structure that is covered by a woven wool and hair canvas. Apparently the whole structure only takes 20 minutes to disassemble. Each Ger is brightly decorated inside and has a little stove in the center of the structure which is used for cooking and heating the Ger in winter by burning cow and horse droppings. Our Ger was extremely spacious and was even fitted with a little wash basin, coffee table and four beds.
Our guide, Oggie was superb and her bubbly personality and wealth of knowledge kept the next few days very interesting and exciting. She took us on a 14km walk to see the giant Genghis Khan statue that was being constructed. We were meant to do the trip on horseback but since the grazing was limited due to no rain the horses were too weak to carry us the distance. Since we were all fit and well fed we decided to hoof it instead. Our Aussie friends we'd met on the train, Jill, Kate & Ruth joined us on the walk as we trekked across the Mongolian plains in search of a giant metal statue.
It did not take long for us to know we were walking in the right direction because as we neared the top of the first little hill from the camp we could see the metal monstrosity far off in the distance. After the first sighting it still took us almost two hour to reach the statue. Apparently the project was started more than two years ago to erect a 26 meter tall statue of Genghis Khansitting on a horse. The project was entirely funded by donations from the public in respect of their heroic warrior who almost conquered the world. Once complete the complex will house a restaurant and a big Ger camp for tourists.
The food at camp was superb and was prepared by an Indian chef, so most of the dishes we ate were Mongolian with an Indian twist, 'very delicious indeed'! After dinner we played some traditional Mongolians games supplied by Oggie. The Mongolians are famous for their brain teasers and puzzles and even have a museum dedicated to this. One such puzzle was a sheep's shin bone and two small knuckles attached by a piece of rope at either end. The puzzle was meant to test young brides to see if their minds were sharp enough before they were allowed to get married. I must add that the only two people who successfully completed the puzzle were Kate and I!
During our stay at the Ger Camp we also met another travelling couple, Daniel from England and Annie a French Canadian, who doing almost the same Trans-Siberian trip. We spent our last night in camp with them playing card games and drinking Mongolian vodka. The game was new to us and I was a very slow learner but it paid off in the end.
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