Sleeping In A Ger In Mongolia
5 May 2010
|We boarded the train to Mongolia on Sunday 2nd May and were thrilled to see that we had a four berth compartment with a sliding door you could lock, a window we could open whenever we liked and actual clean-ish toilets. I think this was due to the fact we had two female Mongolian carriage attendants who were cleaning constantly, and who would have a joke with us when we got in the way of their cleaning.
On Monday we had an eight hour border crossing from Russia to Mongolia, with a three hour wait at a station. It was so warm outside! I was quite dissappointed there wasn't any snow and it was actually warmer than Russia. So much for needing a warm coat, hat and gloves for Mongolia! So we ended up sunbathing on the platform for a few hours until it was time for the train to move again. The border crossing seemed to take forever. Officials would come on and off the train, we had so many forms to fill out and our passports were taken off us a few times to be stamped and given back.
I still can't believe how light it still is in the evenings in this part of the world. In Russia it stays daylight until about 9pm! Eventually we crossed the border and the next morning the landscape had changed completely over night. It became hilly with cows and horses right next to the railway track, it kind of looked just like a good old Western film with cowboys on horseback riding along the countryside.
The next morning we arrived in Ulaanbaatar (UB) and our honcho called Boogii met us at the train station. She took us to a 24 hour bank on the bus (they should definitely have those in England!) and then to a supermarket on our way to the ger camp.
The ger camp was breath taking! The countryside was just amazing and you had to pinch yourself to realise where you actually were. We settled into our gers and then went for a walk around the camp, up onto the rocks and just took in the view. After a nap we went for some lunch in the restaurant ger, the Mongolian food was very good, I had chicken soup and then beef dumplings. We then took part in some Mongolian archery and then I investigated the WC facilities! The toilet was in a small shack with two doors. It was basically a long drop with a plank either side of the hole that you stood on to squat down to go to the loo. At least they had toilet paper.
It was then time to go horse riding which we were all looking forward to! The horses out in Mongolia are quite different to the ones back home. They're a bit smaller and quite skinny because the people don't feed them as they live off the land, but the Winter just gone was very hard in Mongolia and a lot of animals didn't survive it. So off we went for an hours ride, and the one word to get your horse to go faster was "Choo!" Despite shouting this alot and digging my heels in a bit, the horse still didn't want to go that fast. He would trot now and again but it was only on the way back that he wanted to canter as he knew he was going home!
That afternoon we then took the bus to meet a nomad family who lived in a ger and Boogii explained to us all about their lives in the ger, and how they can have separate gers for their kitchen etc. Also if you live in a ger you only need to pay 30p tax a year on any big animals you have and 20p tax a year for any smaller animals you have. The Mongolian man we met had three baby cows in the pen next to his ger, one only being seven days old.
After dinner we had a bonfire where we stood around to keep warm and the honchos handed out vodka. It really strikes you just how quiet it is out in the countryside, all you could hear during the day were the birds calling and the people constructing more gers and buildings in the camp. That night the sky was just so clear and you could literally see every star there was, it was amazing and nothing like the sky at home.
I slept very well in the ger that night, one of the women came in to light the fire at 6am to warm it up ready for when we woke up. After breakfast we took the bus back to UB and checked into our hotel. It was so good to have a real toilet, real shower and a real bed to sleep in! Boogii then took us to a really nice restuarant for lunch and then onto Central Square where she showed us the statues of Genghis Khan, his son and his second in command. We then went to the Post Office where I sent two quick postcards to the parents and we headed to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur bones that were found in the Gobi Desert in the 1980s.
We then travelled to this massive monument in cabs and there was this man with a falcon so we all had a go at holding it up. We then walked up to steps to the monument and you could see the whole of UB from up there. Boogii also pointed out the childrens prison to us, she explained that children as young as seven go out and steal to feed their families because their parents can't afford to, and then they are put in that prison for breaking the law.
It was then time to go and see the Mongolian Culture show at 6pm, so we walked back down the hill and got on a bus. Boogii then power walked us all the way to the show which was really quite interesting. They wore traditional costume, sang, played live instruments, they were throat singing and this girl was a contortionist which was absolutely amazing. I could never lift my whole body with just my mouth!
After the show we went to a grill restuarant for dinner. It was eat as much as you like buffet style, so you chose your starter and then for your main course, you picked up raw veg, frozen meats and the pasta or noodles that you wanted, plus an egg if you wanted that too. Then you took it over to the people with the massive stir fry plate where they tip your ingredients onto the plate and mix it all up for you and cook it. See attached!
By then it was about 10pm and we went to the bank which was open to change our Tugriks into Yuan ready for Beijing. I was surprised to see how busy it was at that time of night. There was traffic everywhere and they beep each other alot too.
I still need to pinch myself sometimes as I can't quite believe where I am and what I'm actually doing, it's so brilliant! We've all said we prefer Mongolia to Russia, the people are alot friendlier, it's a more relaxed and chilled atmosphere. Especially in the ger camp anyway.
I'm really looking forward to starting my Roam China trip on the 10th. It's a good job I have my diary on me because it's so easy to lose track of the days as you're travelling around.
Next stop - China!
Tons of love,