6th June 2012
If someone asked me to describe Mongolia in one word, the word that would spring to mind is “vast”. The landscapes are vast, the skies are vast, the statue of Chinggis Khan is vast and the food portion sizes – simply vast and delicious.
I am currently doing, what I can only describe as the Mongolian dash, I’m following our Alternative Naadam route but on what feels like high speed dubbing, there’s definitely no rest for the wicked as we’re tying to cram a two week trip into a week as on Sunday our group of intrepid riders arrive into Ulaanbaatar to head north to spend 10 days visiting the Shaman and reindeer people.
It’s been an incredible few days so far, even with Tulga, our loyal Mongolian guide, taking on a new lease of life as my own personal PT instructor informing me every time we stop that it’s time to exercise and work off the last bowl of noodles. On my first day here he’s marched me to the top of a mountain in the Gyn Galuut National Reserve, in search of the illusive Argali sheep at 5.30am before driving 7 hours to the Hustai National Park, with a couple of stops along the way to visit Chinggis Khan’s giant statue and take a short hike to the Ariyabal Temple in the Terelj National Park. Once we’d made it to Hustai the day was nowhere near over as we had one last challenge - to go on the search of one last wild animal before dinner; the Przewalski’s horse. These horses are very unique, they have a different number of chromosomes to the domestic horse; they’re dun in colour and have similar stripes to a zebra on their hocks and bellies. Luckily the Gods were on our side this time and we found them relatively easily, as the sun dropped, we’d abandoned our vehicle and walked down to the river’s edge just in time to sit quietly and watch the herd canter down from the hills above us to have their last splash and drink before the sun set.
As we were returning from the Tovkhon Monastry, this evening, we stumbled across our very own mini festival - this celebration was dedicated to the Lama of Mongolia for spending time in the Tsagaan Sym region, where the Lama enjoy the hot springs that are just below the village. Sadly, the horse racing was over but they were still parading the winning horses and jockeys and the wrestling was just beginning. There were some incredible sights - children as young as 4 or 5 taking to the ring to battle it out for the winning prize of chocolates and footballs. The Mongolians are incredibly warm and welcoming so it didn’t take long for the ladies of the village to offer the chance to share their food whilst laughing and cheering on our favourite wrestlers.