Expedition to Mongolia 2006
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Expedition to Mongolia 2006
I will primarily remember Mongolia as a country of beautiful nature and endless steppe. I will always remember the horizon of sand dunes and grazing backtrians, as well as yurts inherent in this country. The people are friendly, the food is good and the country offers many attractions. Mongolia however is a country for those who are not afraid to taste the hard life of nomads, with absolute emptiness around. You can experience a great adventure here, but you cannot count on luxury. It is one of those countries where you have to earn your own adventure and satisfaction with the trip.
Traveling: Ulan Bator – Gobi trip (crew, driving conditions, desert, housing, Mongolian heating, flaming cliffs, camel riding, Dalandzadgad, Altay gobijski, Yolun Am), Khongorun Els (sand dunes) Arvayheer, “beautiful canyon”, Karakorum) – Terelj National Park – Zamyn Uud.
At nine in the evening my dream came true. I landed at Georgian Khan Airport in Ulan Bator and it is 800 years anniversary of the founding of this country – also by Chng Chian. When I got off the plane I met an American who had organized transport to the city. He let me take with him so I paid nothing. After departure from the airport after dark, my imagination began to work, especially since there was emptiness and absolute darkness around the airport. All the Mongols looked suspiciously of murder, but my first impression was very wrong, as my subsequent experience shows. For about half an hour we drove the path down the dark steppe and talked about the expedition to the Gobi desert and the Mongolian shops were well stocked with Polish goods.
We finally reached Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia (lying on the Tuul River at 1310m altitude, founded in 1639). They took me to my hostel located in an old post office block on the second floor. I walked through a dirty, dark and shabby cage, I rang the bell and prayed for someone to open it. The door was opened by an older than me Englishwoman, with whom I later stayed in a single room. On the same night the owner of the hostel came along and presented my travel plan. She told me how to get the trip but she will try to help me too. I left my luggage and went out for a night walk, although the Polish embassy clearly warned me not to do so. I wanted to enjoy my presence in a new country – the country I always wanted to come to. I went to several pubs to have a drink, eat and play billiards. To my surprise, the natives behaved normally. I was not a tourist attraction of the whole city as it was in Sumatra. The food was very good and the social life was quiet until late.
The next day I went to Ulan Bator Street to feel as though I was here. Everything was new to me and other than I thought. There were a lot of tourists, even older women arriving on their own. Around the poor but decent. When I entered the shop, I saw that there are many articles from Russia and from … Poland. I bought my favorite carrot juice and then canned cucumbers and Polish sweets. All the shops in Ulan Bator were very well stocked and there was nothing missing. Everywhere there were also many restaurants and bars with traditional food that are always full. I’m saying that the Mongols are not living so badly. There are modern equipment and some good cars on the streets. Most of all, however, it is quite dingy and it is clear that Mongolia is just entering better times, which will take a long time and is still a very poor country. There are also children in the streets who beg for pimps and older people offering weighing for a few tugrik. As usual in these countries, poverty is generally intertwined with rare prosperity. I have to say that most importantly I feel very safe here. In any Mongolian bank you can easily exchange currency and make traveler’s checks with minimum bureaucracy (which I can not say about China).
I think that as a nation the Mongols are also better educated than the Chinese. I talk about frequent spitting and munching on food. There is no such thing in Mongolia. I walked for Ulan Bator for hours looking around for immediate repair, giving fruits to beggars, and getting tugrians or local currency. People helped me find the way and my first day was very interesting. In addition to the nasty post-Soviet blocks of sad history, the Ulaanbaatar begins to build new houses in the western style, although the inseparable part of the city are simple wooden stalls, where yurt stands. It also seems that the Mongols are very proud of their history, because there are posters on the streets depicting riders in fur hats named Chian Chana, which in this way they advertise Mongolian tourism.Also the airport and some pubs have his name, the banknote is the likeness of Chien Chana and most of the souvenirs are also associated with it. I feel that Genghis Khan is no longer just a historical figure in Mongolia, but even cultic because history is perhaps the only reason Mongolians are proud of their origin.Walking around the city I also noticed that in Ulan Bator there is a very well developed tourism. There are many hostels and offices that offer various sorts of expeditions. Definitely very good knowledge of Russian, because everything is written in Cyrillic. Despite this, the Mongols have their own language.
On the same day I also went to the Buddhist monastery Gandan, built in 1840. It is the best known and largest temple in Ulan Bator, which today is an important part of Mongolian culture. Gandan Temple is also one of the few temples that survived the times of communism when all the cultural assets of Mongolia were destroyed. From what I managed to find out this temple was saved because it was closed and used as a stall for Russian soldiers’ horses. It is built according to Tibetan architecture, there are many temples and stupas built there and there live about 150 monks. Translating from Tibetan is “a wonderful place of total joy”. The temple of Boddhisattva with its characteristic roof and Tibetan-style windows is definitely the highlight of the temple complex. Inside there is a 26.5 m statue of Migjid Janraisig, a figure symbolizing the compassion of all Buddhas. The whole area was very interesting and it was a completely different place than the rest of Ulan Bator.
Then I went to an ordinary Mongolian restaurant where I was given greasy dumplings and where I learned that on the day I came from Mongolia the Dalai Lama – what a bad luck. Mongolia is the second most important Buddhist center after Tibet.
The next day after Mongolian breakfast I tried to arrange a trip to the Gobi desert and other important places along the way. I left my address everywhere and I could only wait. Walking around the city a few times I was in the stores with Mongolian art and clothes typical of this country. I loved it so much. I also went to Suche Bator Square, which is the most important in Ulan Bator and probably in all Mongolia. Although it wasn’t so big and didn’t have as much to offer as the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. I think it is worth spending some time there. The Suche Bator square is located in the center of Ulan Bator and in the middle is a monument of Suche Bator on horseback and with a raised hand. Suche Bator was the leader of the Mongolian revolution and national hero and his likeness was also shown on a few banknotes. The truth about him is not so glorious, because Suche Bator was a Mongolian Communist in the Russian army and one of the main organizers of the Mongolian People’s Army. He also signed a friendship treaty with Russia which meant complete subordination of Mongolia to the Soviet authorities. There is also a Mongolian parliament building with a monument to Genghis Khan, a theater and opera house and dramatic theater.
From what I could find out from the Mongols, they hate the Chinese the most and about the Russians they have quite a good opinion. This is because the Chinese only destroyed Mongolia and the Russians also introduced their culture and art. Examples are, for example, ballet and theater. It was cold and windy that day, so I did not play here long. It was only September, but Mongolian winter seemed to be fierce.
The rest of the day I spent, among other things, visiting museums. I went to the national museum and natural history. It was interesting that Mongolia was once home to many dinosaur species whose skeletons are prominent here. There was even one big size of Tyrannosaurus Rex! Among the many other exhibits worth mentioning is a large vulture with a wingspan of more than 2 meters (it explains the naked skeletons of animals on the Gobi described by other travelers). In the national museum there have been exhibits from the time of the previous era to modern dresses and weapons. But the greatest part was devoted to the founder of this country, Genghis Khan. It has been very well shown on many maps from the space of hundreds of years, as the territory of Mongolia has changed, from the times of glory (13th-14th centuries) to modern times. A large part of the museum also featured an exhibition of the nomadic life of the Mongols – their journey in search of better pastures. In this part also became ger. Both museums allowed me to better understand Mongolia and rest from the cold wind. To other interesting observations that day I would count objects that can not be overlooked.
Among other things, it was Lenin’s monument, a statue of Buddha at the foot of the Jayasan hill, and a painted portrait of Chinga Khan on the hillside. There are also two great embassies on the main street: Russian and Chinese. This day ended with a visit to a Mongolian tavern where once again I was given dumplings.
That evening the owner of the hostel left me a note that the next day I could join an eight day expedition to the Gobi desert and other interesting areas. Real learning about Mongolia was just beginning ……
Expedition to the Gobi desert
The next morning I went to the designated address to join the eight-day expedition to the Gobi desert. There were 11 people together and they were from America, Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Korea and one of Poland. They were not amateurs, but people who traveled the world and were in the most exotic places on earth, also those in civil war and the countries are extremely inhospitable. They also wrote reports, just as I did. Americans, for example, were on an expedition that would take them 3 years, and so far they have been traveling for 1.5 years on 4 continents. As it turned out, the most impressive thing was that I was in Burma because of the catastrophic political situation in that country. They also wanted to go to North Korea.
Driving conditions in Gobi desert
We had two 30-year-old Soviet cars and two Mongolian drivers who were doing great. They said that Soviet cars are the best because they are easy to fix. I thought it would be better not to spoil it but it was just an unfulfilled wish. Immediately after leaving Ulan Bator we stopped to shop and buy a lot of water as the golden law of the desert says that there can never be too much of it. Immediately after, the journey began. Driving a car was already an adventure. There are no good roads in Mongolia, so we had to go down the earth, once with the bottom, once without but always shaking. Sometimes they all jumped all the way to the ceiling. We traveled from 20 to 80km / h depending on the conditions. We even entered the turn at more than 50km / h, depending on the angle of incline.
In the later stages of the ride we drove along the sand, down the hills and mountains. Often, the rocks we had to evade. We also had to go a couple of times across the river and streams because the bridges were not there. It reminded me of the “camel” rally where drivers have to cross the jungle and build bridges themselves. The ride was very hard but it was great. We could never sleep in the car because it was impossible to predict when we jumped out of the ceiling and when to the windshield. When the road seemed better the driver accelerated to find something that stopped us. Under such conditions I have driven 2000km !!!
Charms of the Gobi desert
The landscapes quickly changed. They were steppes, apart from the flat horizon, other times, mountains, sand dunes, rocks scattered around (also on the road) and streams through which you had to cross.However, the landscape was accompanied by large and majestic eagles that seemed to be hanging in the air. When we did not see them, they could see their great shadows bouncing on the road. There were also lots of goats, yaks and bactriams (two-camel camels). When we stopped for the first time to drink the animals, an Australian friend came in the herd and experienced a camel shower.
What will remain in my memory is the remains of animals. These were either naked skeletons of ungulates or skulls themselves and scattered bones or decomposing debris such as cows with half-exposed skeleton. Views of this kind were commonplace. The first day of the ride was finishing but every now and then we stopped to stretch the bones. On that day we survived on Chinese soup flooded with boiling water, but the desert conditions were real delicacies. Our adventure in one of the most remote parts of the world has become more and more interesting.
Living conditions in Gobi desert
We have always lived with Mongolian families in ger (yurt) families of nomads. Gery is traditionally a great Mongolian tent with a wooden skeleton and covered with a triple, thick layer of material and leather that made it wind and waterproof. This model has remained unchanged for hundreds of years and is also easy to deposit and carry. Nomads are desert people, those who chose life away from civilization. In the middle of the gears usually there is a wood burning stove and bed next to the wall or sometimes only a mat.Nomads stay from camel and goat farms and now also from tourism, allowing them to sleep at home for a small fee. I noticed, however, that there are sometimes inventions of the twentieth century. It is a satellite dish and a solar battery or windmill to use the power of the sun and the wind to produce the minimum energy. The warm shower had nothing to count and the toilets or rather the pits behind the screen were out where the flies were swarming. We always got dinners and breakfast which were very basic – just so that you could get a clue. But I did eat what I could because I was very hungry. For example, for breakfast I got fried bread and for that I had to pick a little jam.
While living with the nomads I couldn’t sleep at all, because the camels often held a night concert. The apartment was very informative and taught humility as I could taste a simple life without any luxury. I mean luxury like a shower and a ceiling light bulb and a handful of rice with crumbs. After the ride, it was always fun. We sometimes played with Mongolian children and sometimes played cricket because the Irish brought a stick and a ball. The Mongols also played when the Irish were too drunk to keep the stick. The best of all was the landscape and silence interrupted by the roar of a camel. They were always two or three gerds, a herd of animals in the distance and absolute emptiness around. When I went for a walk this evening, I walked for about 15 minutes and still had the same emptiness. It was important that I did not lose sight of the eyes because it would be easy to get lost. In the morning, there was always breakfast, which everyone was throwing and getting back on the road. We also stopped once to eat Chinese soup, fish preserves and fruits and sweets, which we could buy in stores where there was a larger concentration of people. I mean a group of people around 10 people. Despite the very difficult conditions it was beautiful and I had many attractions.
At the beginning of the trip at night it was warm but in the next stages of the trip it was getting very cold.Gobi temperatures range from +40 to -40 degrees at night. I was wondering if I would freeze. Sometimes there was a temperature of -10 and in the middle. Many times I woke up cold at night and thought I could no longer do it. I had to get up, put a torch on my head and chop wood. I slept in my clothes to be warmer. The issue of burning fire in the stove was not always easy and took some time, but it was very important to us all.
There are yurts, which are warm but I lived a couple of times in those very airy places where it was like in the freezer and burning fire seemed like a fight for life. Nobody wanted to stay with the last match and the fire was always a great joy. The morning was again warm to what the body could not immediately adapt or was very strong, cool wind. The air was very dry and until I smeared my mouth I had always cracked. When I got up in the morning, it took me some time to get to know each other.
Burning Cliffs (Bajandzag Cliffs)
That night our drivers returned about two hours before dawn and were exhausted. Apparently they were entertaining in “ladies’ company” and they stank with alcohol.
Either way they took us to the nearby Cliffs of Bajandzag, or sandstone formations abounding in dinosaur fossils. In 1922 the first eggs and bones of dinosaurs dating back to 60m were found. The beautiful red sandstone on the infinite horizon was wonderful. Interesting also saksauły or dwarf trees growing from under the sand.
Finally, it was time for the long awaited camel ride. In Mongolia, they are only battria (bivalves). I went for an hour and had a good time. Unfortunately we had guides who dragged them through the desert and ended up wanting more money from us. These were penniless things but when we did not want to pay the driver stood up for the Mongolian shepherds and said we would not go until we paid. This told me about the other side of Mongolian character. It was not that we paid. It was more important to intercede for one another. There was a conflict in our group as some people wanted to pay and others did not. We certainly were not in the situation to bargain.
But back to the camels I have to admit that they are very stubborn and very stupid. Also when looking at them from the front and up close, they seem ugly but surely that’s what their beauty must be about. Between the two humps was even comfortably, although the odour coming out of their furs was the only one of its kind.
After a few days of heavy driving through the holes and pits and scouring the sand from my hair and nose we reached Dalandzadgad. It was a small, dingy and dusty town in the south of Mongolia, close to the Chinese border. Our drivers blew us up in a disgusting dirty yard where there were two gery and a house covered with sheet metal. The gate itself probably had a chance to find the boards, also where not covered with sheet metal. When we stepped inside we found that there were only four free beds. Grandma was lying at the entrance on the floor and she looked as if she was dying, and the drivers said we could sleep on the floor, next to the grandmother. I thought it was basically nothing new for me after all the shitholes I had seen in the world. However, when the dog was out the door, the women lost their sense of humor and went to look for a hotel. We were promised earlier that we would finally take a shower and use the internet.
The town looked like a horror movie. Finally we reached the hotel where there was only a drunk caretaker who did not know English. The hotel was obviously in a poor condition and there was no electricity, even though we were assured that there was hot water. For this dull hole we had to pay double, because the driver surely also made profit on us. There were no beds so the women took them and I and my colleagues from Denmark and Switzerland had to hug on the floor. Eventually we wanted to take the promised, warm shower and as I could guess I felt an icy stream on the back. The girls were cold as soon as they got undressed, but I clenched my teeth and took a chance. After some time I felt better because I could wash off dirt from many days. I also noticed that no matter how many times I combed my hair, I found sand in them. I also went to the internet, but unfortunately I was not able to send a single email. I understood that modernity in Mongolia starts and ends at Ulan Bator.
The only good thing I can say about Dalanzadgad is that they had a good restaurant. That one evening (already quite clean) we went there all – in 11 people, and we emptied the whole kitchen.We did not even know when we were allowed to eat again. The whole pot of soup was put on the table and we ate everything. Then the second dishes after a couple of times. There was nothing left. It was a beautiful experience! Everyone had fun at the pub longer but I did not drink that because I came out earlier. Unfortunately, I wandered in the dark with one flashlight on this abandoned, tragic hole, and when I finally got to the hotel all were asleep. When I stepped on the Danish guy, he just pointed my spot on the floor.
This was the end of my adventures in the charming town of Dalanzadgad. I left without regret. For those who have been to Mongolia and overlooked Dalanzadgad, I can comfort them that they have lost nothing.
The Altay of Gobi
Following our Soviet cars we passed Altai Gobijski, a mountain range in southern Mongolia known for about 800 glaciers and about 3000 lakes. Altay stretches 2,000 km through the Asian part of Russia, as well as Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Altay Gobijski is located in the middle part and is not high mountains. The highest peak is Chujten (4356m). To me, some parts of the mountains looked so dramatic, with its ravines and basins. This area is active seismically.
Yolyn Am (Vulture Gorge)
The next day we reached the Yolun Am National Park, who showed me that the Gobi desert is completely different from the traditional image of the desert. It was a beautiful area with many mountain streams and a great gorge where I could climb the rocks. Yolyn Am Park is, however, most famous for its ice sheets, which remain here even in summer. Gobi desert is much colder and wetter than I thought before. There are kept herds of goats, bacillas and sheep and many species of wildlife.
In addition to the beautiful birds of prey, this area inhabits the world’s only desert bear. I have been walking here for about three hours, and it was a great joy for me to cross the streams and rocks and observe nature. I also came across such surprises as animal skeletons and the decomposing body of a cow. There was only a skeleton, which meant that the majestic vultures were still there.
Khongorun Els (sand dunes)
One of the unforgettable things was getting to Khongorun Els. I think that’s how everyone imagines the Gobi desert, although dunes are just one of the attractions. We arrived here before dark, so we first put our knapsacks back on. We also laid out part of our floor and played with Mongolian children. The sun was setting and the view was beautiful. Two gerds, a herd of camels, an absolute emptiness on one side and a dewdrop dug by the wind. The red sky went out after a while and we all went to bed.
I remember that day we had to leave at 9am so I got up at 6am and went to the dunes. It was beautiful, because the sun just got up and I could not sleep from the cold. Apparently in the Sahara are dunes reaching up to over 400m asl, those on the Gobi reach up to 200m above sea level. This region is particularly interesting because I was here on sand dunes and rocks strewn in the steppe, streams and low vegetation are very interesting landscape. It was beautiful and all the time we were accompanied by nomad dogs.
Upon reaching the highest dune, everyone wanted to go down in their own way. People ran or rolled down and I jumped out as far as I could and then rolled over and did the tricks – great fun !!! I did it three times. We reached sand dunes after a few days of hard driving and freezing in gerachas. You see, there was someone who was really tired. Some could not get up and dunes did not see me at all, and for example the Irish were too drunk.
After enjoying the dunes we traveled a few hours after difficult to drive, Mongolian roads and we reached Arvayheer. It was a much nicer town than Dalanzadgad. Here we also spent the night in gerachas surrounded by a farm. The difference was, however, that this time we slept on the beds and in the middle was the stove to which we threw wood. For the first time in Mongolia I also saw trees.
In Arvayheer I took advantage of the opportunity and our drivers took us to the only few hundred kilometers of the bathhouse.It was a primitive brick mansion with showers and hot water at last. I do not want to sound like a shallow man, but it was one of the most pleasant experiences of this trip. I also got rid of the sand from the hair.This night was particularly cold but regular wood throwing helped us survive.
Beautiful canyon in the Gobi desert
Since Dalandzadgad we were still heading north. On our way we passed bronze rocks, which are a kind of cemetery of ancient warriors. There was also a massive vertical boulder on which the deer was carved. I remembered it well because it was there that our Soviet cars broke down and I had some time to look around. When our drivers left the car we drove a little further and spent the night in a picturesque camp consisting of gerbers. Here was a nasty but open, green area with scattered boulders and mountains on the horizon. Several people from the group went on horseback riding but I stayed in the geru area to practice. Others cooked what they took from Ulan Bator because they had enough Chinese soup, ventilated the dirty and sweaty clothes and charged the solar chargers.
As I could guess, this time there was a misunderstanding about money because horses owners said they did not get enough. Of course, this time the drivers were on the side of horse owners and they supported the fact that the Mongols are never wrong with the money and that is why the tourists should pay the difference. This time, however, we made a detailed calculation, which proved that everything was fine. It closed the drivers’ mounth until the end of the expedition.
Not far from the camp was a real nature phenomenon, especially considering we were in the desert. It was a canyon with a depth of 30m and a length and width of about 100m through which the river flowed. In the middle was a waterfall about 15m high, ending in a tank and trees and trodden paths. When I found the way down and walked down the vertical wall, the goats were waiting downstairs. Then I just walked inside the canyon, bypassing the rocks and the river. I sat down in front of the waterfall and spent about an hour in peace. Exiting the canyon was not easy as I had to climb the vertical wall again, but it was fun. Finally, I also made a picture with a Mongolian family.
We continued to drive north, mainly along the river and trees. It was a different view than the one I was used to being on the Gobi. Late afternoon we reached the Karakorum or the ancient capital of Mongolia, founded by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. The main attraction is the monster Erdene Zuu, which we were going to see the next day. Again we slept in cozy gerachas and everything promised to be good this time.
The same evening, however, I went for a walk down the straight road to the mountains so that I could go back straight. I went to the river and before I realized the sun set, and I didn’t know how to reach the camp. I thought that going to the opposite side of the mountains would hit the place but unfortunately. I wandered around blindly because it was getting darker and getting colder. After some time I noticed some light in the distance and decided to go in that direction. I was in the middle of a sincere field looking for a ger, which was a lot. I made a mistake and now I have to pay for it. I did not realize that in Mongolia there are no street names, door numbers, postal codes and no one to ask for directions. The only chance was the orientation, which in the dark is very difficult. It was a hopeless situation, especially since the night fell rapidly and I was in the desert. After about an hour of walking I saw the light in the distance and headed in that direction. I reached the only illuminated place, which for my luck turned out to be a camp for tourists full of ger. A young boy who worked there spoke English. I gave him the person I lived in and for an hour we went to find the address. Unfortunately even he could not hit because it was too dark and cold and the roads were awful. I stayed with him for the night, which was my salvation. I remember that night I soaked in the oven that I had to undress to the boxers and I was so sweaty.
The next morning I reminded myself that all of my group had to drive in the morning to the Buddhist monastery; the only one in town. The same guy brought me there because it was certain that I would meet them there. I thought he would only dump me there but also watched if I was picked up and learned about the tour operator’s phone number. He did more than I expected. Fortunately, after about an hour I met a driver from Ulaanbaatar who worked for the same office. He phoned and gave me a telephone call to the lady I knew from Ulan Bator. She called the drivers of my group and finally after a few minutes I was picked up by the entire group from Monastery. Sentiment was not interesting. They were looking for me until three in the morning and if I was not there they would have checked all the hostels, then the hospitals and even the prison. I was glad that the people I had known for a few days had done so much. Because it was an expedition, and even here, despite minor differences of opinion, we had to stick together, and for those days we learned about our weaknesses. The Mongols also behaved well. Maybe they try to pull tourists to a few tugrikas but they help in need what is a very good sign in traveling around this country.
Today, this monastery is the main Buddhist temple and probably the largest in Mongolia. It is located on a square side of about half a kilometer and the concrete, white wall is covered with stacks. There are only a few temples here, as most were destroyed in 1937 and all of them were built in Tibetan style. I mean the characteristic ornaments, the windows, the roofs and all the architectural style. Also worth mentioning is the turtle monument and some sculptures of sexual content, although I liked the temples themselves the most. There was also a ger and there were several monks. Monastera Erdene Zuu was definitely worth a visit. As for the Karakorum itself, there is nothing here but a monastery. I wish I was lost, but it was a good lesson for the future.
At last we went to Ulan Bator. First time on the asphalt road but it was so bad that the driver drove on the side where it was equal. On our way, our wonderful Russian car broke down and once caught the gum, so I could get off and take a break. Several times he also got off the road but we got there and it was the most important! This is the end of my trip to the Gobi desert.
Return to Ulan Bator
After returning from the expedition the driver blew me out in front of the hostel. At that moment I just wanted to take a warm shower and relax. I thought that from now on everything would go smoothly. I went to the second floor of a dingy, post-Soviet block, but it turned out that the hostel was liquidated. It was very bad news because I left almost all my luggage there. Inside there was only a lady who did not speak English and did not want to open the door. Fortunately, one gentleman asked her in Mongolia for my case and got a phone number for the owner of this hostel. It turned out that everything was fine. The hostel was moved two blocks away. After 10 minutes, I met a woman in the agreed place, who led me to a new place where my luggage was and everything was fine. Finally I took a shower, handed over the laundry and could relax. It’s just a pity that I had to get upset before. This time I also had good conditions, ie a cozy, clean living where I was alone in the room.
That evening, the winter started well. So I went to a restaurant for a portion of ramen dumplings and started planning a new trip. This time I wanted to go on a two day trip but on my own. I wanted to reach local transport to the Tereldż National Park, 70km away.
During my expedition to the Gobi and staying in Ulaanbaatar, I noticed some of the characteristics of the Mongols, which are worth describing. First of all, the Mongols have a great attachment to tradition, especially when it comes to clothing. Most dressed up in Europe, but very often I saw that they were in “del” or their national costume. It is a long coat with different colors and patterns and loose cut. The left part is to the right and is fastened with metal buttons and knots of material. Del is also strapped and has long sleeves to protect from frost. In addition, there is a hat and leather boots in front of the knee. It is male and female and there are many types depending on the ethnic group and this dress is commonly worn.When I was on the Gobi my drivers also sometimes dressed in their national costumes. Most often when they meet with colleagues or have some holiday. This costume is also worn by spectators during the “naadam” or annual sports spectacle, which consists of wrestling, archery and horse racing.
The second feature of this nation is that they are never in a hurry. I think it is not strange considering that the family lives in the desert and there is nothing around. One Mongol told me he once drove across the country and broke his car. Just luck was that it was near the nomad family who accepted him because they were not in contact with Ulan Bator. Finally, after two weeks of goat grazing and trimming in the nose, a man who had a cell phone and called for help was passing. Time is in this country too much – it’s certain.You can rest your mind mentally on condition that someone has the right attitude. Finally the hero of my story got there and so there was no problem.
The Mongols are very friendly, hospitable and peaceful to tourists. Comparing for example their personal culture to the Chinese, they beat them without a doubt. Even when I went to the pub in the desert and told them to not to bother me with cigarettes, they left to finish outside.
Terelj National Park
Standing in the morning at the bus stop, it turned out that the bus did not come at all, which happens quite often here. I met two girls from Slovakia and three from France, who were also in the same place. I suggested that if we want to go there together, I will arrange transport. So I stopped any bigger car, bargained the price and drove to the park. The road was pleasant but until the guard stopped us from having to buy the tickets. We gave him a bribe and let us cheap. In the park of course we lived in a big six-person with a stove in the middle-just like on an earlier trip. The girls were very nice to me, they taught me French and they gave me food.
Tereldj National Park is one of the most visited areas of Mongolia due to its unique flora and fauna. The valley in which I lived was surrounded by mountains, in a way where it looked as if someone had placed larger rocks on the smaller ones. In addition to magnificent rock formations and traditional mixes, you can also go horseback riding and watch camels and camels. When I arrived it was very cold and snow fell. Fortunately I had the company of five women who were the only men in our group.
After tea we went for a walk and for a few hours we walked around. Impressed rocks made me unusual and gorgeous vegetation covered with snow. There was also something that confirmed the good attitude of the Mongols. We were invited to their ger, they gave us handmade cheese, bread and fermented milk from the mare (local delicacy). Well, I had a book with Mongolian phrases so I could make a closer contact. Slovaks knew a little Russian so they could say a few words. Their invitation was a very nice experience and despite the fact that they were poor people throughout their lives living in gerachas and mostly eating the same they made, they invited us to each other. They gave us what they could and wanted to make contact without expecting anything in return. It taught me that sometimes simple and poor people are more open and kind than people in their own country. We left them a few cents because they could see that they needed a little money. Our meeting with a Mongolian family made us all happy and it was another fruitful experience.
That same evening we also visited a Buddhist monastery built on top of the mountain. It was more exciting because to get there we had to overcome a bridge built on ropes hanging over the abyss, which all the time was rocking. Then I had to climb the high stairs. This monastery was also built in Tibetan style and was an interesting addition to the surroundings. From the top there was also a beautiful view of the countryside, that is to the rocks, trees and the valley and the gery. We returned to yurt only after dark and then went to eat a shrub or traditional Mongolian dish. (Hushur is a dessert dumplings).
On the day they tasted exceptionally well because the pub was warm and the outdoors started to winter. I knew that my stay in this beautiful country was ending and looking back in time I was happy to be here. Then we went back to gera, the girls made tea and went to bed. The next day the same car arrived and we returned to Ulan Bator.
Road to the Chinese border
I came to Mongolia by plane, so in my opinion I did it in the most boring possible way. On the way back I wanted to taste the last, Mongol adventure, and that is why I wanted to return to the Transamerican railway. Of course, many of you have already mentioned the dangers of this trip, that is, specialized gangs plundering passengers and so on. If I had to worry about everything and believe in everything, I would probably stay at Mummy’s.
Even before leaving for Gobi when I wanted to buy a ticket to Beijing, it turned out that all the tickets were sold out. Still, the manager of the office said that for 100usd he would get my ticket. I had to pay earlier and before leaving he had me meet in the restaurant at the station and give me a ticket. It seemed suspicious to me so I had to come up with something else. I bought a train ticket to Zamyn-Uud (border city on the Mongol side) and from there I was going to get to Erljan (the border city on the Chinese side).
From Erljan I had to somehow manage to get to Beijing. I have to admit the train ride to Zamyn-Uud was nice. I was in a sleeping car and there was always hot water for soup and tea on hand. I also bought a lot of food for the road. Only the female conductors, who closed the toilet after a certain time, even if someone was wearing their pants, were very rude. After a 15-hour journey in good Mongolian company, I reached the border.
Zamyn Uud and the fight to cross the border
I was glad that I got out of the train but Zamyn Uud did not impress me. I got here early in the morning so all the shops (read: barracks) were closed, even though the city looked very sleepy and uninteresting. But it was only my first impression, because I had to live here all the time.
Of the many exotic boundaries I have experienced, this was the most dramatic. They pushed us to the bus like sardines and the distance of 10 minutes we drove in three hours. People could not wait and pushed themselves, also to control passports. To be quicker, my driver sped and crashed into the bumper of the car in front and the people inside our play had a huge amount of fun and it was not something special for them. The car in front of us either braked or rushed forward and crashed into our bus. That’s how we collided for about an hour. It was a real battle for crossing the border, and even if we had to cross a man or roll over a car, nobody would stop it. On the deck of our magnificent bus the jars of hot dumplings were circulating all the time, and everyone was having a great time.
Crossing this border was an experience. It was evident that each car had gone through many bumps and each driver was seasoned with border battles. Here spoke the second nature of the Mongols, which I did not know before. The best moment, however, was when they opened the barrier. At this point, the drivers went crazy and started racing while sawing against the sides of other cars. It lasted for several hundred meters because then a second barrier was waiting for us and the drivers stopped so much that people flew to the driver. Was great! It’s not like the quiet border between Laos and Cambodia where I walked through the jungle and a guy in a torn shirt put a stamp on me and took two dollars for a beer. The Mongol-Chinese border was for the brave. When the second barrier was lifted, the drivers started screeching tires and gave me a lift to the immigration office. There I got a stamp and it was the end of my beautiful Mongolian adventure.
Summary of Mongolia
I will primarily remember Mongolia as a country of beautiful nature and endless steppe. I will always remember the horizon of sand dunes and grazing backtrians, as well as yurts inherent in this country. The people are friendly, the food is good and the country offers many attractions. Mongolia however is a country for those who are not afraid to taste the hard life of nomads, with absolute emptiness around. You can experience a great adventure here, but you cannot count on luxury. It is one of those countries where you have to earn your own adventure and satisfaction with the trip. It was beautiful.
If anyone has more time for this country then I would also recommend a trip north, border with Russia, to the land of lakes and reindeer.