I thought the Gobi trip was a brilliant introduction to Mongolia. The landscape was very varied, the pine forests, mountains and greenery at Terelj were magnificent. There were open grasslands, mountains, valleys, sand dunes and I could go on but suffice to say, the landscape was stunning, breathtaking, rugged, majestic and extremely beautiful.
The food was as expected. I think the ger resorts did a super job molly coddling us foreigners by adapting their food for our palates. So,no brickbats there. Anyway, one doesn’t go to Mongolia for the cuisine. I went for the nature and the landscape and I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed. If anything, it exceeded my expectations.
The accommodation was clean and very comfortable. The hot water or the lack of it sometimes added to the charm and the adventure element of the holiday, and at other times was a trifle annoying. Thanks goodness we all smelt badly, at pretty much the same time. Although I discovered from Muno that many Mongolians, (or maybe just Muno), generally don’t have a wash daily. Specially for Muno, You must spend a lot on deodorants. Then of course, it helped that my nose was blocked for most of the time I was there.
The vehicles were comfortable considering the terrain we were traveling on and the drivers, in particular Nyamaa (sp) was extremely careful and we were never concerned at any point in time for our safety. He was also extremely patient about packing and unpacking the gazillion bags we had and was very good when we went climbing at making sure everyone was safe.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that setting up and taking down the tents was a dawdle, and whilst I personally would have liked a Dunlop mattress to sleep on in the tent, I fully understand why I couldn’t have one. Nothing like wishing though….. The camping nights were my favourite nights. The first night was fantastic, the second night was absolutely brilliant. The sound of the river bubbling away whilst one was falling asleep was pure magic! Definitely a spot I’d like to return to for it’s beauty and isolation. The third night camping was making the best of the situation and I think that all things considered, the spot was pretty awful. Sorry just kidding, just making sure you hadn’t fallen asleep!! The spot was pretty enough with the river, which we all enjoyed paddling in. Lovely cool water and great fun for water fights. We could have done without the flies though. The camping nights were great fun with a capital F, setting up tents, organising dinner, gathering firewood, and yes even gathering dried dung with a spade (picking up dried dung with bare hands is not my idea of getting close to mother nature)was heaps of fun. The camaraderie around the campfires were wonderful social occasions with lots of silliness, singing, often more like cats howling. The 2nd night of camping really sticks in my mind because as the campfire was in full blaze, I said to Muno that the only thing missing were marshmallows to toast and and lo and behold, Muno aka Father Christmas produces satay sticks and a bag of marshmallows. He wasn’t so good with my next request a bottle of vino. But who’s complaining. Nothing beats dung toasted marshmallows.
Having had no petrol meant we spent more time with more nomadic families than planned, but that was cool, as the hospitality and warmth of these families was heart warming, generous and refreshing. I was very touched by their openness and genuine pleasure at having us with them and their desire for us to try the airag(sp) and whatever else they had. They were also extremely fun loving as they were quite happy to sit down and play silly card games with us.
The climbing/trekking which we did most days were great for the lungs and legs and we were particularly taxed at the sand dunes at Khongryn Els, which in themselves took your breath away. The height, width and depth of the sand dunes was utterly amazing and they were immaculately pristine, that is, until we got there and made sand angels and tried our hand at sand tobogganing. Here again, Father Christmas aka Muno, got his grubby, smelly paws (sorry, had to get that in) on two sleds, which sort of worked. I think if space allows, carrying a couple of cardboard pieces or hard plastic trays would have worked well, with the addition of rubbing some candle wax on the bottom.
Whilst horse riding was on the itinerary, and I believe everyone was looking forward to it, in hindsight, riding horses at the ger where we waited for the petrol to arrive was not necessarily the best idea. Whilst I fully applaud Muno’s efforts to make contingency plans, as we were running behind schedule and he was trying to occupy our time well, I do think that the horses we rode on, unlike the ones at Terelj where we were going to be riding, were completely unaccustomed to non horse riders like ourselves and therefore increased the likelihood of an accident, which we did have unfortunately. That was positively no one’s fault, certainly not yours, Muno.
On one occasion we chased several gazelles in our four wheel drive, and we certainly had our share of ibex,eagles, vultures, camels, horses, cows, goats and sheep as well as the smells that goes with them.
Unlike Muno, Tuya was all things to us, guide, interpreter, translator, language teacher, cook, chief pot and plate washer upper and to top it all, she did it with a smile. She was a pleasure to have and to be around.
Now Muno,……???!!! What a stinker and I mean that literally as well as figuratively.
Seriously though, Muno sense of playfulness, mischievousness and good nature helped to cement the two groups very quickly and added to the enjoyment and entertainment level of the holiday. He was especially good with Pippa and Ethan who were always racing ahead of everyone, in particular Pippa, who was always way too close to the edge of everything.
I hope you’re still awake but I do enjoy a captive audience, which I don’t often get, apart from when Ethan and Pippa are buckled into their car seats on the way to and from school. My apologies for the lengthiness of this.
You guys decide bouquets or brickbats!! This may sound like a threat, but we will return to Mongolia sooner rather than later.
P.S. Ethan and Pippa’s verdict. Totally horrendous holiday. They will have to go again to give Mongolia another chance at redeeming itself in their eyes.