We had a full day in Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia, before heading out in the rural countryside. A bit jet-lagged (from train?!), we met up with our tour guide Oggie, a nature loving, mid-age woman with endless energy, who showed us around the city. In the evening we attended a traditional music and dance show, which was a good kick-off into Mongolian culture.
First lunch with Seabuckthorn, a very common hot drink in Mongolia.
Chinggis Khan Square. If you are unsure of a place’s name, you can always try Chinggis Kahn: Chinggis Khan airport, avenue, restaurant… Of course he is on the money notes too.
Our first couple of days had slower pace with historical theme with museums, ruins and monastery’s in order to recover and gain strength for the following extreme days, which was well needed after a dash of food-poisoning and one large amount of bad sleep.
Cuddling after a outside swim in hot mineral springs.
Perfect for the inexperienced horsewoman/man. That’s what the tour summary said. Sounds just like us. Our horse guides were two boys aged 15 and 16. They looked much younger, preferred to sleep under the stars and had barely tried vegetables in their life’s.
Our horses were semi-wild and we were a bit worried how we would manage four days of riding. My horse got scared from a jeep right away. Pull the reins harder shouted our guide. The jeep stopped, rolled down the window, and said to loose the reins. It worked better. Mixed messages like these were confusing at first, but we learned to just let the horse go its own way.
Our horses resting in the woods.
Only approach them in the left-hand side. Never walk behind them. Hold the reins in one hand, and the other hand on your saddle so that you don’t fall off. Don’t pat them. Actually, don’t touch them at all.
Was this really adapted for inexperienced riders? I am not so sure. Luckily, everything went fine (just sore bottoms and knees), and since we had a private tour (no one else had booked the tour), breaks and schedule could be adjusted to our needs.
Viktor’s horse, the hungry one.
When our first day of riding was coming to an end, the colour of the sky had quickly transformed into almost black. The wind had suddenly become cooler and in no time, we were surrounded by lightings and thunder.
It was a powerful feeling being on an open field with the horses when this occurred, however, not very safe, which is why we changed to car the last kilometres.
Our private chauffeur, Magi, dealing with the daily hustle of packing in and packing out.
One of our camp sites. Behind is a stone formation that marks an old burial.
Our accommodation varied a lot throughout this trip. Some nights were spent in yurt camps, where we were provided towels and clean sheets. Other nights we stayed at local families yurts, crawling into three sleeping bags in order to conquer the cold. All yurts had a fire stove in the middle, however the heat did not last long and the temperature was close to freezing some nights. Naturally, tenting was also a part of this adventure.
Minna enjoying the evening view of the valley.
This construction marks the place of where to contact the “owner” of this land.
Mongolia is a very spiritual country, where Buddhism is the main religion. There is a belief that all land is owned by something more powerful than the human beings and in order to come in contact with them, you walk three times around the stone construction and for every round, you through a stone into the pile.
The top of Tovkhon Monastry located 2312 meters above sea level. It was originally built by Zanabazar, the first religious leader of Mongolia.
Sunset in Orkhon Valley, where we stayed with a local family. Chopping wood is, among many others, a daily chore here.
Minna milking a yak.
In Sweden, water resources has for a long time been a necessity for transportation, power source and society development. Mongolia, which is not rich in water, live stock has instead been the crucial source of development. Just like Africa has their “Big Five”, Mongolia has their own five important animals: horse, camel, cow, sheep and goat. And there are many of them, around 80 million for a population of 3 million (with 1,5 million living in the capital city). A big food source is thereby dairy products and meat. The animals graze freely in the landscape and go wherever the grass looks best.
Viktor and Minna. Or is it Minna and Viktor? Most likely our spirit animals…
Afternoon grazing. A common view in rural Mongolia.