Back with the second chapter of Mongolia. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression, there’s not a whole lot to actually DO when travelling in Mongolia. For hours on end everyday we would be rumbling around in our UAZ, dozing off and then jerking awake. Most of the time I force myself to open my eyes to appreciate the endless steppes, the unending horizon and and rolling hills. As my aunt put it it was an 8 day rollercoaster – so worth it. Also Gambol put in a lot of effort at the end of everyday or while we were preparing lunch to wipe down his prized vehicle, no matter how futile given that the moment we drove off, it was immediately covered in a fresh layer of dust and sand. The windows were so clean and the glass so clear that I could actually take good, spotless photos through them. We had really gotten a gem of a driver.
We drove into Gobi city next, for Otgo to pick up some supplies and being Gambol’s hometown, he ended up talking to many people and we even visited his home and his mother. It is really a very pleasant feeling when your tour driver brings you to his house to have a freshly brewed bowl of milk tea (tea milk) (our first of the trip, made with goat milk). We also stopped at the marketplace where farmers brought their livestock and dairy products to sell. So we saw people pouring blood out of bottles, milk into bottles, scooping samples of yoghurt out of buckets, that sort of thing.
I really appreciate how readily Mongolians in the country would be so ready to open their doors (and gers) to us and make us feel utterly at home. We would literally sit around doing nothing and making no head or tail of the conversations going on but they always ensured that we were watered and fed and had stools (as many as they had) to sit on. We would watch them cook tea or soup or dinner, then help to pass it around.
After the quick stop at Gobi city we moved on to the White Cliffs – Tsagaan Suvarga. This was the most spectacular site we visited in Mongolia during this trip. The hues of the rocks were incredible and spellbinding. The winds that roared by only added to the magicalness of it all.
The ger we stayed in that night belonged to a large family and would become the most memorable stay we had. We arrived to a ger full of family members, the granddaughter of the matriarch chopping noodles from sheets of rice flour while her grandmother sat by the stove, supervising and chatting to the other family members. Nothing seemed to be disrupted by our arrival and entrance – conversations continued and chopping persisted. We were again offered tea milk and Otgo explained that we were having noodle soup with goat meat, a fairly common dish in Mongolian nomad families.
That is our guide Otgo, with a baby boy of another granddaughter. We found out that the granddaughter is 21 and had her baby at 20, and is currently taking a leave of absence from school. Mongolian women living in the countryside generally get married around 18 years old.
Before dinner we were informed by one of the grandsons that there was a site nearby where rock carvings had been discovered, and we positively squealed with excitement and hustled out immediately. Nearby meant a half hour, very bumpy ride and some very steep slopes for the UAZ to handle.
The weathering of these rocks were just…something out of a geography textbook. The rocks were becoming sheets like pages of a book.
After dinner, we got to lay our sleeping bags on the floor of the ger and realised that the grandmother, her granddaughter and as we would find out the next day, her parents and brother, would sleep in the container beside the ger. Her brothers left by horse and motorbike respectively.
The next post will contain the first ever video of this blog, because that is how significant the video is.