Living with the nomads

Turelj Travel Blog

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Rusty Jr. and my ger under the stars
I have had a ger all to myself because the nomad family I am staying with has their own ger. Occassionally chickens will wander into my ger as if they own the place. They do a good job of cleaning up bits of food I dropped on the floor, so I let them stay a while. The ger has a fireplace stove in the centre, which is used to keep it heated. When the fire is roaring, it's super warm and really nice to be in there. But the stove burns through logs like a chain-smoker. Every night I fall asleep beside the roasting fire and by morning it is so cold that I must bundle myself inside my slug suit to keep warm. I think Mongolians must get up during the night and refuel the fire.

Days are warm enough, but nights are so cold. But it is worth braving the cold for a few minutes at night because the stars here are incredible.
Scenery near the village
Immediately after stepping out of your ger you can see hundreds, if not thousands, of stars including the Milky Way smeared across the centre. Standing in the middle of a barren Mongolian valley, staring up at the roof of the world, gives you quite the feeling of isolation.

My hosts speak almost no English, so I feel a bit isolated. I tried asking them if I could rent a horse for a couple hours, but nothing ever came of it. I think their horse is an actual working horse and they use him for more important things than dragging around tourists. I read in Lonely Planet that I could trade a ride on my bike for a ride on a horse. The Mongolians have been eager to take my bike for a spin, but not very accommodating about returning the favour!

So I have spent my time hiking around the barren countryside.
An offering on a summit
It is common to run into horses, cows, oxen, yaks, and dogs as you walk, but none of them are especially friendly. I spent a couple hours climbing a nearby mini-mountain and was rewarded by the panoramic view from the top. Along with the usual cairns built on the summits, it seems to be common to also place ox or yak skulls on top of the hills. I spent an hour up there watching a herdsman trying to corral his horses on the hillside.

My host family, I have learned, are "new nomads," a younger family who live within the nomad community, but also have connections to the city and modern life. They have a television and a DVD player in their ger and they are very fond of Bollywood movies that have been dubbed into Russian, then re-dubbed into Mongolian.
Some chump
Their favourite is about a Disco dancer; they rewind the movie to watch the dance scenes over and over again. I have a hard time keeping a straight face during these movies and my hosts enjoy it when I crack a smile.

One night they were watching the Mongolian National Broadcaster while I was waiting for dinner. During the "sport" segment, I was extremely surprised to see the headline "Maple Leafs lose 7-1 to Carolina." Apparently bad news travels pretty far! I tried to indicate to my hosts that I was from Toronto, and that the Maple Leafs were unfortunately my favourite team, but maybe it's better that they didn't understand.

The vegetarian meals they have prepared for me have been good and the portions large. But I have really developed a taste for Mongolian tea. Made over the ger fire with tea leaves, water, milk, salt and butter, it is delicious. I commonly drank 3-4 large bowls of it at every meal. Apparently tourists usually cannot drink the tea, but I actually prefer it to Western-style tea.
casey says:
I'm looking forward to having teatime when you return. Perhaps you can prepare this Mongolian hot drink for me to try.
Posted on: Oct 15, 2007
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Rusty Jr. and my ger under the sta…
Rusty Jr. and my ger under the st…
Scenery near the village
Scenery near the village
An offering on a summit
An offering on a summit
Some chump
Some chump
Visitors in my ger
Visitors in my ger
The locals loved taking my bike fo…
The locals loved taking my bike f…
Turelj
photo by: rideouts