Gorkhi Terelj National Park

Terelj Travel Blog

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Oh my, what a view!

5/29

A cold, but mostly sunny morning greeted us heading out to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park east of Ulaanbaatar. Ulaanbaatar stretches out eastward and as we leave the city proper the road gets even rougher than it was in the city if that can be possible. The road is paved all the way into the park but that is a relative statement. The harsh and cold winter conditions must beat the road up but good. So we bounce our way towards the park. The park itself is only about 50km or so outside of UB, but is much larger than the somewhat touristy area that we visited.

Before reaching the park entrance we saw a man along the side of the road. With him he had a large Golden Eagle that he allowed others to hold for a small fee. OK, it was a bit kitschy but I had to take a turn.

The eagles are trained to hunt fox, marmot and other small prey on the steppe.
The eagles are principally used for hunting in the Altai regions of western Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Not sure why this fellow was over this way, but he appeared to be making a decent wage from the many tourists passing through. That said, it still felt like he should be somewhere else than at the edge of this park with this fine creature.

We crossed the Tuul River and entered the park proper. The road continues a ways into the park with many Ger camps on both sides of the road. Some also offer hotel lodging as well, but when we approached the camp we were staying at there were only gers. Before reaching our camp we drove past Turtle Rock a large rock formation that looks remarkably like a turtle with its head sticking out of its shell. The first snow squall of the day also graced us with its presence and would continue throughout the day.
Turtle Rock in Turelj NP


At the camp we broke up into groups of four and put our overnight bags that we had packed for the trip out to the Ger Camp. A couple of us took the ridge behind us as a moderate challenge and headed up to the top for some absolutely amazing and stunning views out over the steppe. I mean just incredible views in all directions (better ones looking out away from the camps, but even in the direction of the camps, its incredible).

We had some of our own food and snacks for lunch. After most of the group decided to head to the monastery on foot. Megan and I decided that we would ride with a few of the Mongolian horseman to the monastery where we would meet up with the group and most of us would ride back to the camp (a few elected to walk back). So I had a chance for a quick catnap while we gave the walkers a head start.
Ger camp that I was staying at for the night in Terelj NP.


Finally it was time for us to leave so I went out to meet my mount. Now its been years since I've been on a horse, but these horses weren't too bad. All the horses were relatively small but they were hardy and easily accommodated me and all the rest of those that chose to ride. As we set out it started snowing one more time and we slowly scrambled our way to the top of the ridge and down a bit on the other side. It was cold but not horribly so and it felt incredibly peaceful out away from the road and the camps. After about an hour we rendezvoused with the rest of the group at the monastery that is found within Gorkhi-Terelj. The rest of the guys (Jon, Gabe, Andy, and Jack) would be returning on the four extra horses our guides brought with us. One thing I learned on the way over was that my horse didn't understand "Go" or "Whoa" or "Giddy-up".
Horseback riding in Mongolia.
Who was I kidding these were Mongolian horses. So I tried to get one of our guides (neither of whom spoke any English) to teach us some of the Mongolian phrases to direct our horses. I think I finally got a few and started communicating with my horse a little better, but it definitely wasn't perfect as the smirks and laughs from our younger guide (not more than a young teenager) attested. We set off with the larger group from the monastery and crested back over the ridge and down to Turtle Rock. Stopped to look at some souvenir stands that had been set up while another snow squall rolled through and then paralleled the road back to our camp. A few times we allowed the horses a bit of rein and they would approach a fast trot or slow canter, but never for very long (an not for the horses sake, more for their riders sake).
Horseback riding in Mongolia


At first I was glad to have had the opportunity to do the ride out as well, as it was a serene ride through the forest. But by the time we got back my groin muscles, hamstrings, and quads were arguing otherwise. It was definitely bow-legged time for the rest of the evening.

Back at the gers it was time to get ready for dinner. We received instruction on preparing our dumplings and did a halfway decent job of getting the doughy mixture ready and then adding the meat (some beef and some mutton) for the preparation. A few other hearty meat dishes filled out the menu for the evening along with a small sample of airag (fermented mare's milk) which is definitely an acquired taste.

Afterwards we spent a bit of time talking with Nemo, who we learned was actually a licensed doctor in Mongolia (a urologist) but who finds that being a tour guide is actually a more financially lucrative career in Mongolia.
Making dumplings for dinner.
He and his wife run a small agency working with groups coming off the Trans-Siberian. He also talked about the challenges of Mongolia as an emerging democracy and of living squeezed between Russia and China. After chatting the cards came out for a few games before calling the evening and heading to our respective gers.

Our ger was quite cold when we entered but Jon got the stove started and we warmed up quickly. That said the camp provided several good heavy blankets in case they were needed. At one point during the night I woke up and it had gotten cold again. I reached for the mini torch, stumbled over to the stove in the center of the ger and threw some additional logs in the stove - stirring things up to get them burning and then proceeded back to my bed.
Inside of my ger.
The next time I awoke morning had arrived.

5/30

Up in the morning and the stove had gone out again so it was pretty cold in the ger again.  Got dressed, nibbled on same crackers than went for breakfast of some breads and yogurt.  After breakfast and before heading back to UB we would continue our brief training in becoming Mongolian Nomads.  We had already practiced our horseback riding skills (and by the looks of some of the others we were paying dearly for it).  Now we were going to learn to shoot with bow and arrow.

Outside, Nemo placed us back about 25 meters or so from a target he set up on a post.  Jon was the first to head up and take his shot.  Was well long on the first, and missed to the right on his other two attempts.

Ready, aim, loose.
  Everyone took a turn cycling through the group for three arrows each, and no one hit the target.  I sailed one pretty close but just long, but was off as well.  On the second try, Mary was the closest from about 20 meters.  The guys went back about 5-10 meters further and actually were closer to the target at the longer distance although we failed again.  Nemo finally took a shot as well, and even he took 5 arrows to finally notch the target.  Meanwhile our comically poor attempts at archery drew two young children that laughed at our attempts and as they chased each other around the area added to the laughter we were sharing at ourselves.

Eventually it was time to make the drive back into UB.  We took one final look at the surroundings and started back along the road that we came in.

Our mad archery skills draw an audience.
  Someday I want to come back here and get even further afield in the Mongolian Steppe than the edge of Terelj, but for now this has been incredible.

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Oh my, what a view!
Oh my, what a view!
The eagles are trained to hunt fox…
The eagles are trained to hunt fo…
Turtle Rock in Turelj NP
Turtle Rock in Turelj NP
Ger camp that I was staying at for…
Ger camp that I was staying at fo…
Horseback riding in Mongolia.
Horseback riding in Mongolia.
Horseback riding in Mongolia
Horseback riding in Mongolia
Making dumplings for dinner.
Making dumplings for dinner.
Inside of my ger.
Inside of my ger.
Ready, aim, loose.
Ready, aim, loose.
Our mad archery skills draw an aud…
Our mad archery skills draw an au…
This guy offers to let you hold hi…
This guy offers to let you hold h…
Of course I had to pay the small f…
Of course I had to pay the small …
Here we go again.
Here we go again.
Turtle Rock in Turelj NP
Turtle Rock in Turelj NP
Faux dinosaurs along the road.
Faux dinosaurs along the road.
Sun comes out for a while.
Sun comes out for a while.
The outside of my ger that I was s…
The outside of my ger that I was …
Efrat tries to keep warm as anothe…
Efrat tries to keep warm as anoth…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it s…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it …
A small monastery in Terelj NP.
A small monastery in Terelj NP.
My trusty steed.
My trusty steed.
Getting ready to become a Mongolia…
Getting ready to become a Mongoli…
Turtle Rock with another snow squa…
Turtle Rock with another snow squ…
Turtle Rock with another snow squa…
Turtle Rock with another snow squ…
Trying to take the over the should…
Trying to take the over the shoul…
Jon and Andy on their horses.
Jon and Andy on their horses.
Jon blazing a different trail
Jon blazing a different trail
Our instructor
Our instructor
Receiving instructions...
Receiving instructions...
Prepping the dough...
Prepping the dough...
Ugh, cant you guys do anything ri…
Ugh, can't you guys do anything r…
Ger Camp - early morning
Ger Camp - early morning
Scenery outside the Ger Camp
Scenery outside the Ger Camp
One small calf
One small calf
First I got the horseback riding d…
First I got the horseback riding …
Receiving instructions from Nemo
Receiving instructions from Nemo
Taking aim again.
Taking aim again.
Not that you can see but I missed …
Not that you can see but I missed…
Kids will be kids regardless of wh…
Kids will be kids regardless of w…
Kids will be kids regardless of wh…
Kids will be kids regardless of w…
Ger Camp where I stayed
Ger Camp where I stayed
Another view of the Ger Camp
Another view of the Ger Camp
Heading back to UB from Turelj NP
Heading back to UB from Turelj NP
Saw these camels along the road he…
Saw these camels along the road h…
Terelj
photo by: vickie-lou