Gorkhi Terelj National Park
Terelj Travel Blog› entry 114 of 136 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.