Exploring the Rugged Beauty of Mongolia
Mongolia…The name itself invokes the image of a long-haired, swarthy, armor-clad warrior sitting on a black horse with a long sword and a huge war club ready to do battle. This image alone is enough to make the heart of a visitor beat faster. It is also a country with of plenty of rugged mountains, dusty and bumpy roads, and vast, open fields with animals roaming about freely. It is also known as the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky”, as it has over 250 sunny days a year. It is also called the “Land of the Horse” as the Mongols have a reputation for being the best horsemen on Earth.
This is a wild, exotic, and yet sensual country. It is lush and yet barren. It is a step into reality and a step into some dream at the same time. It is indeed a travel experience.
I am now back and I have torn feelings about this country. I still cannot pass judgment on whether I like it or hate it. This place really strips bare your dignity, especially when it comes to private toilet facilities. There are no public toilets anywhere, once out from Ulan Bator City, the capital of Mongolia. Everyone is forced to do their business outside in the fields, without any protection from the eyes of others and no bushes or trees to create privacy. The umbrella I brought to help me was crushed, always, by the ever-present winds.
Facing the Harsh Realities
We spent a total of 22 days in Mongolia, renting a private 4-wheel drive vehicle, driver, cook/ guide, to explore the countryside. I very much appreciated the shared shower and toilet facilities in the ger camps around the area we visited. We did mixed accommodations. We stayed with local nomad families where no water exists, in this part of the world. Other times, we stayed in tourist, ger camps where there are shared toilet and shower facilities. Always, my heart longed for the private en-suite hotel if we could find one, in the small towns we visited.
The journey around the countryside was long, horrendous, and bumpy over dusty roads. We crossed rugged mountains, canyons, and rivers, and drove amongst animals, etc. Some places are beautiful, and some areas are really dead, with nothing to see at all, except sand and sand everywhere.
Appreciating the Natural Wonders
The sand down in the Gobi desert failed to sing in my heart and I struggled to admire it. I do not understand why people love the Gobi desert or even the highest sand dunes. What I saw was a vast sea of sand everywhere. Together with the strong wind blowing, I just could not see what was the beauty, of what lay in front of me.
The Orkhon waterfall which is located in the Orkhon valley was beautiful. The waterfall which was formed by a combination of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes some 20,000 years ago cascades down, from a height of 27 meters. The sound and the falling of the water moved my heart. My eyes were transfixed to this movement, my heart was singing a happy song and I was happy at this place.
Immersing in a Foreign Culture
The horseback riding was excellent and the horses knew where to go without me moving much of the reins. They are beautiful and wonderful creatures.
In addition to this, I also loved the White Lake in Central Mongolia (Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake) in the Khangai mountains. This area is so beautiful, surrounded by many mountains and I felt so peaceful, calm, and content. My heart rejoiced and went thumping happily seeing this place. It seemed to go as far as my eyes could reach.
The Hustai National Park which accommodates the wild horses, resembles the Gobi desert, it was bare, very dusty, and sandy and all roads were rutted inside the park. The wild horses themselves are very entertaining, they are all good actors as they pose playfully. Other animals in the park were too shy to come close and hid whenever we approached them.
Judging the Country Fairly
The Mongolian cuisine is not very satisfactory to my taste buds. It mostly consists of dairy products, meat, and animal fats, and not many vegetables or herbs for taste.
Finding Personal Truths
If you love adventure…… this place is for you. Unfortunately, this country was too rough for me and it was out of my comfort zone…. I long to be back to civilization and to the beauty of my own country…. New Zealand.