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MONGOLIA is MORE than the NAADAM FESTIVAL and GOBI DESERT.
Tuesday, Aug 04, 2009 at 17:42
Member - Chris D (Newcastle)
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Chinggis in stainless
Our adventure has recently moved from Russia to Mongolia. We have now been on our journey for nearly two and a half months and travelled 15,000 kms by road. Exciting news reached us from Jessica and Owen with the birth of their second daughter, Sibella Rose on 30 July.
Since our last blog we spent a week in Russia retracing our steps along the southern shore of Lake Baikal, met Mike and Ian on their motor cycles from NSW, then a wonderful week in Ulaan Baatar (UB) with Mark, Sarah, George, Altaa, Oiuna and others celebrating the Naadam Festival with the three most important national sports, horse racing, wrestling, and archery, and a really festive time with more than a million others in UB. We have travelled south to the Gobi Desert, almost to the China border and now heading through Central Mongolia towards the Altai Region.
Out of nowhere some locals appear
Mongolian people we have met make us feel most welcome in their country. We stop and a local person appears out of nowhere and sits down to talk; communication is always a problem, but who cares, we talk anyway.
Archery one national pastime
The Nadaam Festival is one great excuse for all to have a good time. Usually busy UB becomes hectic and at times it is difficult to make your way around the city. The central focus of festival activity in the city is the Stadium, where wrestling and archery as well as an Easter Show kind of atmosphere are all around.
Horse racing another national pastime
The horse racing involves youths of five to sixteen years racing horses bareback for up to thirty kilometres. There are so many people wanting to go to the horse race outside of UB, the police just stop all city bound traffic, and the two lane road become a four lane road all heading race bound, the opposite flow occurs after the race, with even more lanes of traffic heading back into the city, an amazing sight. There is nothing like it outside Mongolia. The horse race winners are heralded as heroes and each are awarded a school back pack full of books by the Prime Minister, shown on national TV, even the horses are heroes. The
winners make up a song about their horse which they sing on national television.
Cultural night in UB
Mongolia is a developing country with a strong cultural identity. While in UB, we were treated to two first class concerts, one philharmonic with local and international artists, the other a concert with more traditional Mongolian instruments, both a real experience for us.
Traditional dress is out in Naadam
While in UB our usual camping and campfire cooking gave way to restaurants almost every night and showers night and morning, oh how sweet it is to live in the city for a short time, thanks to Mark and Sarah (Ann’s brother and sister-in law). George looked after Essie and Troopy for us at his house in the suburbs out of harms way. Mike and Ian joined us for one home cooked meal.
The four of us, and Mark and Sarah, Altaa and Emily, piled into George’s van and headed out Terelj National Park and stayed overnight in gers (pronounced like gair). It was good to have a break from the driving. The scenery is stunning with rocky mountains, lush pastures, wildflowers, and good walking; a very peaceful place. Mike and Ian drove out on their bikes and joined us for the evening. It was sad to say goodbye for the last time. They were moving ahead faster than us and our paths would not cross again on this trip.
The country side is predominately grassland, wide open valleys and beautiful mountain ranges. There are almost no fences, therefore there is a true sense of freedom and it is possible to pull off the road almost anywhere. In the north and central area there are many rivers, but much drier landscapes in the south. The roads are almost all gravel or dirt, the usual pace of travel for us is 30-50 kph, second and third gear mostly, so the moderate distances we have set do take time to cover.
The road/tracks are sometimes a bit of a worry. When one becomes too rutted or corrugated, so someone just starts a new track beside the old one, consequently the tracks can be five, ten fifteen tracks side by side. Most do go to the next town but some just slowly diverge from one destination and to another. With Troopy and Essie sometimes slowly diverging we need to keep a lookout to reassess our position and come closer together. There are very few sign posts, so the GPS units and the map with Latitude and Longitude are constantly being consulted.
Terelj National Park near UB
Mongolia has set aside some 13% of its land area for National Parks and Strictly Protected Areas, so it is easy finding stunning
to camp and stay in at a ger camp. Gers are traditional felt houses with timber lattice frame. At almost every view in the county there are one to many gers, belonging to herders of sheep and goats, horses and camels. With the changing seasons, the ger owners need to move to new pastures, so the gers are dismantled, loaded on the back of a small truck and transported to the new location.
Burial mounds of long ago dot the countryside
Lonely Planet (LP) for Mongolia continues to be a good start for local exploration. We were interested to note LP comments about burial mounds in the central areas of Mongolia. As we drew closer, we saw many natural mounds of rock, thinking these could be the burials that predate Genghis Khan, some 800 years ago. It was not until we found the real mounds that our eyes were opened, impressive burial mounds they are, even after all this time, natural rocks placed in a square or circle, some 20 metres in diametre. Ann was so impressed with the mounds she has one on order. She will need to renegotiate the dimensions of her pre-booked burial plot at Christ Church Mt Vincent though, in fact Parish Council may need to extend the cemetery.
There have been a few minor issues with Troopy and Essie:
Troopy had a new thermostat installed by the Toyota dealer in UB,
Troopy also had a problem with the auxiliary batter cradle fatigued by the constant road vibrations,
Essie has needed repairs to a number of slow leaks in her tube tyres, two initially caused by running the tyres at too high pressure, the others from small stones inside the tire abrading the tube.
Our next chapter takes us to the western parts of Mongolia, in the Altai Mountain region, then back across the border to central Russia. Until then, cheers from Shifty Tours (Ann and Chris) and Dodgy Tours (Bronwyn And Alastair).
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SUMMER in SIBERIA and EAST RUSSIA: a LAKE, a BEAUTIFUL ISLAND, and two VALLEYS.
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