After taking 4 hours to get through immigration (they come and collect your passport while you are on the train and bring them back later) we arrived in Mongolia after 30 hours on the train. During this time the carriage attendant had cleaned the windows about 20 times and then we'd upset her by refusing to pay 10 yuan each for tea (I'd not drunk any) but it turns out the money was for the bed sheets. Brenda further upset her by not paying to get changed in the shower room. yup the train even had a shower!!
From the train you could see miles of nothing:
Most notably no trees.
We passed through the central square where big screens were showing the Olympic games and Mongolia were about to win their second gold medal. The city went mad flags and cars beeping everywhere.
We freshened up at a hotel (up market travel now) and headed to the tourist ger camp an hour outside Ulaan Baatar. It was in the middle of nowhere and on the drive there we went from the centre of the city which consists of falling down soviet looking apartment blocks, through the suburbs (gers in their own little plot surrounded by a fence) to nothing ness then the ger camp. Now at this point the weather turned and the 28degC heat in Beijing was replaced by 8degC and wind, so much wind and rain it was amazing. But here are some photos of the camp while the sun made a brief appearance
We ate so much food then retreated to our ger for the night. The fire in the middle kept us warm once it was lit but it went out while we were asleep and then it started leaking. We were frozen. But the inside looks really homely
With the rain hammering down and the wind well blowing a gale we stayed inside the first morning and played with bones.
Toya our guide taught us several games you can play with ankle bones, from flicked them, to jacks and horse racing. One one of the games I spent a long time in hell (I didn't like that game!!) After lunch the sun tried to come out and while it was dry I packed away my sowing kit and hiked up a hill. On top was a mobile phone mast, I still can't get over the fact that phones work everywhere. The views were pretty good but the picture trying to demonstrate the wind, doesn't quite work
If you squint at the picture you might be able to make out the camp where we were staying in the middle of it.
We spent the time with George and Margaret a couple who are traveling everywhere now they are retired and have the time. They joined us for a spot of archery. It was still windy but Brenda looked like a pro
After freezing for another night we headed to the nomadic camp, about 7 hours away. There were roads in places and the rest of the time you made your own road. Miles and miles of nothing, but some how the scenery was beautiful (what I saw of it, after a few hours of bouncing around I was feeling very car sick).
We arrived at the Nomadic camp and Brenda was less than impressed. We were given fermented mares milk to welcome us, it was horrible, but I had a cold so couldn't smell it. Brenda on the other hand said the whole ger stank of it. Outside was even worse as there were hundreds of goats, horses and cows and funnily enough it smelt of a farmyard. Oh well. The price you pay for being in the middle of nowhere - with mobile phone reception though.
The nomadic family seem to live on a milk based diet and spend their days drunk on the fermented mares milk. They eat curd, again smelt bad, and milk their cattle once a day and the goats 5 times a day to get enough milk. They have solar panels, TV and mobiles. But wear traditional dress
We were also next to the gobi desert. We walked to escape the smells and walked to the sand, finally we were warm, but as darkness fell the temperature plummeted and we sought shelter in the kitchen Ger where we helped Toya make dumplings for dinner. Just like the ones from tesco don't you think??
The sunset was pretty good
ad as we are such party animals we decided to forgo the fermented mares milk and went to bed early. Even with the animal dung fire it got a bit cold.
We thought we'd said goodbye to the squat toilet (even the train had a super clean western style toliet that was continuously cleaned by the guard) but not quite. The nomadic toilet was the field but for us guests they had built a long drop toilet screened from the world by a sheet. It was cold, and when it rained you got wet!!
The best weather day so far and we headed out to a monastery which was build on a settlement Genghis Khan would have known as Karakorum.
At various points around Mongolia are piles of stones with blue ribbons, sites for worshiping nature. You pick up three stones and walk round in a clockwise direction three times, after each lap you throw on a stone.
We headed back to camp and rode camels into the desert. They spat like crazy, mainly over Brenda and hers must have spent the entire hour journey peeing.
Toya cooked up a storm for every meal, all traditional mongolian food. So beef with potatoes, rice or noodles. Not sure what you would have if you were a vegetarian. So any weight lost in China has been regained.
We arrived back in UB last night and went with Toya to a fashion show. We were a bit late and missed the contortionist, but did see the throat singers (I think I have more chance of being in tune with them) and some traditional clothes
UB itself is not a pretty city and we have spent the time shopping for warm clothes. It also turns out not to be the safest city. There are loads of signs warning about pickpockets, and Toya had her phone stolen last night!
I never realised people still live in Gers, but most people do. I thought they would be really warm, but they are cold. Part of me wants to see what they are like in the winter when it gets to -40degC. But I feel like I could lose my toes to frost bite at the moment so dread to think what it would be like. We are off to Russia tonight. At least I now have a warm coat, but have been on the hunt for gloves all day, the only ones I've found are really expensive (more than the coat) so I am still looking.
Hope all is well at home and you are warmer that us