Guest Travelers February 2019
"MAGnificent Mongolia" with Leigh & Martin GILLARD
The total Mongolian experience gave a new meaning to the word “Awesome!” The space, the history, the feeling of peace and the welcome from the local people.
The nomads are so trusting by sharing their personal space with complete strangers.
PLEASE future travelers! Don’t ever do anything to destroy this trust.
FINDING OUR MONGOLIA TOUR OPERATOR
Mongolia?” our friends asked when we said where we were going. “Why?”
Why not?” was our reply as we didn’t really have an answer. We’d loved Mongolian music for years, had read about ther Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Western Mongolia, and had seen the movie “The Eagle Huntress.”
When I first started to browse the internet in search of information I didn’t know what the aerial routes were, or the name of the capital, but gradually it all became clear. I was lucky that during my research I stumbled across Ayan Travel, who specialise in customised tours of all Mongolia.
OUR PERFECTLY TAILORED MONGOLIA TOUR PACKAGE
Ayan Travel put me in touch with Puggi Tserendendev, who not only spoke excellent English, but had also visited New Zealand and the town where I lived, so a rapport was established immediately. Puggi put together a fantastic itinerary, enabling us to see as much of this beautiful country as possible, and meeting many of the local people.
OUR DEEP CONNECTION WITH MONGOLIAN NOMAD FAMILIES
Staying mostly with nomad families we met along the way, we never knew where we were going to stay. Part of the fun was searching the vast horizon for the sight of two or more gers in the hope that there would be one available for us.
'A Mongolian ger is similar to the Turkish yurt. It is a portable round tent covered with skins or felt, and used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.' (Wikipedia)
Sometimes the second ger belonged to a senior family member, who happily gave up his or her home for us, and moved in with his family for the night. These were special times! The nomads being so trusting by sharing their personal space with complete strangers. PLEASE future travellers! Don’t ever do anything to destroy this trust.
We spent the first few days in the capital Ulaan Bataar, commonly known as UB, getting acclimitised and stocking up on necessary things for our journey like pillows!
OUR 3 WEEK TRAVEL IN MONGOLIA
We travelled overland in a 4WD for nearly three weeks from UB to Ulgii in the Altai mountains and the furthest west city. No tar sealed roads for us!
Overland was literally that! 150kms doesn’t sound like a long trip, but at an average of 25kms per hour, took up most of the day.
STAYING AT THE HOME OF THE EAGLE HUNTERS.
The highlight, and main reason for our journey, had to be the time in Bayan Ulgi Province, home of the Kazakh eagle hunters and the Eagle Festival.
We were so lucky to stay with an eagle hunter and his family for about a week. Our host went on to win the main event, The Golden Eagle Festival and his eagle Khiran is now Mongolia's current champion.
We were privileged to wear the eagle hunters’ clothes, hold Khiran on our arms, and go riding on his horses. We were very honoured to be part of his family.
We attended the smaller Altai Eagle Festival also, where our host was a competitor. The festival was amazing and was made so much more personal by knowing one of the competitors and being introduced to others.
We even met Aisholpan, the heroine of “The Eagle Huntress” movie.
The total Mongolian experience gave a new meaning to the word “Awesome!” The space, the history, the feeling of peace and the welcome from the local people. One Kazak fellow, on seeing us stop to take a photograph of him riding along on his horse, turned and rode straight up to our vehicle and put his hand through the window, shaking hands and smiling broadly. We did not need words to feel welcomed and privileged to be there.
TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Travel Tip 1
Make sure you have diarrhoea pills (Imopec in Mongolia) The milk products and fresh yak cream are very rich.
Travel tip 2
If you are doing your own cooking, take some basic seasonings with you. Even finding pepper wasn’t easy. The State Department Store in UB is the perfect ‘one stop shop’ for most of your travel needs and there is also a great little outdoor shop- Seven Summits, not far from the State Department Store, has a great selection and a lady from Scotland behind the counter!
Travel tip 3
If you can manage it, take a camping mattress. Mongolian beds are hard. Even the hotels have mattresses on a rigid base.
Travel tip 4
Make sure you have all the necessary inoculations and take a good stocked first aid kit from home. Pharmacies are hard to find, even in the cities.
Travel tip 5
Mongolian products are of great quality and inexpensive. If, like us, you do too much shopping, you will want to post excess home. Mongol Post offers a great service. It took just on a week to recieive our goods. Take your parcels to the post office unwrapped or open, as they will be searched before posting. Postage rates are expensive and per kilo only. You will pay the same for sendding a 2.1 kilo parcel as a 2.9 parcel, so it pays to weigh and fill up the space.
THE FINAL WORD
Mongolia won’t appeal to everyone. It can be very basic, especially in the countryside. We loved it, but then we have a sense of adventure and don’t mind ‘roughing it.’ We will definitely be making a return trip- probably one of several- each time learning a little more about these wonderful people and their nomadic way of life, so free of western perceptions of what we ‘must have’ to live and enjoy life.