By day four we were meant to get to the reindeer people, and they live somewhere you can not drive to. In order to get there we have to take horses through the mountains, and it was a two day drive to get to where we would pick up the horses. This post outlines what occurred over the two days of driving. The first day was driving to a waypoint city, the second driving from that waypoint to the ger of a horse guide
The first day we started by driving the the muddy snowy valley by the monastery. We passed a struggling motorcycle carrying two people with boxes. We stopped and Bimba, our driver, yelled out something in Mongolian. We soon found ourself with a 60 year old Mongolian hitchhiker in the back with us and some boxes in the truck. He had been visiting his daughter near the monastery and was trying to get back to his ger and animals. We drove with him a few miles through the plains until the snow and mud ended and dropped him off n the middle of nowhere. Bimba said he was going to wait for the motorcycle to catch up and pick him up from there since it was easier to drive after that point.
The journey two a waypoint town were we would spend the night was uneventful, other then the scenery that passed us buy in the car and the Mongolian pop music we were listening to in the car. Jessy spent most of the ride sleeping as it was way to cold to sleep the night prior. When she was not sleeping she was grilling Bimba about Mongolian life, excitingly cooing at all the animals we passed. I watched the scenery, and pondered why the road dividers looked like bowling pins. I think if i was driving i would try to hit them. I also used the time to catch up on some reading. Below are some pictures from that drive. Click on them to see the full sized image. It was amazing how clear and blue the sky was.
Below are the “bowing pins” I wrote about above. Additionally there are some images taken from a house we stopped at for lunch. The house had two large dogs as pets. the green funnel is their sink. You boil water, fill it up with the boiled water, and then you have water for washing your hands. Also there is a map of the area we were going through. If you click on it you can see where there are sights, hot springs, tombs, and most importantly cellular signal. Another cool trick this house used is they had a solar panel which they used to charge a car battery. They then used this car battery to connect to a TV so they could watch TV.
We stopped for the night at a ger camp in a mid level city. It was a small camp with 3 gers and a legit building with an open area for cooking and one guest room with 5 beds in it and a heater stove in the corner. The owner was a 5 foot old man who appeared to be in his 80’s who could often be found chopping firewood for his guest. One interesting discovery was there was a frozen marmot in their fridge. Momots, pictured below, are one of the topics that came up in the car. They are an endangered rodent that local mongolia hunt for food. The rodent is about the size of a beaver. Also below is an image of the town.
We end up staying in the building room. The room had some interesting jack-a-lop type decor on the walls. To the right is a picture of Jessy wearing Bimba’s coat, you can see some of the decor I’m talking about behind her. Also staying int the room with us was a solo traveler with an interesting tale. She was around 20 years old. She had been studying anthropology, but then said “ fuck it, why read about what you can go see?”. She basically quit university and went to go travel the world and live with nomadic peoples to study them. Prior to meeting us she had spent 1 month with the reindeer people. We learned from her that there are east of the lake reindeer people, and west of the lake reindeer people and that its cooler to go see the west of the lake crew. We also learned from her that she went further up not the mountains then we would, and that some families dropped their reindeer off with an old man on top of a moutain and went to go live in a city during the winter. apparently this old man had a herd of 100’s of reindeer that were in his charge. She went to a wedding with the reindeer people and told us stories of it. In any case, an inspiring, yet potentially insane person. Next for her was to go live with the western Mongolia eagle hunters, then cross to Kazakhstan and find housing with the nomads there and make her way down to Turkey.
The night was warm with fire and we slept well.The next day we took off for the horse guides place. Driving out of town we passed the Mongolian wrestling stadium and many a stray dog. On the way out we stopped and purchased some beer to share and some more vodka. The trip there was mostly off road with and mainly consisted of following the power lines and driving through herds of animals, honking to get them to move out of the way. They would scurry and their sheep butts would bounce and jiggle. We learned that Mongolians love the sheep butt and have “a cute sheep butt” on the table during the holidays.
There were three interesting things that happened on the drive. The first was when we reached a rocky and jagged section with a small stream. The picture doesn’t do it justice but Bimba got out of the car and walked around plotting a route that he could safely drive through.
Second, we stopped at a small town for lunch. It was literally 4 buildings, one of which was the outhouse. Our choices for lunch was one item, lamb and noodle soup. The interesting thing about this town was the bridge to get it it. The bridge consisted of two planks wide enough for a tire and a half in parallel. Between the planks was a hole which would drop you into the river. I can’t imagine riding a motorcycle over that bridge. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it.
The third significant story of that trip came about an hour before we reached our destination. The snows of the day had eroded most tire tracks off of the ground in this one area were there was a river we had to cross. We drove around the river bed looking for a place to cross, checking the by chucking rocks and then slowly sliding across it. Eventually we wound a place we may be able to cross, but Bimba, our driver, wasn’t sure. It didn’t feel right to him. As the sun started setting along came a heard of cattle past us being driven by a young boy on a horse… by himself in the middle of no where.. on what for kids in America would be a school day.
Our driver and guide tried to communicate with the boy, essentially the boy said it was the place to cross, but his cattle kept breaking the ice and falling into the water, giving us little confidence. Also turns out our guides could barely communicate with the boy since the dialects of regional Mongolian and very different then standard Mongolian. Sounds like China before Mandarin. Anyways, long to short we decided not to cross there and drove around for another 15 minutes before finding a shallower and safer place to ford the river. We passed the boy on our way back and informed him of his mistake, then headed to the horse camp.
We arrived some twenty minutes later, just as teh sun was setting. The horses were tied to a post in preparation for the next day. The sheep where in their special area for the night. We went to the horse guides tent and had some milk tea and bread and then Jessy went out and tried to sneak into the skeep pen to cuddle with the sheep.
Here are some other shots of our Journey through beautiful Mongolia