Our Time at the
Close-up of the camel and his humps.
Our ger camp.
Scenery near our lunch at a ger home.
September 28, 2006
It was time to head out to Terelj this morning upon arriving in Mongolia and get to our ger camp. A ‘ger’ might be a term you aren’t
all-too-familiar with. I know I wasn’t familiar with it before I got here. A ger (or yurt) is a Nomadic tent that can easily be put up
and taken down when the Nomads roam from place to place. The ‘walls’ are lined with yak hair which can protect these people from
the extremely cold temperatures they have to endure. But these walls aren’t enough so there is a nice little fireplace type of thing in
the center of the ger. All of the doors to gers face the south. The women enter and stay on the right side (the east) while the men go
to the left when they come in. These rules really apply to people who live in gers. We were exempt as our gers were set up for us to
stay warm and cozy and to sleep in. Plus with our ger consisting of four females, it would have been a bit non-proportional for all of
us to be on the left side and nobody to be on the other side. We weren’t offending anybody as no Nomadic families lived there. And
since none of us were Nomads-in-training, we could bend the rules a bit.
The ger camp was about seventy kilometers from Ulan Bator. Before we got there, Ari (our Mongolian guide) took us to a cave. I
attempted to go in. I climbed to the top. But when I saw how low the ceiling was, I came back down just as quickly as I went up. And
I am glad I did! For it was five minutes later (when mostly everybody else was in the cave) that I made my Mongolian discovery –
two-humped camels! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I let out a little yelp in excitement and literally ran over to the cutie pies. These
guys are much furrier than the ones in the Middle East. They almost reminded me of llamas. Sadly, they already have a name
(Bactrian camels) as I would have called them camelamas. Too bad nobody decided to consult with me first.
Once lunch time rolled around, I would quickly have to get used to the idea of eating mutton. I don’t know why I had the idea that
mutton was goat meat (how am I supposed to know?) but I learned today that it is actually sheep meat. My Seinfeld reference to
Elaine stuffing mutton in her coat pockets was wasted on this group as nobody here watches Seinfeld. A shame, really. Anyway, we
had mutton in our soup and a mutton stir-fry. I have to say that it tastes just like normal meat. A pleasant surprise.
Soon after lunch we all went horseback riding in the Mongolian countryside. It was the first time that I had been horseback riding in
such a place (as the only other times have been along the beach). I have to say that I felt really ‘authentic’ riding a horse in this
terrain. I felt inclined to say ‘Giddyup’ constantly (referring to the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer kept saying that) but nobody
would understand so I passed on the opportunity.
I think Mongolia sees it as there mission to feed people enough mutton to make up for the fact that we have spent our entire lives
without it prior to visiting their country. That being said, more mutton was on the menu for dinner. This time, it was in the form of
After dinner, we went to one of the gers for a little soiree around the fire with our beers. This was one of my favorite nights. Every
single one of us was in attendance and it was just so obvious how much everybody was enjoying themselves. Well, Simon was at
least enjoying himself before he passed out on the bed. I guess too much vodka will do that to a person, right?
It’s now 12:45am. I’ve gotta get me some zzz’s. Or, as my new 'English language teachers' have taught me… “I have to get to sleep.”
September 29, 2006
Today was nice because we got to sleep in a little bit. Our plan was to explore the countryside a bit more.
Ari took us to a place called Turtle Rock. Can you guess why it is called this? I am pretty sure it is obvious that the answer is that
the rocks look like…a turtle! We were all given the option to climb the turtle. I mean the rocks. It was steeper than I gave it credit
for. I braved a narrow crevice but when it came time to go through a hole to catch a view of the scenery, I tried but my brain
interfered with my physical abilities as the hole just seemed way too small. My brain got me scared that I would not have been able
to go back up to get out. Of course I would have been able to. But irrational minds will be irrational minds.
Our minibus ride was one of the bumpiest I have ever been on. This was probably because I was in the back row. My butt literally
went airborne at least ten times. We eventually got to the area where we would cross rivers over tree trunks and walk through
crinkled leaves to get to the gers we were having lunch at. We had to once again broaden our palates as we tasted dried yak cheese
and some other creamy yak concoction. Oh…there was also some salted milk (which I forget if it came from a yak or a sheep) that
there was no way I was going to consume. There are some places I don’t want to expose my palate to…that was one of them. I think
yaks were meant to look at and not meant to make food products. Just my opinion. And of course lunch wouldn’t end at yak items.
We also got our requisite mutton into the meal with a mutton stew.
It was time to walk off some of the mutton so we took a walk along a river and I think I can say that it was the first time I
experienced ‘autumn’. Since I don’t really get it at home, I imagine this is how it looks. I felt like I was in New England. What a
When we got back to our ger camp I took my daily nap. It is crazy how I have almost become dependent on those babies! I would
love to petition for siestas to be instituted into our workdays when I get back home. A girl can dream.
And once dinner rolled around, guess what it was time for? Mutton in the form of Mongolian BBQ’d mutton. We each had so much
on our plate that it looked like they must have used six animals for the twelve of us. Some people practically licked the bones clean.
Now I have heard of eating pork ribs…but for some reason the idea of mutton ribs (and yes, we each had a part of a ribcage on our
plate) just wasn’t doing it for me.
After dinner, Ari (our Mongolian guide) was talking to us about what we have in store for tomorrow. I have decided that Ari drives
me up a wall. He is the reason why I don’t do traditional tours with tour guides. I am forced to listen to information that I don’t give
a hoot about. This guy just absolutely loves to hear himself talk. It was giving me a headache. I finally had to leave the room ‘to go
to the bathroom’ because I was at my wit’s end.
As a final farewell to our ger camp, we had a bonfire tonight. We have an early morning tomorrow so we didn’t go all out like last
night. But in true Ari fashion, he made himself the focal point of the bonfire. He first had the idea that since he didn’t really know
any of us, we should go around and tell a little bit about ourselves. Then he volunteered to go first. And yada, yada, yada…we never
heard about anybody else other than Ari.
That was my cue that it was time to go to leave and pack up so that I am ready when we have to leave tomorrow.
September 30, 2006
On our way out today, we said good-bye to the yaks and Bactrian camels of Mongolia. I think I speak for everybody in our group
when I say that this time in the ger camp was one of the highlights of our Trans-Mongolian trip.