Greetings from a Ger!
Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
332Trip End Jan 19, 2007
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Got the train from Irkutsk on 4th Feb. Were in a 4 person compartment this time and hoped we would be on our own which were were until the Mongolian border. Scenery still beautiful on the train and people are starting to look a lot more Asian now. Was actually quite sad to leave Russia as was starting to feel at home there.
Arrived at the Russian border and given customs forms to fill in which were helpfully in Russian. Fortunately we had an English translation from when we first arrived in Russia which helped! Realised at this point that most of the rest of our carriage were also English speaking so we made a few friends when we shared our forms! Customs was actually pretty non eventful just very time consuming. We had about 6 hours at the Russian border where not a lot seem to happen and the toilets were shut for about 11 hours in total
We then had a Mongolian mother and daughter join us in our compartment for the overnight journey to Ulan Bator (seems to be spelt differently every place I see it). Our sleep was interrupted by the mother screaming at the top of her voice in the middle of the night after some sort of panic attack.
Arrived in UB on Monday am to be taken to a Japanese bath house (I was so looking forward to a shower and clean toilet) and then on a brief sightseeing tour around UB including the monastery where the Dalai's were performing their morning chanting which was really interesting particularly as they managed to do it for hours on end when the temples are -10 inside! After my feet virtually freezing we returned to the car to go to our Ger camp
The car took us to Elstei Ger Camp which was about an hour west of UB and the landscape becomes completely empty for miles on end after about 10 miles outside UB. We left the road after a while and just travelled cross country - pretty impressive in a Kia! Our Ger camp was quite small (as its Winter) with about 10 Gers (of which only about 4 were occupied) and a small restaurant building. Scenery absolutely beautiful as we are surrounded by mountains and can just see snow and desert around us - feels like we are on the moon.
Ger itself is lovely inside (see pic), although the temperature goes from sauna-like (most of the time) to pretty cold (at about 5am). There is a coal heater inside which someone comes to stoke every few hours. Later that day about 9 other people from our train join us at the camp. Despite my initial disappointment that there were tourists joining us (from US, UK, Guernsey, Oz) it was actually really nice to spend a couple of days with everyone. Having walked up the hill and had dinner we spent the evening playing Mongolian games with sheep ankle bones (like you do). I managed to lose a few times and had to undergo punishments (one of our guides is a complete sadist) which involved singing Mongolian karaoke and dancing for 30 seconds. Spose this is one way of starting to lose my inhibitions! Dave managed to escape all this (by cheating I think - as usual). Tuesday we spent the day doing archery, tug of war, horse-riding in the hills and then visiting a Mongolian family to watch them make Mongolian salted tea (basically hot water with milk and a bit of salt) and found about how they live. Was interesting although the mood was spoilt somewhat with Fox News on their tv in the background!
Had a Mongolian barbecue for dinner (nothing like restaurants at home) basically mutton with stock and veg and rice and played cards to avoid anymore punishments.
Left this morning for UB. Dave decided to get up early for sunrise (about 7.40!) to take some photos. On our trip back into UB the Kia's oil froze so we had to get into another van!