Trip Start Jun 30, 2010
10Trip End Ongoing
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There are no proper roads in the park, so the going was bumpy to say the least, but there was plenty to gawp at out of the window, which helped take our minds off the constant surprise drops and jolts. Beautiful rolling hills, rolled into even more beautiful rolling hills, and it became easy to understand how the Mongolian people got to grips with horse-riding early doors. There were no road signs, or landmarks of any kind that we could see, but our bus kept trundling along and eventually we arrived at our lodgings for the night.
Our host family lived in an breathtakingly beautiful valley, in three traditional Ger tents, and kept sheep, horses, cows and goats. Their pitch was right by a babbling stream, and quite frankly, it all looked far too idyllic by half!
We had a “Wow!” moment when we walked into our tent for the first time. It was like the Tardis! Our tent looked no bigger than a B&Q gazebo from the outside, but inside, it slept a dozen people very comfortably. We felt very cosy, especially as Mongolian tradition is to offer tea and food to visitors the second they walk through the door. (Just remember to put your right foot inside first to show you come in peace!)
The Mongolians have a saying, “Meat is for men - grass is for animals.” It basically means, if you're a vegetarian travelling through Mongolia, good luck to you! They have literally hundreds of dairy products, and it was most amusing to see everyone bite into what we all thought was fudge, only to discover it was actually sun-dried curd. It tasted like Parmesan wrapped in the Devil's socks. I don't think I was the only person to take one bite, smile, surreptitiously pocket the offending article and then do a 'Great Escape' impression outside later on
Our host family had slaughtered a goat in our honour. Our evening meal was an appetizer of goat, followed by goat entrees, with a side of goat. It was utterly delicious. The men-folk got first dibs on the 'soup' at the bottom of the cauldron too, which was basically blood and fat. Waste not, want not!
As the sun went down we had a go at firing a bow and arrow, shooting for distance to begin with, and then as we got more confident, we put an old can on some stones and tested our accuracy. Our hosts' eldest son was ridiculously good, and rubbed it in further by having a go on horseback. The men also got to wrestle him later in the evening. I want that man steroid tested! He picked up and body-slammed one or two of us like we weighed nothing. (I was the only one to defeat him by the way, but he certainly got his own back in Round 2, so we won't dwell on it!)
We snuggled down to sleep around midnight, after watching a great sunset, with just the odd bleat from a sheep for background noise. It was so cool and still that personally, I slept like a log. In the morning, Lucinda told me that it had actually pelted it down all night and that a massive herd of goats had surrounded our tents all night to try and get out of the wind.
We were sorry to leave. We both agree that this was the best 24 hours of the whole Trans-Mongolian experience. Fresh air, truly panoramic views, proper working dogs, frolicking horses, friendly people... if they had Cable, we'd probably move there in an instant. :)