I did try to find a recipe for Foody Traveller but Mongolia is not the place to go for gourmet meals, although there was always more than enough of nourishing food.
Once, China stole my heart. Now, Mongolia has stolen my soul. Such a country!
Hard to explain, when most of my photos show an awful lot of nothing. But that is Mongolia, except it’s not nothing. We found, in what appeared to be a barren desert, 74 species of plant, insect and animal not found in Western Europe.
We found a people to whom hospitality is a way of life. We found a diet very short on green stuffs but abounding in beef (with goat as an occasional substitute). We found ger camps where we had to rescue red wines from the cooler and white wines from the heat but were grateful they had any. In the last two ger camps I found whisky and I rejoiced.
We travelled hundreds of miles across desert with no roads, and had picnics when it was 48˚ C. Some of us rode camels to the massive sand dunes (and some of us went by 4×4). We watched horse breeders milk their mares and visited gers where we were offered airag (fermented mares’ milk). We drank salt tea, which was always offered at each ger camp and place we visited. We listened to Mongolian music, both live and on CD (the latter every day, all day, in the 4x4s) and loved it. We walked along a gorge, crossing and re-crossing the river and climbing down and up incredibly slippery rocks, I found that my shoes were quite tolerant of getting soaked, until we came to the place where, in the middle of the Gobi desert, the sun never reaches and the river became a glacier.
We saw the Naadam festival in Ulaan Baatar, where horsemen in all their finery, bearing the nine horse-tail banners of Mongolia, received the biggest cheer I have ever heard. We saw the most colourful dancing and displays that took our breath away, and wrestling contests and archery competitions where Health and Safety would have had a heart attack. We made an impromptu stop at a rural horse race, their local Naadam festival, and saw children under 10 racing long distances bareback fit to chase the devil. We celebrated the birthday of our Aussie fellow traveller with songs, Aussie, English and Mongolian, and the best birthday cake the Mongolian camp could manage.
We saw rainbows in a sky so big we could see both ends (of the rainbows). We saw the mother of all storms when the 4x4s struggled to cope. We learnt Mongolian swearwords. We saw the only extant wild horses in the world, the Takhi, when they came down to a drinking hole. And we had the best three Mongolian drivers and Mongolian Tour Guide we could ever have hoped for. J.M.
J.M. travelled with Cox & King.