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Posts from the ‘Mongolia’ Category

NAADAM IN RURAL MONGOLIA

Horse races at local Naadam festival

Horse races at local Naadam festival

Let the games begin! Mare and I are fortunate to observe Naadam in the rural town of Dalanzagad, where the entire village participates. The most traditional form of celebrating these games of archery, wrestling, and horseback riding are found in the small villages.

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Archers of all ages and genders compete for the highest score of their province.

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Wrestlers clench each other until one of them touches the ground, with any body part except the hand. They have no time limit. Wrestlers are the heroes of Mongolia, held in the highest esteem.

The bullpen

The bullpen

There is only one champion, and no weight classes. A six-time champion recently lost the presidential election, but collected 44% of votes.

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Mare and I devour skewers of mutton with tender cubes of fat, along with several khuushuurs (fried mutton pancakes), while waiting for the most exciting event…horse racing.

Traditional Naadam food, khuushuur - fried mutton pancakes

Traditional Naadam food, khuushuur – fried mutton pancakes

The best jockeys, between ages 10 and 11, run the small, powerful Mongolian horses for 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) before crossing the finish line.

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The winners of all 29 Provinces in the country advance to the center city of Ulaanbaatar the following year, where one champion will emerge from each of the three games.

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Mongolians are not good at team sports,” Erka says. “They need individual dominance. It’s not in their nature to take one for the team.”

Tsagaan Suvraga

Tsagaan Suvraga

It is time to bounce and sway on the southbound road, towards the Gobi Desert. The landscape transforms into Arizona-like terrain. Rugged roads lead to Tsagaan Suvraga, where huge limestone formations rise from the limitless, flat landscape.

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Bam! The rear stabilizer bar snaps in half. While MacGyver works his magic, Mare and I walk with Erka through Yolyn Am canyon, which fills with ice in the winter.

Yolyn Am

Yolyn Am

MacGyver fixes the broken stabilizer by cutting a long strip of rubber, from a tire inner tube, and wrapping a metal pole around the bar with the rubber…a temporary repair that works.

Onward to Bayanzag, (flaming cliffs) which resemble the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale. By now, the Gobi sun bakes us. Erka, Mare and I lose the path on top of the cliffs, and find relief by backtracking to the vehicle.

Having no shower for days, we smell pretty rank. Back at the ger, we are happy to sip hot beer, and await “ger service” of a mixed mutton dish. We share some of our store bought beer with a Chilean couple, and a woman from Indonesia.

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Tomorrow, we head to sand dunes in the heart of Gobi, where MacGyver hopes to find additional tools for much needed repairs. Thank you Abundant Universe!      Ron Mitchell

MONGOLIA, HOME OF CHINGGIS KHAAN

Chinggis Khaan Statute outside of Nalaikh

Chinggis Khaan Statute outside of Nalaikh

Ride a Mongolian horse through Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Try not to fall off, while gazing at crazy rock formations that surround a lush valley. Families live in gers (yurts), and tend to free roaming cows, horses, and tourists.

Riding horses in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Riding horses in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

A family tends to Mare and I, providing a ger for sleep, as well as three meals…mutton with pasta, mutton with potatoes, and then mutton with rice. Ain’t nutton’ like mutton! Fresh, unpasteurized yogurt is served for dessert.

Mutton, mutton, mutton

Mutton, mutton, mutton and carbs!

Climb turtle rock for a panoramic view of the valley.

Can you see the Turtle?

Can you see the Turtle?

We walk about every dirt road we can find. I use my one and only great talent of finding a beer in every country, and soon we drink warm cans of local brew.

Finding beer in the middle of Mongolia

Finding beer in the middle of Mongolia

Only 3 million people live in this vast country. Roughly half of them live in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Just yesterday, we were dodging them on the streets, where impossible traffic congestion shows no respect for pedestrians.

Parliament House in Sukhbaatar Square

Parliament House in Sukhbaatar Square

Roam around the great bronze statues of Sukhbaatar, and Chinggis Khann, at the massive Sukhbaatar Square.

The Victims of Political Persecution....

The Victims of Political Persecution….

We visit the Victims of Political Persecution Memorial Museum, which graphically displays the communist effort to eliminate Mongolia’s intellectuals and “revolutionaries.”

Ger for the night

Ger for the night

The spirit of Chinggis Khan, embedded in the Mongolian people, eventually overcomes all would be conquerors. Mongolia remains an independent country that cherishes its cultural history, which always welcome travelers with a smile, and what they need for survival.

Two weeks on these roads could be a LONG time

Two weeks on these roads could be a LONG time

We are on our way back to the city, bouncing on dirt roads and dodging cows.

Sunset from the train our first night in Mongolia

Sunset from the train our first night in Mongolia

At the Khongor Guest House, we arrange a 14-day Gobi Desert excursion, which will give Mare and I more than just a taste of this vast, fascinating country, not to mention a local Naadam Festival or two…stay tuned! Thank you Abundant Universe.  Ron Mitchell