If there’s ever something you don’t want to do while travelling, it’s got to be leaving your bag in a place you can’t get to for several days. However, that’s exactly what I had to do. Everything I wasn’t taking to the Ger’s camp was packed into my main bag, then wrapped in waterproofing and Pacsafe mesh before being taking into the hotel’s ‘secure’ storage.
We met up with Vogy at 10:30, so the others had time to recover, and headed out towards the Terelj National Park. Along the way we stopped by another supermarket, this time for breakfast, and to get a gift for an elderly woman we would be meeting. We were told (a little after the fact considering we’d left our bags back at the hotel) that gifts from our home countries would be great, but that she really liked chocolate. We ended up getting her a big box of chocolates and a large carton of juice at Vogy’s recommendation.
The second you leave Ulanbaataar, Mongolia starts to look a lot more like I’d pictured. Rolling grasslands, scattered Gers, and a road that will permanently shatter your spine with how uneven it is. Not spectacular considering I was still very much under the weather. The strangest thing though, was how often you came across a giant building project. Beautiful, very modern and very western housing estates mid-construction would just crop out in the middle of nowhere. Just a little bit surreal when they’re interspersed between Gers and fields of cows.
When booking this trip, it had said we’d be staying in a Ger Camp. Most of the group had assumed it was similar to a home stay, since when I looked up Mongolia, that was pretty much the only Ger relatable thing I could find. However, that wasn’t the case. The camp in the National Park was more like a holiday camp – with gers instead of caravans. Still, the Ger was pretty awesome – 4 to a room, hot stove for heat and a small sink.
After settling in, we had lunch before Vogy let us try on Mongolian traditional dress. Our married couple got to wear the noble costumes, and I ended up in a blue robe with an orange sash, plus a pretty awesome hat with pearls.
That was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. In Mongolia, there’s no ring or time limit. You win by getting your opponent down on his knees, and you start first by imitating birds. Normally its a powerful bird like an eagle or similar, so of course one of our guys imitated a chicken. And the actual wrestling was hysterical.
It was getting darker by this point, so we all decided to try hiking up one of the mountains to watch the sunset. As we walked up, we were joined by one of the local dogs, a female brown and black dog we nicknamed ‘Lady Wawa’. By the time we got up, the sunset was in full swing, and well worth the trek:
Course, we also had to get down before it got too dark. Made worse by the fact that there was still snow and ice on the hill and getting down it in the dark without falling was a lot harder than going up. However we (and the dog) got down in time for dinner, and a game of Anklebones.
Vogy has mentioned this before – its a very popular game in Mongolia, although we hadn’t realised when she said anklebones, she literally meant anklebones.
You have a bag of sheeps anklebones, and each of its four sides represents an animal. Horse, Camel, Sheep and Goat. You take the anklebones in your hands and throw them across the table. You then have to flick one anklebone so that it hits another on the same side without hitting any other bone. If you succeed, you can pick up one of the anklebones with your non-flick hand, and try again. Your turn ends if you fail to hit the bone, hit another bone, or pick up the bone with the same hand you flicked with.
Its actually a lot of fun. Sort of similar to pick up sticks, and it can be tricky – especially when you start running out of matching bones.
When we finally called it a night, we were met with the unfortunate issue of our ger being ice cold. None of us really knew how to start a fire, and though we tried (filling the ger with smoke in the process), the room was still ice. It wasn’t until the local woman working there came with water and extra coal, and fixed us up did we get some warmth, and I finally nodded off.