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Travel Story by Tom Mulloy

  An insight to nomadic life

A nomadic life!

Gee, what a week it has been! We shall begin with our train journey from Russia into Mongolia as well as our encounter with the officials (yes, them again!) when our passports/visas were screened.

We were looking forward to leaving Russia for Mongolia, the next phase of our journey. On the train, we were fortunate to have no cabin mates and had the whole room to ourselves. Unfortunately that ended when a Mongolian joined us in the middle of the night and woke Graham up. He spoke good English and managed to conjure a gathering in our room with fellow travellers. One from Colombia was eager to learn more about our travels having done the same route as us so far.

After many introductions and viewing plenty of photos, he gave us a gift, a world map, which came in very useful later on in our travels. In exchange, we gave him an Irish souvenir courtesy of Tom's Mam! (Thanks Mam/Mrs Mulloy!) Judging by his huge smile we could tell how pleased he was with his gift.

The methods of the custom officials were rather interesting. Five hours were spent on the Russian side of border where they searched every corner of each cabin. Finally, we were allowed to continue on our passage out of Russia and into Mongolia. But we had to go through it all again with the Mongolian officials, gee how stern they looked! We were commanded to stand up, face them and pose with a smile to match those on our passport photos. Tom struggled not to laugh in front of the woman official.

Prior to arriving in Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia, we originally planned to walk to our hostel, the UB Guesthouse. But on arrival we were faced with treacherous weather conditions (-15°C) and the time of day certainly didn't help, with it being seven in the morning. So we ended up getting a taxi. We thought it would be quite straightforward but the driver couldn't find the damn place. After driving around the area for a while, we decided to get out and find it ourselves. The luck of the Irish was with Tom that day as he found a fellow backpacker returning from a trip outside the capital heading back to the UB Guesthouse so we happily followed him there.

The rest of the day was then spent sightseeing but there wasn’t much to see in the capital. After returning to the hostel, we consulted with the proprietor about excursions outside the capital and finally decided on a trip to the Great White Lake.

The following morning, we met our driver who couldn't speak English at all but he was very friendly. He loaded our gear onto his old Russian military jeep, helped us into our seats and off we went. The road was smooth to begin with but it gradually got worse with us driving on cracked tarmac and then dirt tracks – there was no road at all by then. After 7 hours of bumpy tracks and having our heads bashed on the ceiling of the jeep, we prayed that we wouldn't break down in the middle of nowhere. Although the driver is also a mechanic. There was only wildlife to keep us company throughout the trip and we saw some vultures.

Our first destination was Lake Oriy where we spent the night in a ger (a traditional Mongolian tent/home). The whole family seemed baffled at us signing rather than speaking. They provided us with dinner and we soon retired to bed. The following morning we woke up and hit the dirt tracks again for our next destination, the Great White Lake.

It was an 8-hour long journey and as we went along we experienced the changes in climate and terrain. Sand gave way to snow then rocks followed by mountains, rivers and molten lava rocks. We stopped for lunch at the driver's family ger. This was delicious in comparison to the previous meal. We finally arrived at our destination late at night. Despite our tiredness we were amazed at the views, especially those of the sun setting down on the White Lake.

The next morning we were eager to experience the typical life of nomads. As they live in the middle of nowhere they have to fend for themselves by killing cows, goats and sheep for food. We witnessed at first hand, the execution of cow. It wasn’t as gruesome as what you may have seen in films. The process was pretty straightforward and there was no mess at all. But we will not go into details! Afterwards we went horse riding to the lake and back. This was an experience as they fetched the horses from the wild for us to use. The lake was frozen but it looked as if it was constantly moving.

After two nights there, it was time to travel to our last destination, Khaorin. By then we were missing the city life. Our stay there was pretty much the same as the others, another ger. After four nights of sleeping in gers, eating beef, and drinking airag (Mongolian milky tea) we were really tired, felt dirty (no showers!) and cold (it was -20°C at night time).

On our return to the capital we made the most of the facilities in our hostel. We treated ourselves to a night out at a restaurant where we happily filled our stomachs.

And soon it was time for us to board the train once more, with China our next destination.

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Click on photo to enlarge

A traditional Mongolian ger

Date Submitted: 28 Sep 2006

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