A Travellerspoint blog

6 day tour that became 5 .......

ain't noway am I paying that amount for a flipping ger

sunny
View Unnamed Trip on TB_Ddizzle's travel map.

The trip out into the countryside had its high points and a few low points. Overall, it was a great experience.
The first day consisted of a 5-6 hour drive over both paved and dirt roads. There were times when I thought my kidneys were going to be jarred down into my back pockets. Our driver Tend was knowledgable and as careful as is possible on the roads that we travelled. For point of reference, there are very few road signs and most base their direction on landmarks. Do not leave home without a driver!
We also had along the guesthouse owner's daughter, Monica. She is 20 and currently studying tourism at the university in Ulaan Bataar. Her english is pretty good but she tends to mix today, tomorrow and yesterday but eventually we figured out the limits of her english and worked within those limits. I am embarassed to say that both Anthony and I filled her in on some American slang but I also picked-up some Mongolian terms as well.
Our first stop was the ruins of a Buddhist monastery and temple that was built in the 1600's and destroyed by the Russians during communist occupation during the '30s. It is currently being rebuilt to some degree and the ruins somewhat protected. The landscape surrounding this area is semi-arid grasslands with granite outcroppings. About 5 km from the ruins are a series of small dunes. Anthony and I walked to the dunes the following day. On the frontside of the dunes near the highway is a tourist stop that has camels for tourist to ride and take pictures. This is strictly for tourists because there are no camels naturally occuring in this area. Nor do the nomads of this region domesticate camels.
On the third day we headed to the hotsprings for one night. On the way we stopped at the temple in Erdene Zuu to have a look. This temple is being re-established and has one of the larger contingencies of monks in Mongolia. I picked up a few trinkets and donated some money for the rebuilding of this temple because they do contribute to the surrounding community through education.
The ride to the hotsprings was bout 5 hours and mainly over dirt road. We stayed at one of the ger camps that had hidden fees and outrageous ger prices but at least the showers were hot. I telling you that a hot shower is an absolute luxury when you are out in the middle of nowhere and have not bathed in several days. The surrounding lanscape was grasslands with surrounding pine forests on the hillsides. The valley we were in had a series of streams running through it that had lots of aquatic insects.
On our fourth day we stayed at a nomadic herding family. We stayed in the tent brought with us and as a result did not have to pay any fees. The family consisted of four gers with each ger occupied by a couple and their childern. The women of one of the gers cooked for us out of hospitality which is custumary for nomads. I contributed onions and a jar of honey since these people do not have a lot and I did not want to be a complete hardship on her and her family.
The food was very different. The first meal consisted of homade noodles, mutton, onions, potatoes and yak/goat butter. The flavor was predominated by the butter. The remaining meals pretty much tasted much the same as the first meal. Needless to say, we did not eat large quantities.
Oh, when we first arrived we were given a cup of milk or at least that was what I thought it was at the time. I took a big mouthful and immediately realized that it was fermented mare's milk. The alcohol freaked me out and I was in the dilemma of insulting out host and losing my sobriety! I faked a drink and spit what was in my mouth back into the cup. I then waited a few minutes then went outside of the ger and poured the remainder out. Whew, everything worked out and American/Mongolian diplomatic relations were maintained.
Our 5th day consisted of 10 hours of driving back towards UB. We were suppose to stay at another park 2 hours from UB. When we got there the attendant stated that the ger fee was $48/person/night. At that point, I was tired, dirty and in no mood for, "let's take advantage of the westerner". I asked several times about the fee to make sure he was serious and that is when I lost it. I told him that was ridiculous and that we were not going to pay that amount. He then went and talked to his boss and then came back saying he was wrong that the fee was $15/person/night. At that point, I was still pissed and was not going to pay that price either considering that we had been told that we would pay about $10-15/night/ger. I then talked with Anthony and asked if he wanted to pay that amount or just go back to UB. He did not care either way but our driver felt that maybe we could get a better price at another ger camp close by but thay were just as pricey. Thus, we headed back to UB earlier than planned.
Well, that is a synopsis of our 6 (5) day tour of Mongolian countryside. We are now getting ready to get on the train to Estonia. We will be five days on the train so do not get worried if you do not hear from me for a few days.
Love to you all,
Diane

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 19:59 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Another day in UB.........

how about a dish of mutton, Anthony?

sunny 8 °C

It is Friday and we are idling until 12:30 at which time we will pick-up our passports at the Russian Embassy. It is then off to the only temple here in UB because the Russian's did a very good job of eliminating/marginalizing Buddhism from Mongolia during its occupation beginning in the 20's and 30's up until the 90's.
After that Anthony and I need to do some grocery shopping for our 6 day trip to the NW area outside of UB. The plan is to go to a very old temple then to the hotsprings and finally to Hustai N.P. where we might get a glimpse of Mongolian wild horses. Apparently these horses are a different species from the domesticated horse. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to see a lot of wildlife on this trip.
I am enjoying our stay in Mongolia but it is getting to the point that I am ready to move on to Russia and eastern Europe. I am craving strong brewed coffee and the promise of steamy fresh, pasteries. The food here is not much to write home about. Most everything is boiled and containing mutton. Mutton is not as bad as it sounds but it tends to be slightly tough and under-seasoned. The dishes tend to be high in starch. The starch is usually in the form of either noodles, potatoes or rice. Generally, it is the noodle-potato combo with lots of fatty mutton.
I am sure Mongolians that go to America think that our food is overly seasoned and confusioning with regards to the variety of different dishes. I think because of the climate here there is very little opportunity to grow warm weather vegetables. As a result, most fruits and vegetables that occur in the market are extremely expensive for most Mongolians because most everything has to be imported. What is grown here is cold tolerant vegetables, such as potatoes, cabbage etc.
I hope everyone is doing well and I send my warmest regards to all. We will be out of pocket for several days so do not get alarmed.
Diane

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 20:09 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Hanging in Terelj, National Park

looks a lot like Wyoming

sunny
View Unnamed Trip on TB_Ddizzle's travel map.

Anthony and I went to Terelj National Park with three other people. There were the two Sarahs from England and a german guy whose name I never quite got, R-something. Any-hoo, the drive was about 45 to 50 minutes east and slightly north of UB.
It was absolutely beautiful (pictures are on Picasa). It reminded me of Wyoming. There was loads of pine trees and granite outcroppings. It could be a climber's paradise but I do not think that they allow climbing in this park.
We all bunked-up in one ger. Poor Anthony, his being tall can be a disadvantage a times. The beds are basically the size of a bunkbed with headboard and footboard. Fortunately, there was a small thick matress without bed frame and he took that for his bed. When he laid down about 2 feet of his 6' 7" frame hung-off the mattress. However, the other beds were rock hard and I basically did the rotisserie chicken sleep (turning every 2-3 hours due to severe pain on a boney prominence).
Our ger mates were great and I got to teach them the the game of spades. We all got along well and the Brits and I had great fun talking about different slang terms. Sarah2 is a cop in a town north of London. It was very interesting to ask questions about being a "Bobby". Sarah1 used to work for Yahoo but due to downsizing was let go. Both were traveling around Asia and Russia on their own. They met up here in Mongolia and seem to hit it off. Both are interesting women and kind hearted, as well.
We went horseback riding for two hours and my experience was much more pleasant than the previous Mandal experience. The saddle fit me better and the horse had a little more spirit to him. Anthony on the other hand was folded up on his horse and appeared to be in severe pain when the horse would decide to trot. At one point the horse took off in a slightly faster pace than a trot and Anthony made the comment, "I am either going to be unmanned by the front of this saddle or sodimized by the back of the saddle!". To be fair, the Mongolian saddle he was using had a rebar frame in which the seat pad was attached. Emerging fore and aft were upside-down, U-bends in the rebar frame that stuck-up about 4 inches directly in the middle of the front and back of the saddle. So, even though I was laughing hysterically the whole time I could see his dilemma.
Well, enough for now.
Take care all,
Diane

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 04:44 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Whoo-hoo, will be getting the Russian transit visa........

Thank you nice Russian man!

semi-overcast

Okay. Went to the Russian embassy this afternoon and we passed the limus test for transit visa. We will be picking the visa up on Thursday. Thank god, the big mammoo, or what ever power/s you ascribe to...... I was sweating that one because you never know what is going to happen with Russian visa requirements. It is somewhat vague and mysterious.
Oh before I forget. This website limits the amount of space allowed for pictures. Thus, I have downloaded all pictures to Picasa. What you see on this site is only a selected few. If you are interested in viewing others then email me at dwood@semo.edu and I will hook you up with the link. I am controlling who is able to view because I do not want any yahoo using my photos. Not that I am some great photographer but I am not going to allow others to take advantage of my time and money.
Later Taters.......
We will be going to one of the National parks tommorow.

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 05:25 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

A weekend in Mandal, Mongolia

Is Jerry drinking vodka, again?

sunny

We got on the train for Mandal around 10:30 Saturday. Jerry from Japan but living in Hawaii went with us. Apparently, he has been traveling for 6 years but he was not forthcoming with the details of why the exstensive traveling. From what peices of info he did give up, he appears to be estranged from his family. This could be due to his penchant for sipping vodka through the day. He pretty much maintained a slight buzz daily. At one point when we got off the train and piled into the four-wheel drive, he got into the driver's side and sat there ready to go. Our guide just looked at him and asked, "Are you going to drive?". At that point, he looked around and realized where he was sitting. Strange........at the time I did not know that he had been tippling.
From the station to the Ger camp was about 15 minutes on dirt roads. There is no signage in Mongolia. It is all based on memory and landmarks. If your are not from the area it would be very easy to get lost.
The ger camp was located in a small valley with a beautiful stream running through it. The hillsides were covered in pine and the valley had mainly beech with some pine intermixed. It was absolutely gourgeous.
The area was at one time a vaction resort for Russians during communist control. The buildings were abandoned and in shambles. The whole complex was fairly exstensive. We explored some of the buildings on one of our hikes.
We slept in a ger that night. A ger is a round structure covered in layers of felt and then over that canvas. The center of the roof is set-up to allow the stovepipe of the small wood-burning cookstove to exit there and also to allow venting. The dimensions are about 10 ft across and 4 ft high at outer edge and 6.5 ft at center. It was fairly comfy.
The next day, we rode horses for two hours. The sadlles were not built for comfort and the stirrups were not adjusted for our long legs (esp. Anthony). The mongolian horses are a fairly small breed. At the withers they are about four feet on average. Their trot is ungodly rough and seems to be their prefered gait. My butt and knees will never be the same.
Hope all is well with everyone.

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 17:17 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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