Finally, finally!!! I am in Mongolia… the bus journey that takes us there from Russia is already exceptional. My eyes glued to the window, I finally discover for myself those huge green plains of which I’ve heard so much about, all those horses everywhere, those yurts… I am only in the bus, and it is already so much more beautiful, more magical than in my wildest dreams. I just fell in love with this country.

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From the window of the bus…

In contrast, the arrival in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, is a cold shower. It is a big grey, dull, ugly, noisy, stinky city. So frustrating to find myself here after having caught a glimpse of Mongolian landscapes. Atle and I arrive in a guesthouse called ‘Golden Gobi’, which is the biggest and most famous of the city. I feel that I won’t like this place from the first moment: hundreds of people are coming and going constantly, it’s a huge hostel that has no soul, so warmth. It is just a big business. Because it’s not easy to ‘backpack’ in Mongolia, most tourists leave in organized tours, of which the most well-known are the ones organized by Golden Gobi, precisely. And those tourists are treated like kings, but if you haven’t planned to go on a tour with them, like us, you are not really welcome there. I hate this mentality.

We visit the city for a while.

I have to do my chinese visa. Nothing easier: I enter an ‘Air Market’ and ask for a false booking of plane tickets, it’s free. Then, I book a few nights in a nice hotel in Beijing on booking.com, because one can book and cancel for free. That’s it! After waiting 4 hours in the embassy, I submit all of my documents. I have to come back to pick my passport up a few days later, I thus decide to go visit the Terelj national park in the meantime, because it’s only a few hours away from the capital.

Atle, who has no precise plans, decide to come with me. It’s with great, great pleasure that we get away from the city to find the peace and freedom of Mongolian open spaces. Once we get to the village, we find a small yurt (‘Ger’) to spend the night. Everything is calm and beautiful.

The next day, with a Korean woman, we leave accompanied by horses and guides for a 3-hour trek in the surroundings. The horses are exhausted and improperly treated, I don’t keep a very good impression from it…  🙁

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But the landscapes are magnificient. We stop in a yurt and taste their famous salted milk tea for the first time, as well as just salted tea and their (very, very dry) cheese speciality and yogurt.

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And then, for the first time in my life, I see yacks! They are beautiful creatures, I don’t get tired of looking at them.

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In the evening, there are no lights in the cities; we see so many starts in the sky…

The next day, we decide to hitchhike to ‘Turtle Rock’. The place is very pretty.

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Then, we decide to walk to a temple which is a initiation and meditation center. In the stairs that climb up, there are hundreds of signs with Buddhist writings we are supposed to meditate on.

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For some sentences, we struggle a bit to understand…

P1030470 Others really carried a lot of meaning.P1030471

P1030474Buddhism in Mongolia is a Tibetan buddhism and is practised by 50% of the population, which totals a bit less than 3 million (with half of them in the capital). Shamanism is also still very present.

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On the way back, we hitchhike once again. Surprise! It’s an ambulance that stops to take us 😀

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A few young people on horses stop us so that we can photography them as they pose

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08.08.2015

“I have left Russia. Already. Isn’t a month supposed to be long? I haven’t seen time go by. My stay there was very particular and filled with precious experiences; I won’t forget it. I have now arrived in Mongolia four days ago. Just the bus ride from Ulan-Ude put stars in my eyes: the landscapes were so beautiful, so special.. I will not get sick of looking at those green and infinite plains sprinkled with horse and sheep herds, yurts and all those particular things anytime soon. Ulaanbaatar, on the country, is a common, dirty and noisy city, far from the serenity radiating from Mongolian steppes. That is why, in company of Atle, my Finnish friend with whom I’ve been travelling for a while, we hurried out of the capital. We spent two nights in a yurt in the middle of a village in the Terlej national park. For the first time since my departure, I again felt cut off from civilization: no more heating, no more internet, no more Western toilets, in short, no more of our usual little comfort. The mountains and the nature of the park enchanted me, thousands of stars filling the night sky even more. We rid horses, like I dreamed of for so long. And then, we had crazy fun hitchhiking in the region and walking to a temple. In the evening, we stayed busy playing cards while sipping on cheap vodka and hearing the agitation of the village (and in prticular the dogs) around us. During the night, I got a bit cold. But what a wonder to wake up in such a simple, raw, beautiful place. And also, everybody is so friendly, wants to say hi, take pictures. We even had the privilege of being invited for (salted!) tea and cheese in the yurt of a local family. I can’t believe that all of this is part of their daily lives, everything is so different. I struggle with food, it’s very difficult for me: I hate sheep, which is the main ingredient of all the dishes here. Just its smell makes me nauseous, so I ask them to not give ny to me, but I am a bit afraid I’ll only eat rice and eggs for a month, because they eat very little vegetables (though it could be worse). They also eat horse, which surprised me, knowing how big of a part this animal plays in their lives… But life here is hard, especially in winter, you work with what you have. I kindly refused it when I was offered some, I am not capable of it, it’s beyond me. But besides their food, everything is fabulous. I had to go back to Ulaanbaatar to get my chinese visa, unfortunately, but I am already looking forward to leaving again, more up north this time. I can’t wait.”

 

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