Memories of Mongolia

I remember this country for his immensity, his infinite landscapes and his nomadic people.
We did one roadtrip in the north near lakes and an other one in the south near the Gobi desert.

In the north roadtrip, I remember this feeling to be lost in nature, into the wild, here no road, no internet, no GPS!

I remember that I asked to the driver : “How you do to know where we are?”. He just answered : “I know!”

The landscapes were impressives, we were making the expedition with a old military russian van, we were climbing hills, crossing rivers and going up mountains with the van! Yes, that was surprising!
Our van was an off road car. I was so impressed the day when the driver began to go up a peak! The motor was making a lot of noises and was really hot! But nothing important for our driver, he was controling the situation, impassive!!

We were arriving at the summit and he told us : “Now, we make a break! I need to check the brakes to go down!” Ok!! Yeah, that’s a good idea!!!
When you was looking the downhill, that was really better to check the brakes!! But our driver was controling perfectly the car.

We were keeping rolling, sometimes, we were seeing two or three yurts, probably a familly was leaving here for few months.
That’s really special for us, for Europeans, to see this huge playground, this huge territory, without barreer, without city, this feeling to be alone in the world, free in these amazing and infinite landscapes; to plant your yurt where you want in the middle of nowhere, without paying, without neighborhood.

Where we were? I got absolutely no idea… But anyway, that was so beautiful, so good to feel we were lost, far from the contamination, from human, cities.
So amazing to see this nature, with this sky full of stars, one of the most beautiful sky I saw in my life.

The purpose of this adventure was to meet local people, nomadic famillies, to see their amazing lifestyle. These famillies were leaving in middle of the steppes, without electricity, isolated, they were looking after herds, migrating in the rhythm of the seasons in order to adapt to the nature, they were respecting so much nature.

Mongolian people does’nt talk much, they are shy, they don’t see a lot of people, their world is based to their familly and their animals, they leave in total harmony with nature, that we forget in our lifes, ours cities, our world.
We leave in the same planet, but in two differents worlds!! That’s strange!!

I was fascinating by their lifestyle, but also by the unconditional love they were giving to their animals. I remember men were passing hours and hours to take care of their horses, they were washing, brushing, talking to their horses. So much love, passion, that was touching to see that.

I remember a night we were sleeping in the yurt with a familly, we were sleeping with parents and children. The grand parents were sleeping in an other yurt.
We were in the middle of the yurt, in the ground on a beautiful mongolian carpet between the wooden stove and the food : meat, milk, cheese and intestines… A remarquable moment where I will not sleep a lot, my back was so painful, but I was happy to live the adventure!!!
The night will be short, here we live with the sun, so we will wake up at 5, our host will begin to cut wood with a axe and make the fire at 4.30am!

Once the wooden stove was working the heat woke up us.
“The early bird that catches the worm! “: I used to say.

We will learn in the breakfast that the grand father, who had make a lot of noise during the night, had, simply, came and knocked the door to take a gun and go to hunt wolfs!!
Yeah !! It was not a joke! His horses were affraid by the wolfs and were running to escape to them!!!

He refund them and save them… But hearing that’s type of story in 2012!! It was unbelievable!! Their problems were really differents of ours!
Fighting to save his animals, fighting against wolfs!!! Incredible!!!

I remember to have the great honor to start, to savour the goat! Why me?
What a beautiful honor!! I was trying to keep smiling, but when you see the pot with a goat just cut in big pieces, and you can still see hairs on the legs, you can see his friends goats playing around you. You know they kill this goat for you and they give you a knive telling you : “Eat! Don’t be shy!”
You make an effort… But strangely I was not hungry!!!

I remember the first time they offered me the tea, I was happy to share a moment with a familly. But I was not thinking that they were putting milk on it! The first taste was really special and my stomac was not feeling so well! I had allready in France a problem to digest milk, but here the packaging of the milk was totally natural!! One open air bucket in the middle of the yurt… Of course, no fridge here!! And I didn’t want know since how long this bucket was here! I was a bit scared but finally, I didn’t get sick! And i will even try the yogurt!!

I remember this mysterious delicacy that the grand father was giving to us.
He was calling this “cheese”, but sincerely, I didn’t identify the taste, I still don’t know what it was!
He was so happy to give us this “cheese”, so we couldn’t refuse… But we had the impression to suck a stone… There was no taste, and you could let in the mouse hours and hours without the texture change, it wasn’t melting it was impossible to crunch it at the risk of breaking a tooth. Maybe it was a joke!!! He was playing with us! But he was looking so serious.
What a strange “cheese”!! I will not hide that I throw this non identified cheese into the wild!!!
The mongolian gastronomy was really special!

I remember the girl of our host, she was so pretty, and so cute.
She was first intrigued by my camera, she never saw a camera before… She never saw herself on pictures… When she saw her face on the screen of my camera, she was so smiley, so surprised!! She told her mother, ran back to the yurt, changed and came back with beautiful clothes, she was so beautiful, so the fashion show started!
She was so happy to see the pictures, to play, to do the top model for a day. Even in the middle of the steppes, girls are girly and they love to be beautiful on pictures!!
Her look, her reaction, her spontaneity and her smile were so amazing to see.

I remember children were riding horses really young, without saddle, for them, it was like riding a bicycle or learning to walk.
They are born almost riding horses!
They get a big sens of stability, are really resourceful. So when I told them, that I couldn’t ride a horse, I meaned not long, cause of my back and hip problems… They were not understanding at all, and telling me : ” Let’s go back on your horse! “. For them that’s impossible to not ride a horse, unthinkable…

I remember we will be honored to see with the familly a little Nadam, a traditional celebration really popular in Mongolia. We will assist to a horses race for children and mongolian wrestling for men.

The performance was fantastic. Everybody was wearing traditional clothes, that was beautiful to see.

The race was spectacular, children were riding horses like professionals, we were feeling the stress. Each familly was supporting his champion, we were supporting the son of our host. His competition was really serious, really important, all the neighbours, all the mongolian from the area were here in the middle of nowhere (I don’t know how they choose the address!!!), and it was a big village festival, so to win the race or the fight will make you the king! The village pride!!

Our champion, unfortunately, will not win, his disillusion was big, but he gave everything, I was impressed by the speed, the stability and the ease they were racing, like great cavalier.

After this amazing roadtrip in the north, we went to the south to the Gobi desert.

Here the herds of goats and yaks, were replaced by camels, but of course there were also here horses. We were sleeping in the front of the desert.

I remember this camel ride. It was not really a good idea for my back… I will need to explain that it was to painful to continue the ride, but that was again complicated for mongolian to understand, I will finish by going down from the camel and walk behind the camel horde, on the left the steppes where there were horses and cows, and on my right the Gobi desert, this amazing and infinite desert. I could stay here hours to look this place, I was alone, free in the middle of nature, this desert. The wind was changing his curves, the sun and the clouds his colors, the herbs here and there was adding a little piece of green in this magnificent pallette. What an amazing paint! What a beauty! What a feeling of freedom! That was magic.

I remember our last night we spent in the mongolian steppes, our guide thought we will be happy to sleep in a house with all the convenience : sleeping in a real bed, taking a shower in a little village. But we wanted just to sleep in the nature, to see the stars, so we will change our plan, the destination was unknown, it was a surprise!

The surprise was big, our guide, will bring us to see her familly! In the middle of the steppes, of course!! Where? I don’t know… Her family was buiding her new campsite!!
They were just moving. So we will be honored to build the campsite!
To build our own yurt! Unbelievable! What a happiness!

But we did’nt got the good skills to build the yurt! That was looking simple, there was few pieces to build, but to be an expert of yurt building you need practicing!! We were looking how the mongolian were making the other yurt, they were doing the perfect movement, in 15 minutes, it was done… So they came to help, showed us how to do and we built this yurt together, a really nice moment!
We were playing with children enjoying the last moments, looking the stars and listening the silence. It was a wonderful evening in the middle of the steppes, summarizing this adventure of nomadic life.

Memories of Mongolia, memories of the travel of a nomadic life…

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