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or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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Some cool stuff I did in Mongolia
Some cool stuff I did on our Mongolia trip (in no particular order):

- slept in a ger (actually, 5 different ones, 5 nights in a row)
- herded sheep
- helped milk a cow
- rode a horse for 23 km
- shot a Mongol-style bow (note my new icon!)
- tried airag and arkhi
- ate khuushuur, bansh, buuz, tsuivan, and many other delicious local dishes
- drank milk tea
- ate freshly made yogurt, clotted cream, and aaruul made from milk from our hosts' cattle
- rode in oxcarts
- offered at ovoos
- saw a cultural show with music, song, dance, throat-singing and a contortionist
- crossed the International Date Line twice
- translocated via Coca-Cola can
- stood in awe in front of a monumental statue of Chinggis Khan
- met a shaman and had dinner in her ger

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Pics or it didn't happen! (I know, I know. When you get a chance. :) )

Re: Awesome stuff!

That's on my list to do this weekend...

Edited at 2014-09-26 04:00 pm (UTC)

Wow! Can't wait for photos. Welcome back!

Thanks! Photos will be soon.

I think your trip wins for coolest vacation ever! (And this is being said by someone who learned to fly from an airstrip at Lands' End in Cornwall, to give you an idea of how incredibly cool all of this sounds.)

It was certainly the biggest adventure we've ever had! Though your flight lessons sound pretty cool, too...

Oh, my: coolest of all time, hands down! Can't wait to see the pictures.

Going to work on the pics this weekend!

OK ... I feel like an idiot, because this just bubbled into my conscious mind, but... what does it mean that you translocated by Coke can?

Don't feel like an idiot. I was hoping someone would ask...

The main thoroughfare in Ulaanbaatar is Peace Avenue. Crossing it is anything but peaceful- there is tons of traffic, drivers regard traffic regs as vague guidelines and ignore the crosswalk signs; so you kind of feel like you're caught in a game of Frogger or something.

Fortunately, there are at least two pedestrian underpasses on Peace Avenue- one near our hotel, one near the State Department Store. The surface part of the one nearest our hotel looks like a giant Coke can. Don't think I got a pic of it; maybe monsteralice did...

Edited at 2014-09-26 10:47 pm (UTC)

Thank you! That makes sense now - and is a good story, too. I like... I would also love to hear more about the visit with the shaman - and what it was like staying in the gers.

We should find time to get together... there's stuff about the shaman that is really best told by monsteralice...

A ger is like a *really* posh tent, the kind that some folks rig out at Pennsic. Except there are less bugs in Mongolia.

Edited at 2014-09-29 01:28 am (UTC)

I am SOOOOOOOO envious. Perhaps someday, when the boys are older, we can take a trip to Mongolia. But for now I will have to content myself with getting my hands on a Mongol bow and learning how to shoot it well.

I want to get a Mongol bow, too...

Edited at 2014-09-29 01:25 am (UTC)

How was the pull on the bow?

How does their style of riding differ?

How did your travel drama work out?

Bow: I *estimate* that the pull was 35-45 pounds; the guide didn't know... I had no difficulty pulling it to full draw. The grip for the pulling hand is different- you grasp the end of the arrow with thumb and forefinger (and use other fingers on the string if needed; I definitely did)... I'm not sure if this was a sanctioned variation on Mongolian draw, or a style the guide had worked out himself. Western draw *didn't* work for me on this style of bow. We weren't using thumb rings. Release was on the right side of the bow, and there is no arrow rest on the grip. The arrow had a big blunt target head (the same kind Mongols use in competition) and no fletching (I guess so us ignorant tourists wouldn't ruin it; they use fletched arrows in competition).

Riding- I am going to quote extensively from monsteralice here:
What type of saddles can we expect?
Saddles in Mongolia can vary widely; my sample was limited to a relatively small area near Ulaan Baataar, but the ones I saw had the following things in common: wood or wood & iron support structure (they don’t have a tree, per se, but they are built to keep the saddle off the horse’s spine), high pommel and cantle that are very close together (makes it harder to fall off), metal stirrups with flat bars that ranged from straight to circular shapes, two girths, and some padding for the rider. Multiple layers of felt and other blankets go between the saddle and the horse. I found the saddles very comfortable (I had the wood & iron type for the rides) and I am a fat old woman.

Are the bridles what I am used to?
Based on our tour, you’ll never have to bridle your horse yourself, so it’s a non-issue, but no, they aren’t nearly as complicated as the average English bridle. All of the bridles I saw had been knotted from cord or rawhide, probably by the horses’ owners, and they certainly could be repaired or replaced by any country-living Mongolian with a knife, and I’m not sure the knife is actually necessary. I got the impression that the only part of a bridle that had to be purchased was the bit. Simple snaffle bits were the only type I saw; other than being curved rather than straight, they are what you are used to. The throatlatch is kept quite loose, and rides on the horses' cheeks rather than where the head and neck meet.

Are all the horses trained to neck-rein?
Yes. Most Mongolian horses do the same work as old-fashioned cow ponies, and their riders need to have one hand free.

Is it true that the horses are still half wild? How do they behave?
Some Mongolian horses buck, or like to run away with their riders, the same as horses anywhere, but I didn’t see any of those saddled for tourists. The horses we were given to ride were the equivalent of school horses; calm, a bit lazy, and getting up there in age. Between locals not wanting to trust strangers with their good horses, and having a lot invested in making sure tourists stay out of trouble, you aren’t going to run into a problem horse. I encountered one horse who kicked, but that was it. Our group had a few people who had never been around horses before, and they didn’t have any trouble.

I heard that there is a word in Mongolian to tell a horse to go, but not one to tell it to stop; that isn’t true, is it?
I suppose it is technically true, because the sound you make to tell your horse to stop isn’t a “word”. However, it is not true that there is no way to tell a Mongolian horse to stop. “Go” is something like Tchoo, and “stop” is the sound you make when you blow through your lips imitating a horse.

Two more pieces of advice: Stand to the trot, don’t post, and wear bicycle shorts under your jeans unless you know for sure you can do a 12+ mile ride without chafing.

Travel drama: it wasn't cheap, but we ended up with better flights, a shorter layover on the way in, and more slack to enjoy our day in Ulaanbaatar before the tour began.

Edited at 2014-09-30 06:20 pm (UTC)

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