Friday morning we headed off on another 5 hour drive to Karakorum the ancient capital of the Mongolian Empire. Since we wouldn’t make it to camp in time for lunch we stopped in the middle of the desert for a picnic! And for the whole trip the drivers were awesome and would stop every hour or so on our drive for pit stops, which were much needed in general. This was not easy driving like one would do on a highway… this was rough, bumpy, swervy overall very taxing driving. But it gave us such a perspective of what the Gobi is really like.
We checked into our Ger Camp (as per usual) and I was quite amused at the engineering of the locks on the Ger doors… hey it worked so it’s all good!
Then it was off to Erdene Zuu monastery complex, which is probably the most ancient surviving Buddhist monastery in Mogolia. Parts of this are still active while parts of it are merely a “museum” of sorts but the whole thing was beautiful and so peaceful. I won’t get into political commentary (at least not on this ISSET blog!) but I will simply state that the Buddhists seem so peaceful in general – it’s rather refreshing. I was glad we had an official tour guide for a bit because it made us possible to understand more of what we were seeing.
After touring the monastery we went to the Museum of Mongolian History (at least that’s what I think it’s called) and it was nice to learn more about the history of this amazing country we were all so privileged to be seeing. That evening we had some team tasks and we were all excited because allegedly there was a karaoke machine at the camp. We confirmed there was a karaoke machine and we started plotting the fun to be had with that but sadly we found out the machine was broken – total bummer! (A subset of us made up for it later in the trip though…. More on that later!)
The next day – which would be our last full day in Mongolia – we had an extra special treat. We stopped at a nomadic Mongolian family’s ger to see what they really live like and to ride their horses. This family, while they didn’t have much in Western terms materialistically, had an abundance of hospitality and they were kind enough to invite all 25 of us into their ger for traditional Mongolian foods to be shared. We enjoyed getting to meet them and were very grateful for their hospitality and their willingness to let us ride their horses that are their livelihood in life.
We were all starting to get a little sad that the trip was drawing to a close. We’d enjoyed every moment of the adventure and knew we would be sad to leave our new friends. Some of us were continuing onto Beijing for a few days but not everyone.
We trekked to our last overnight stop near a National Park where the last of the Mongolian Wild Horses roam. While driving through the Gobi you will see lots of wandering horses, cattle, sheep etc. so one might think that they are all wild but they are not. Since food (shrubs, vegetation etc.) and water are scarce all the animals will wander from their homes “out to the pasture” to graze and then return back home after they’ve eaten. It’s really quite amazing because it’s not like they just wander around the corner – they wander pretty darn far!! We drive into the Park and were lucky enough to come across a group of horses which included several foals. The males of the group quickly put themselves in between us and the females and foals and kept moving them further away from us.
We saw lots of marmots scampering about as we were driving but as soon as we would get close they would scatter. I stood very quietly amidst a bunch of their holes hoping one would come out and I could get a picture but no joy – oh well!!! That night we had some amazing presentations (more about that later) and some closing thoughts for the week because the next day it was off to the airport for everyone.
At the airport we said our good-byes to more than half the group who would not be continuing onto Beijing with the 9 of us. Even in saying good-bye I think most of knew that most of us would see each other again someday because the friendships formed this week were amazing!!!!
For example – the Bond trio of Sand Flea, Water Mouse and Mud Bunny were sad to part but they will reunite in a future adventure for sure! (I’ll let you sort out who is who – the answer might surprise some of you!)
I’ll pause here in my blog and then continue (tomorrow hopefully but I make no promises!) with either Beijing or the Leadership component….