"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mongolia, A Report from the Field: Mongolia's Time Machine, Part 2

Tummy full of lamb and flour soup, I'm off to the time machine.    Aagii takes the rug off the windshield that prevents frost build-up and we drive out of the Chinggis Khan complex.

Shortly after pulling onto the highway, Yusef motions to the side of the road and says that I could take a five-minute plane ride around the Chinggis Khan statue, if I want.   I don't see the "airplane" because I am glued to the sight of a man beside the road with several eagles sitting on poles.  I would come to rue not paying more attention to what Yusef said.
Some kilometers down the highway, Aaggii startles me by driving off the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and taking off cross-country.  I hadn’t seen a big sign advertising our destination.  If this is such a big tourist attraction, why isn’t there a sign?   But then, there are few signs in rural Mongolia.

A herder on a ridge.

We bounce along a cattle track, dodging whatever critters have claimed that part of the pasture, and eventually a big wall with a gate in it comes into view.

Remember the scene in an old movie (was it Blazing Saddles?) when the cowboys gallop across the plains forever and then through the gate of a ranch, except that’s all that’s there—a gate.   No fence on either side, just a tall gate.

That’s what the entrance wall of the 13th Century complex reminds me of.   There is a wall on either side of this gate for a distance, but what’s to stop invaders from riding or driving around the end of the wall?   Anyway, we drive through the gate and pull up to the guard’s camp, which are a number of gers that house the warriors who keep the whole area safe from pillagers and invaders, as well as take your entrance tickets.

The falcon on the bird is the symbol of Mongolia.   Note the hawk in the photo.

One problem:   the guards are AWOL.  Not a soul there.   Oh, well, Genco owns and operates this place and Genco already has my money, so no harm done.   Besides, Yusef is there to protect me from bodily harm and international incidences.

Aagii forces the Land Rover up a mountain and one of the most picturesque sites I’ve ever seen comes into view.

Tucked in a small ravine with fantastical rock formations on two sides, is the artisans’ camp, a series of three gers on a wooden platform, with boardwalks extending down the ravine to a lookout post.  I stand above the whole thing and marvel at the site, appreciating the back-breaking work that must have gone into building it.

A saddled horse is tied to a post below the gers, and as I watch, a boy of about four or five years emerges from the first ger, then goes back inside.   When he returns, he is dressed in traditional clothing, a red daal (a warm robe that reaches below the knees),  red boots, and non-traditional but warm gray sweat pants.

We descend the stairs to the gers.   The boy’s mother comes out into the bright sunshine and leads us to another ger where numerous items and handicrafts are displayed.  

Quilt and shields.


This is called a baby incubator because it is placed where it receives the first morning sun.

She motions me over to a mortar and pestle, and shows how she grinds grain into flour.   The little imp in the red daal sticks his finger in the ground flour and puts it in his month with a grin.  I do the same, and its tastes like the sweet, nutty barley flour called tsampa that is so prevalent in Tibet, a country with which the Mongolians closely relate.

Yusef mumbles something about giving the boy candy if I have any and I ask Aagii to go back to the vehicle and get a small bag with lemon-flavored Riccola sugarless throat lozenges from my lavender bag.

And then we make a mistake.   Aagii hands me the bag in full view of the boy, I open it in full view,  remove two or three, and hand them to him.  He accepts them and pitches a fit.   He wants the whole bag.   Mama takes over and we all go outside.  ( No photos of the tantrum.)

Yusef with an old sword.

Brooms, along with old doors and old locks--I photograph them wherever I go.

Aagii, our driver.

A third ger has traditional clothing on display, and for sale.

Roof supports and crown of the ger.

The armored hat is not comfortable.

Eye covers for birds of prey.

I go walkabout on the various boardwalks to look at this amazing place.   When I return, the boy is somewhat mollified, and grudgingly poses with me for photos.


For cooking outdoors during the hot summers.

Then, we’re off to the next camp—the nomadic herders.  

This site offered us the most accurate portrayal of the nomadic life style:   the nomads, being nomads, have folded their gers and followed their herds to greener, or at least more plentiful, pastures.   

They were nowhere to be found.

A herder outside the complex, a more modern one.

A herder outside the complex--a more modern one.