Sunday 7th August and we woke up with a knock to our door, and in entered a staff member with a bamboo steamer containing hot towels. Our ger roof was opened (the tarpaulin just swept back), and we got dressed and had a leisurely continental breakfast. The “Out of Now Here” geolodges are set in a beautiful location.
At 10.30am we were in our jodphurs, helmets, boots, gloves and body protectors for we were going on a new experience of camel riding. On 6 out of the 10 camels had saddles, so Khulan rode a horse and was our camera lady once more.
The camels were assigned and then we all got on, with the jerky camel lurch at the beginning from kneeling to standing position. Each of us led the camel and person behind us, though my camel was tied to Eleanor’s stirrup. I had the dubious task of leading Astrid, who was a self-confessed control freak and hated the fact that she was not in control of the animal. There were no bridles to hold onto, but the camels, in the main, followed each other in a placid manner. Save for Astrid’s who decided to spook at something, jerking my shoulder and hand. I had to let go, camels are strong animals and whilst I was fearful for Astrid to just let go, I was also in danger of dislocating my shoulder. Astrid and I, against all odds, stayed on and the ride continued without a hitch.
The Khogno Khan Park is where golden sand lay beneath us, blue skies above with only each other for company, we were in total silence, just taking everything in, lost in our own thoughts.
All safely back at camp, we dismounted in the same jerky and still unexpected manner. Eleanor loved the camel riding, as did I. It was quite comfortable, but I am not sure that a faster gait would have been.
As this is an eco camp, there are no showers, but they do offer a hair washing service in a yurt salon. Before lunch I arranged my appointment, water was heated and I was invited to the salon. I sat on a cushioned stool, and lay with my back arched over 3 logs in a curve. One lady poured water over my hair, and the other shampooed and conditioned it. My hair was silky smooth and CLEAN!
In our flat in China we have full length mirrors in practically every room. There isn’t a day goes by when we don’t look in the mirror. The compact mirror I used (and then lost to Bimba in a game of UNO) was the only mirror I had, and I used that to put in my contact lenses at night – so for 4 or so days I hadn’t looked in a mirror. It was therefore a shock to the system when I saw me with my hair washed! And when I saw myself in the mirror I thought I had to capture the moment in a selfie!
The afternoon was spent lounging around, lunch was spag bol, dinner was lasagne…
After dinner, the kids spent some time learning the Mongolian sport of archery taught by Yondo and Khulan.
We all then headed to bed early. It was our last night in a yurt, and at 3am I needed the loo. The night sky was phenomenal.
Awoken on our last day at 06.30am, the hot towels made it bearable. By 7.15am we were loaded and ready to roll. 11kms off-road then 289kms to Ulan Bataar. We stopped off for breakfast in a field at 08.30am and by 1.30pm we were stuck in traffic in the city. Eleanor and I voluntarily had Chinese for lunch in a shopping mall, and then we spent some money in a souvenir shop. Eleanor got a beautiful Mongolian dress, and then I also bought a couple of t-shirts (one for Martin, and one for me… both too small!). Most of my money though was spent on food shopping in the food court on the ground floor, stocking up on Mars Bars, (I made rice krispie cakes with them for my birthday!), Twix and Bounty.
At 3.15pm we got back in the van to go and see a traditional Mongolian cultural show at 4pm. Traffic was bad, but with a minute to spare we made it.
A show of dancers, singers, musicians and contortionists followed. I had to look away at some stages during the women bending their bodies – it is not natural! The dancers, and throat singers were clearly telling stories of the past, but my Mongolian just isn’t good enough to understand. It was fascinating.
And so readers, the Mongolian adventure ended that night with a picnic dinner back in the Dream Hotel. The next day we awoke to rain. The blue sky had disappeared and it really was time to get back on a flight to China and go back to reality.
The city is nothing to write home about, but the people, the hospitality, the wildlife and the scenery are unforgettable.