We left southern Mongolia without seeing the snow leopard, Gobi Yeti, Death Worm or the Albas. Into the final third of the trip, we found that eating mutton everyday can get a little sickly. We’ve had quite a few variants of mutton such as; mutton noodles, mutton rice, mutton soup, mutton dumplings, battered deep fried mutton, sizzling mutton, scotched mutton and mutton mutton. The phrase ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ just doesn’t make sense as there’s no disguising the fact that however mutton is prepared, mutton will always be, mutton.
As we left the Gobi and headed back into something that resembled civilisation, we called into the Ongiin Khiid monastery. What was once home to over 1000 monks now lies in ruin after almost 200 lamas were wiped out during the 1939 communist purges.
Erdenezuu monastery is situated in the Mongolian ancient capital. Built on the ruins of Kharkhorin in 1586 on the orders of Abtai Sain Khan, a distant relative of Chinggis Khaan. One of the nation’s largest monasteries, it was interesting to see some of the young monks walking around with iPhones.
Throughout this Mongolian trip we have been accompanied by our driver, Lawyer, what a complex character he is. With only basic English under his belt, it’s amazing that we can still somehow manage to communicate. His most used phrase is ‘this one’ which he seems to use at the beginning of every sentence. For example ‘this one good’ or ‘this one no meat’ or ‘even just pointing and saying ‘this one’. You can image how confusing things got when I showed him my Dolce and Gabbana aftershave named ‘The One’. Top guy though.
It would be rude to come to Mongolia, a land where the horse is king, and not partake in any horse riding. At Orkhon river valley the snow was very heavy, but for me, this added to the experience. We rode across some beautiful landscape, waded through freezing cold rivers and stopped off to see a frozen waterfall, amazing. With my new moustache and outrageous robes, it was easy to imagine Chinggis himself taking on this very land by horse back. We nicknamed our horse guide Gazza, because of the uncanny resemblance he had for the fallen soccer star. Maybe this is the reason why he hasn’t been spotted drunk in any of Newcastle’s drinking haunts lately…
Back in Ulaanbaatar we were tired, had a list of ailments as long as my arm, and probably never smelt as bad in my life (including the morning after the night of my 24th birthday at the Rupali Indian restaurant, curry hell anyone?), but the whole thing was well worth it and I’m happy to say we survived the brutal Mongolian nomadic winter!