FOLLOWING GHENGIS KHAN
“ Oceans of desolate steppes and deserts of winds,
Century old forests and high snow capped mountains,
In the eyes of a visitor, Mongolia appears untouched
On this earth with horizons without end,
The wind of plains mix with the clear blue sky
To create captivating landscapes
Evasive as a ray of light is the passage of the horsemen on the trail
Ephemeral is the stability of the ger in the heart of hillside
Mongolia deserves… and let you discover her many splendours…
Slowly and slowly… step after step
According to the meeting and whims of her climate”
THE FIRST NIGHT IN THE STEPPE OF GHENGIS KHAN
This time, before leaving, we decided to rent a jeep from Switzerland. Because of our anticipated arrival on the first day of Naadam, at Ulan Bataar, it wouldn’t have been possible to start sightseeing right away.
After having enjoyed the three days of Nadaan (the Mongolians gather together on the occasion of the national holiday to perform their three preferred games of virility: bow and arrow, wrestling and horse racing), it was time to start to follow the tracks of Genghis Khan.
The owner of the guesthouse, who rented us her own flat because a lack of space, asked us to be ready at 7.00 am. Already at 6.00 am we spied the arrival of the jeep, but everything was so silent in this district in a pure soviet style. Around 7.30 am they came to tell us about a problem with the jeep, therefore the departure was postponed for a few hours. Time flew, it was already 4.00 pm and maybe Genghis Khan will not wait for us so long… While we waited, we decided to reconfirm our flights, visit the capital again and to talk with some travellers in the guesthouse, some of which were arriving from France by bicycle.
Suddenly, the driver arrived and without realizing it Ulan Bataar faded into the horizon. After a few kilometres, the steppe already runs to infinity, the splendid beauty of landscape makes us gasp, the spacious plains where the wind and horses can run without meeting resistance, and with the nightfall the steppe became even more mysterious.
Mejet, the driver spoke some of Shakespeare’s tongue, and knowing that we were late, no one dared to ask to stop for photographs. Our eyes opened wide as we tried to remember every step of the way, everything that passed by us, every animal and person that we met…The beauty of the steppe had already conquered us, it made our hearts beat faster and it made us more alert. At one stop to observed and then take a picture of an ovoo (the ovoo is a sign of Good Luck and travellers can tie a strip of blue cloth or money or another object to ask for protection; the practise of ovoo was prohibited during communism and today it is being brought out again) I asked where we would sleep, and when Mejet answered under a ger, I knew that we had found the driver made for us and our desire to experience traditional Mongolian life; later on we met travellers who told us they never had the opportunity to sleep under a ger, only in tourist camps.
Around 9.00 pm all of a sudden, Mejet changes direction, and in that ocean where grass reigns supreme we asked ourselves where we were going… After about ten minutes, in front of us appeared a ger, the unique living thing lost in that immense desert. The Mongolians have an exceptional sense to find their bearings, they guided us by observing mountains, dunes, plains, rivers that they came across. We were welcomed by a nice young family with two young children. They offered us in sign of welcome a big bowl of fermented horse milk : the well-know airak! Mongolians are very found of airak, they can drink up to a gallon a day…After a Mongolian dinner with cheese and a very good soup we were able to settle ourselves in for the night, at the opposite side of entrance, which is a place of honour for welcomed visitors. A little bewildered and tired, but still dressed, we laid down on our sleeping bags. Above my head a plate full of different cheeses left to dry out for the winter supply. Slowly in the ger, all the noises started to slow down, the kids fell asleep and we only heard the landlady of the house occupied with milking the horses and then to turning milk into airak. A little later the husband returned from the steppe very tired and threw his saddle in a corner of the ger, the way we throw our car keys after a long working day, he kissed his wife and seeing us, he saluted as if he was expecting us in his home. This is Mongolian hospitality…
A few moments later is started to rain, and through the opening in the top of the ger, which serves as a window, we could catch a glimpse of the lightning in the sky, the glitter of the stars and the rain falling without having one drop of rain fall into the ger: Mongolian magic…
And hand in hand our minds filled with magic and fantastic memories and emotions framing of our future meeting with Genghis Khan our sleep and dreams embracing us.
(P.S.: the driver can be contacted to: www.mongoliatours.org or E-mail: email@example.com and your dream will become true)