One of the things that has always intrigued me about Mongolia is their nomadic population. The nomads of Mongolia live in felt tents (gers) and move about 8-10 times a year, moving to areas where their livestock can feed. These days a little over half of the population lives in the cities, and a little under half of the population lives a nomadic lifestyle. Given my own nomadic ways, this really intrigued me and meeting a couple of nomadic familes was an absolute must.
Our driver, Tajeek, who lived in Indiana for about 4 years, took us to meet a few families yesterday on the way back from Hustai National Park (which is where Mongolia’s wild horse, the Takhi, lives). We drove for several hours with nothing but rolling green steppe surrounding us, and then there they were: 4 gers situated next to each other in the middle of nowhere with lots of horses, cows, and 3 camels. He said he didn’t know these people, but nomads are reknowned for their hospitality so it really didn’t matter.
It turns out he actually did know them, as he had met one of the men and one of the women in the Gobi desert a while back. So, he translated our questions, and the kids stared at us and giggled, and we sipped camel milk and ate camel cheese. When I got bored with that I wandered outside and the kids followed me and asked me to take lots of pictures of them. They were shy at first but they warmed up to us pretty quickly.
After that we went to visit a second family and there was fermented mare’s milk (which taste a lot like beer) and vodka to enjoy there. There was an old man who could barely speak, clutching a bottle of vodka on his cot, and he would not rest until we did a few shots of vodka out of a bowl. This family was stocked full of characters and many laughs were had. We hung out for a while longer and then we piled back into the truck with two of the boys and a man who needed a ride back to Ulaan Bataar. Great day.
The man on the left never took off that snazzy jacket or those sunglasses the whole time. Even inside the ger. He was one of my favorites. The man in the middle was our driver, Tajeek, and the man on the right put on that fancy traditional outfit before he hopped in the truck with us on the way to the city.
Tags: Amanda Formoso, Mongolia, Travel