Mongolia Monday- Planes, Trains and….Camel Carts!

One of the most rewarding parts of travel is finding out how many ways there are to address the everyday challenges of life which are perfectly valid, but really, really different from how one does things at home. If the traveler is open to new experiences with an attitude of neutral curiosity, he or she might find that “difference”, in and of itself, is not threatening. Pity the impervious person who spends fair sums of money and time to travel and comes home utterly unaffected and unchanged. What an opportunity for the enrichment of one’s life wasted.

Mongolia is such a great place to get out of one’s own bubble. Customs and practices that haven’t changed in 1000 years exist happily alongside 20th/21st century technology. So, the country family holds its annual foal branding and a city relative records the occasion with her cell phone camera. Perfect.

(I would also like to note here that I have zero tolerance for those who want to deny more traditional cultures modern equipment, technology or goods because it will somehow “spoil” them. Selfish, romantic nonsense. The thought that a people like the Mongols could somehow be “spoiled” by integrating the modern world into their lives is ridiculous, IMHO. Lack of western technology does not equal stupid. Grant people the right to make up their own minds and choose what makes sense to them.)

Which brings us to today’s theme- how to get around, round, round in Mongolia. We will proceed from western high-tech to (for westerners) the picturesque.

Chinggis Khan International Airport, Ulaanbaatar
Chinggis Khan International Airport, Ulaanbaatar
Train between Ulaanbaatar and Choir
Train between Ulaanbaatar and Choir
Motorcycle, western Mongolia
Motorcycle, western Mongolia

Love the seat cover!

A ride home from the train station
A ride home from the train station
Truck with handcrank starter, Hovd, western Mongolia
Truck with handcrank starter, Hovd, western Mongolia

The Mongolians might be the greatest mechanics in the world. Travel stories by writers who have gone there are filled with accounts of impossible repairs in the middle of nowhere. Lack of money, parts, towing services (Ha!) and the need to find a way has bred an amazing level of ingenuity, which I have personally experienced with awe and respect. But those are stories for future posts.

the fabulous Russian Fergon van
the fabulous Russian Fergon van

You travel in these to ensure you get there, not because they’re comfortable. Four gear shift levers and counting.

Tractor with hay, Hovd, western Mongolia
Tractor with hay, Hovd
Horse cart with bottled water, Choir
Horse cart with bottled water, Choir
Donkey carts, Hovd
Donkey carts, Hovd
Camel cart, between Ulaanbaatar and Choir
Camel cart, between Ulaanbaatar and Choir
Rubber boat, Khar Us Nur National Park, western Mongolia
Rubber boat, Khar Us Nuur National Park, western Mongolia

My guide had talked about “the boat” (!?) when we were leaving Hovd for Khomiin Tal. Our last night out I found out what he was talking about. He’d purchased this inflatable boat when he was in Germany and this was his first chance to try it out.

Hauling water in Hovd
Hauling water in Hovd

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of running water in the towns I’ve been in, so one sees it being hauled in these carts. It makes you think about your use of water and be more mindful of what it took to provide it.

Moving bricks to the kiln, western Mongolia
Moving bricks to the kiln, western Mongolia
Home from shopping, Hovd
Home from shopping, Hovd

Lots of people have to walk to where they need to go, but, of course, the quintessential way to get around in Mongolia has always been on horseback.

Herding goats near Hustai National Park
Herding goats near Hustai National Park

I like this picture because you can really see how she is riding standing up in the saddle. The stirrups are tied together under the belly of the horse to keep them in place. Ah, THAT’S the secret.

Choidog at the foal branding, Arburd Sands
Choidog at the foal branding, Arburd Sands
Timeless
Timeless

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