I got to shoot arrows at a hairy cowhide target that still had the tail attached and pay a visit to a nomad family where I was served salty tea and a snack of dried milk curd hard as rock. At night, I slept in a Ger (or yurt), just like the nomads.
During the visit to the nomad family we learned that a Ger can be set up in about two hours and taken down in one. Furniture must be put in before the walls and roof are assembled because it won’t fit through the door. The inside walls of the Ger are covered in beautiful brocade trimmed with contrasting colours. The Ger is heated with a simple wood stove. Nomad families move twice a year, to their summer pastures and then to their winter location where some families have shelters for their animals. They keep cows, goats and horses.
In the tradition of G Adventures, our Ger camp was in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, out-of-the-way and family run. Of the 25 Gers at the camp, a portion of them housed the staff and one served as the dining room where we ate delicious meals of hearty soups, stewed mutton and meat dumplings served family style. In our Ger, someone would come in to light the fire in the late afternoon and return in the evening to add coal so that it would last late into the night. He’d come back in the early morning to warm up the Ger before we got out of bed. It gets cold towards morning but we were toasty under our felt blankets.
Towards the end of our second day, it began to snow. The staff capped off the evening with a wild snowball fight madly running and shouting among the Gers. By the next morning, the ground was covered creating a magical landscape.
We had a wonderful time at the camp and I think everyone was sad to leave it but new adventures beckoned.
Mongolia became a democracy in 1990 in a peaceful transition from communism. The capital, Ulaan Baatar, has nearly doubled in size in the last five years to 1.3 million people, about one third of the total Mongolian population. The cityscape is a maze of construction cranes and there are new apartment buildings everywhere. Yet in pockets of vacant lots right in the city you can see Gers, the traditional Mongolian dwellings we know of as yurts. Ger camp stays are a popular tourist activity in Mongolia where that industry is in full growth.