Wild Earth Journeys
Come join Wild Earth Journeys on our 10th year of running horse trips in unexplored central Mongolia. Imagine living among the nomads, learning nomadic skills of living in the wild vast steppes. Horseback ride through the vast, rocky mountains with forests and lapis braided rivers glistening below. Explore Buddhist monasteries; meet living shamans of the revival movement, and discover early Scythian ruins speaking of vibrant ice age cultures steeped in gold and horses.
Sit in reverence under the vast night sky as colors change and shooting stars emerge. Let the raw elements and spacious sky work deeply on your own spirit. Each day, those who like can join us in contemplative practices, including yoga, meditation, or pranayama. On this journey we travel as a tribe, a community, exploring nomadic life and spirit in Mongolia’s pristine wilderness.
At our Lapis Sky camp, located 42 kms south of Tsetserleg, Arhanghai province, (GPS coordinates: 47 16,067' E-101-08, 762), we live as nomads have lived since the Ice Age: in the brilliant abode called a gher, better known by its Russian name, yurt. Stored away for the winter, erected as a summer camp as all the nomads who live in the area move 6 times a year, our simple yet rugged yurts are nestled into a private valley, with cottonwood tree forest nearby and the Tamir river a stones throw away. This is a magical place for contemplative practitioners, yogis, photographers and artists, or those who love to read and soak in quiet wilderness. Meals are lively, filled with tales and poetry. You’ll experience a rich introduction to the wilderness and nomads of this country. We'll be joining nomads for their annual Nadam festival and witness a 20 km stallion race with bareback riders between the age of 6-12 yrs-old, wrestling, and imbibe in the haunting steppe sounds of the Morin khuur (horse-head fiddle) and humii throat singing music by open fire, with the sound of the river joining in.
We will horse ride to the remote Mandal mountain, a volcanic mountain rising from the center of a Mandala (sacred diagram) of raw geography. A sacred altar for honoring ich tenger, the sky god and ancestors, Mandal is revered as a special power place for the Mongol pilgrim. You don’t have to be an experienced rider to enjoy the horse trip travel. Our local Mongol horsemen have nine years of experience guiding different levels of horsemanship and watch over us like children on well-behaved horses. This trip is a rare and contemplative time for meditation, poetry, riding, and deep renewal.
- View the Mongolian countryside from the perspective of a nomad, traveling primarily on horseback.
- Watch a traditional tsam-mask dance and listen the surreal sound of khoomii, or throat singing.
- Experience the color, passion, and pageantry of a local Naadam festival.
- Enjoy the camaraderie of our National Geographic hosts, anthropologist Carroll Dunham, and her husband, photographer Thomas Kelly.
Day 1 - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, where our staff will meet you for the transfer to our hotel, located within walking distance of Sukhbaatar Square, museums and shops. Kick off our expedition with a Mongolian feast at a traditional restaurant.
Puma Imperial Hotel (D)
Day 2 - Ulaanbaatar
Gather for an orientation, and then set out to visit the National Museum of Mongolia History. After lunch, delve into the bustle of the Black Market-where we'll stock up on riding boots and dels, or traditional riding tunics, for our horseback adventure. Then head to the magnificent Choijin Lama Temple for a tsam-mask dance ceremony and a performance of the haunting sounds of khoomii, traditional throat singing.
Puma Imperial Hotel (B,L)
Day 3 - Ulaanbaatar/Kharkhorin
Today we'll journey west through vast grasslands to the city of Kharkhorin, arriving late in the afternoon. Nearby are the ruins of Karakorum, a legendary capital of the Mongolian Empire, established by Genghis Khan and his son in the 13th century.
Ger Camp (B, L, D)
Day 4 - Kharkhorin/Bulgan Sum
Venture into Erdene Zhu monastery, built in the 16th century. One of the largest monasteries in Mongolia, Erdene Zhu has been a place of Buddhist activity for more than 400 years. His schedule permitting, enjoy a rare chance to meet Erdensuu, the head lama, who will talk to us about the Spirit of the Horse and Mongolia's Buddhist renaissance. Later, settle into Lapis Sky camp in time for sunset and dinner.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B, L, D)
Day 5 - Bulgan Sum
Brush up on your horseback-riding skills and go for a warm-up ride in the valley of Teel. Visit with a nomad family and experience their way of life firsthand. Hone your photography skills during a photo class with National Geographic photographer Thomas Kelly. (9 miles optional horse riding, 3 hours)
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B, L, D)
Day 6 - Begin Horse Trek/Tolgin Butts
Saddle up this morning and set out on horseback across the sweeping steppe. We'll ride about three hours to Tolgin Butts and camp in a lovely meadow setting. (9 miles horse riding, 3 hours)
Camping (B, L, D)
Day 7 - Mandal Mountain
The second day of our horse trek is an invigorating five-hour ride over spectacular mountain passes and past Buddhist ovoos, ceremonial cairns often set in high places. In the afternoon, we'll camp at the base of Mandal Mountain, a sacred place for the Mongols. (12 miles horse riding, 5 hours)
Camping (B, L, D)
Day 8 - Mandal Mountain
Explore Mandal Mountain on foot, and attend a Buddhist ceremony at a sacred ovoo on top of the mountain. Enjoy the rest of the day at Mandal Mountain camp going for walks, fishing, or taking an optional horseback ride to visit with nomads. (3 miles optional horse riding, 1 hour)
Camping (B, L, D)
Day 9 - End Horse Trek/Bulgan Sum
Ride back across the steppe to Bulgam Sum today, or, if you wish, return by jeep. Settle into your gers at Lapis Sky camp and enjoy time to relax and refresh this afternoon before gathering for a hearty dinner in our dining ger.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)
Day 10 - Bulgan Sum
After breakfast, join Thomas Kelly for a photo walk, capturing images of the beautiful countryside. Go fishing for grayling and lenok trout, or practice your aim with a bow and arrow. In the afternoon, hop on a horse and pay a visit to nomads camped nearby. Spend time in their gers, learning about their everyday customs. Tonight, gather for a Mongolian barbecue.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)
Day 11 - Naadam Festival
Today, we'll take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the local Naadam festival. Naadam takes place every summer in Mongolia, pitting men and boys against each other in age-old contests of manliness and physical prowess. Young men train all year to compete in the three events: bareback horse racing, wrestling, and archery. Witness the excitement close-up, taking photographs in the middle of the action and even trying out some of the sports after the competition. Later, listen to a traditional morinkhuur, or horse-head fiddle concert, as you sit around the bonfire at camp.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)
Day 12 - Lapis Sky Ger Camp
Take advantage of a free day at Lapis Sky to soak up our peaceful surroundings. Set out on a final horseback ride, go for a hike or a fishing expedition, practice yoga or archery, pay a last visit with the nomads, or just relax at the camp.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)
Days 13 & 14 - Ulaanbaatar /U.S.
After breakfast, journey back to Ulaanbaatar and enjoy an evening at leisure. The following day, depart to the U.S., arriving home the same day.
Puma Imperial Hotel (Day 13: B, L; Day 14: B)
Included in Price
Includes Thomas Kelly and Carroll Dunham as professional guides, airport transfers, hotels in UB, double occupancy. Meals as noted, all museum entrance fees, all ground transfers, ghers (double occupancy), camping tents, mattresses, horse riding.
International Airfare; Visas; airport departure taxes, insurance, laundry services, sleeping bag for horse trip, beverages, tips for crew, cook, horsemen (optional, yet customary), items of a personal nature; optional fly or spinning rod for fishing. If you should get sick and need a change of accommodation or travel plans while in Mongolia, you will need to cover any additional costs outside of the regular trip plan.
****PLEASE NOTE: We require that you purchase travel insurance. This is just a smart thing to do for overseas travel, and if there is a medical emergency, particularly an evacuation needed, you will need to have this coverage.
FOR A VERY PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL AGENT, WEJ RECOMMENDS:
Peace Land's Travel & Tour Inc.
Robin Bhandari (President)
Toll Free: 1888 461 4722
Phone: 214 634 9911, 4532025
3455 N Belt Line Rd. Suite 210C
Irving TX 75062 USA
Activity Level: Moderate
This horse-riding adventure is suitable for beginners and experts alike; no previous experience is necessary. We will have a four-day horse trek riding 3 to 5 hours per day (9 to 12 miles) with options for more, or less, riding on most days. The trek will be supported by jeeps. We will stay 7 nights in traditional Mongolian gers (felt-lined yurts), 3 nights camping in spacious tents, and 3 nights in first-class hotels.
THOMAS KELLY is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has led cross-cultural trips throughout South Asia and Mongolia. An x-Peace Corps Volunteer of Nepal, ethnographic photographer for The Body Shop International, a recipient of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant, Thomas Kelly has been documenting vanishing and resilient indigenous communities across the planet for over twenty-five years. Thomas has worked on the PBS TV series Millennium: Tribal Wisdom in the Modern World and National Geographic' TV series Light At the Edge of the World. Having published over 10 photographic books on Nepal, Tibet, India and Mongolia he more recently has spent the last 8 summers in Mongolia with his two sons and wife Carroll exploring the Tsaatan reindeer nomads, the Kazakh eagle hunters, and Khalkh horse people. His photos have been published worldwide including the New York Times, Time and Newsweek, Outside, Men's Journal and National Geographic Adventure. A classical reportage photographer, Kelly has the ability to have a quiet, yet trusted presence among the peoples he photographs to capture the elusive essence of these enduring cultures. He currently represents Hinduism Today, USA and loves to practice Yoga.
TENZING PALJOR grew up in Darjeeling in Northeast India. In the early 1990’s, after graduating from North Bengal University in liberal arts, his quest as a young man was to go on a spiritual journey of self-discovery that led him to travel and live throughout South and Southeast Asia. He has led a life with diverse experiences from; leading tours to the sites associated with the Buddha for some of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist masters; studying the Thangka, the iconographical art of Tibetan Buddhism in the Kathmandu valley; working for a fair trade business in the United States supporting Tibetan refugees in India, war widows in Kashmir and women’s cooperatives in Nepal; and working for a non-profit organization in Kabul, Afghanistan.
For the past eight years he has also worked as an international elections observer and reported on numerous elections in Asia including some historic ones. In 2004, Tenzing observed the historic first Afghan Presidential Elections in Iran where approximately a million Afghan refugees participated in out-of-country voting under the new constitution after the fall of Taliban.
Tenzing is also an established photographer documenting communities and cultures facing the disintegration of their traditional identities, values and way of life due to political conflict and encroaching modernization. He was awarded the Galen Rowell Fund, a photography grant on his work in the Indian and Nepal Himalayas for two consecutive years of 2006 and 2007. In 2011 he further received a grant from the Galen Rowell Fund to support his project in discovering and documenting a lost Tibetan tribe in the periphery of Burmese Himalayas. He is currently working on a long-term project in Mongolia photo documenting one of the last surviving nomadic cultures in the world.
Beware of Mongolia
It can be dangerously infectious. Was it the light, that golden late evening light that cascades down from a sky as vast as the ocean, or the space, all that wild raw, gentle space that just cleanses out the insides? Or was it galloping in thundering rain across the steppes on these jet-fueled steeds for miles, experiencing an unrivaled primal ecstasy that caused this viral infection to spread? Whatever the cause, the condition was severe: a complete case of Mongolian midsummer madness.
Lapis Sky Camp
Situated at (GPS coordinates: 47 16,067' E-101-08,762), 42 km from Tsetserleg, the district capital of Arkhangai, Lapis Sky Camp is Mongolia's leading yoga and meditation camp. We welcome families, writers and Bohemian eccentrics. Relaxed, at ease, off the beaten track, nestled into the Bunkhan valley, this quiet enclave beside the Tamir River, where a sense of privacy and quiet exclusivity pervades. Yoga, Buddhist teachings, horse riding, poetry and wilderness combine to strengthen wind horse, vitality. Humor and a lightness of being are cultivated by mingling with the raw elements.
What to bring to Mongolia - Suggestions Only
Dear Folks and Fellow Intrepid Travelers:
As we prepare to head off to the Mongol steppe, I feel obliged to burden you with obligatory information hopefully vaguely helpful relating to stuff and health. For those of you who already have a Lonely Planet Guide to Mongolia, disregard, for those who do not, I hope this will be helpful in someway and not too disconcerting. But best to be aware of the challenges and how to prevent them. I do recommend each person think about one's own health needs as we head out into the wilds. It is essential that everyone has a horse riding or mtn biking helmet or, and if you're prone to getting saddle sores, bring along a saddle fleece. It's recommended you bring a pair of chaps that will protect your calves. Alternatively, at the Black Market in UB, we can take you shopping for a pair of Mongol riding boots, about US$40 which will protect your calves from chapping. We have a collection of horse riding and mountain biking helmets left behind by past travelers but note they very in size and quality. If you wish to air on the safe side, please bring your own helmet.
Only in summer does cloud cover shield the sky. Humidity is zilch and sunshine intense. With over 260 sunny days a year, Mongolia is justifiably known as the "land of Blue Sky." Short rainy season from mid July to September, but the showers tend to be brief and gentle. Evenings are cool even in summer due to the relatively high altitude. Mongolia can be a windy place. When the wind blows from the north, temperatures drop sharply, but the weather warms up just as rapidly. One minute you're walking around in a t-shirt and sandals, the next you need an overcoat and boots, then its back to t-shirts. Temperature differences have been known to range over 37.5 C in one day. The summer is pleasant without being too hot. It can still suddenly turn cold.
A water resistant duffle bag that locks is best. I personally like combo locks that don't have keys. Once you're on the trail, you will soon realize that the less you have to deal with the better. I suggest you have one duffle bag and one-day pack. Keep your weight down to 20 kgs. I will have several extra water resistant duffle bags so if you find that your duffle bag is too cramped, we can help you out and pack all the bags and mats together to free up some space for your essentials. Plastic zip lock bags for gear, cameras, etc. to protect against the dirt, etc / garbage bags are nice for ensuring that sleeping bags don't get wet and always find other uses.
No special dress codes. In UB, dress freely. One pair of warm clothes is recommended. summer evenings can be chilly, especially at Mandal Mountain. I brought my long john set, pile jacket, down vest, (layers work well) warm hat and I was happy--but I am skinny and hate to be cold. Excellent rain shell and pants long-sleeved non-wrinkle light shirt useful against sun and bugs. Pants are best for riding in, and thin, durable material that dries quickly is great. Two pairs. Lots of folks like photo vests, because of the many pockets...Good wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses essential. Shammy towel that dries quickly.
Sports bras for ladies work well with horses and bumpy jeep rides. Boots that ride high up the calf are quite helpful for long horse rides to prevent chaffing. Thomas rides in Australian RM boots with chaps. You can buy cheap but excellent leather riding boots in the Black market in UB for around $40.00
Please bring a down or fiber filled sleeping bag. We will provide sleeping mats and tents on our horse trip. What you bring is what you will sleep on, so make sure it makes you happy! If you wish to stretch please bring a yoga matt.
For fishing on the Tamir for grayling and Lennox it's best to use a collapsible spinning rod and real that fits in a hard case or breaks down into a portable zipping reinforced bag. Bring along strong test line, leaders, some bobbers and different sized lead weights. For spinners, you can bring different colored panthers, and other kinds (there's a professional fishing store in UB). It's also good to bring along some medium size hooks if you plan to fish with live grasshoppers. For those that plan to travel down to our camp, the fly fishing is excellent so you should have a fly rod and an assortment of flies grasshopper, irresistible, and some fly balm to keep the flies floating. If you're a hardcore fisherman, bring along a pair of fishing waiters with felt soles to keep you from slipping. A fishing net is also recommended.
Water bottle (1 liter, leak proof metal or nalagen, can double as a hot water bottle)
Torch (headlamps are always useful), mosquito repellant (with as much DEET as possible!), high factor sunscreen.
Shampoo packets are great and cut down on bulk rather than bottles. Best if possible is biodegradable soaps such as Dr Bonner's, etc. Wet wipes or anti-bacterial gel is useful as often there are few opportunities for bathing on the horse trip. We travel with solar showers and for those brave souls; you can always take a plunge into the streams. Bandana is always useful with dust. Binoculars for bird lovers.
We have Chinese Army leather-riding saddles, which were hand crafted in Ulaanbaatar and are plenty comfortable. They're similar to a Mongolian saddle in design but with much better padding. I also have five western Corduroy saddles.
If you wish to photograph while horse riding, a criss cross Snuggher Strap is recommend to prevent your camera from bouncing about. Alternatively, wear a Lowe Pro sling backpack. Fanny bags will rub against the back of your saddle. Camera backpacks can ride inside the support vehicles and will be close by most of the time.
We have a solar charger at our Lapis Sky camp for re-charging batteries. But once we're on our way to Mandal mountain there's no solar or electricity. Last year, Leo Well's brought along a charger that worked by plugging it into the Russian jeep cigarette lighter device. We will have support vehicles traveling with us.
US dollars cash, money belt, a few pens, spare passport photos, Swiss army knife, spare camera batteries, compact digital cards, lighter, razor, razor blades, shaving cream, (UV) sunglasses, chap stick, tampons, dental floss, deodorant, ear plugs, pain killers.
If ever there was a country where you needed travel insurance, Mongolia is it. With the outdoor lifestyle, unpredictable weather and bad roads, accidents are not uncommon. Agencies like Council Travel, Trail finders, Flight Centre, and Campus Travel sell insurance along with their tickets. Some policies specifically exclude 'dangerous activities' that can include horse riding. Ask about an amendment at a higher premium. Few, if any medical services in Mongolia will accept your foreign insurance documents for payment; you'll have to pay on the spot, get receipts for everything, save all the paperwork, and claim later. For Mongolia, a 'medivac' clause or policy, covering the costs of being flown to Beijing or Hong Kong or home is essential.
Copies of all important documents, please bring 3 extra passport photos (passport data page and visa page, credit cards, travel insurance policy, air/train tickets, etc.) Leave one copy at home and keep another set with you separate from the originals.
Depending upon your spending habits and drinking habits, it's always good to have some extra cash at hand-$500-$1000 dollars depending what your taste in Mongol souvenirs is like. At several banks and countless licensed moneychangers in UB, you can change most major European and Asian currencies. The US greenback is still the easiest to change in UB and is the only currency you might be able to change in the countryside. Note that moneychangers will give you a slightly better rate for new (post 1998) US dollar bills and for higher denominations. In the countryside anything larger than a US$20 will be hard to change. You can change US dollar traveler checks into US cash in UB for a 2% commission. American dollars can sometimes be changed for Tugrik at banks in aimag capitals but it is bound to take forever as officials try to figure out the official exchange rate, much lower than in the capital. Watch out for counterfeit American dollars in Mongolia. At present US$1='s 1420 Tugrik Most major banks and top-end hotels in UB will change traveler's checks but only those in US dollars from major companies usually with no commission and minimum fuss. If you lose your American Express checks or credit card, or Thomas Cook checks, contact Trade and Development Bank in UB.
- Bring large bills = good rates (100s or 50s).
- Bring crisp and clean bills.
- Bring $100s with Ben Franklin on it (most recent one, I think 2006)
- Bring $ 50s with U. Grant on it (most recent one 2004 or 2006)
- Do not bring bills dating back pre-1996, no one will change it.
The most customer friendly card we find throughout Asia is VISA, second choice MASTER CARD and AMERICAN EXPRESS is the least favorite. Problem with AmEx is high surcharge and also not many shops accept it.
You can use credit cards in UB at top-end hotels, expensive souvenir shops, airline offices and most travel agencies. The Trade and Development Bank can arrange cash advance on your Visa, MasterCard, and American express Cards for 4% commission.
International transfers, tend to be wrought with problems. It can be done through the Trade and Development Bank and takes 3-5 days and costs $40 plus 0.01% of the amount transferred.
At some point in a trip to Mongolia most travelers end up carrying a fair amount of US dollars or Tugrik. All you can do is bury it deeply in your money belt and in several different places, with only small sums in wallets and outside pockets.
Summary of Risks
Except for getting frostbite in winter, Mongolia is generally a healthy country to travel in. The dry cold climate and sparse human habitation means few infectious diseases that plague tropical countries.
In case of injuries, we refer patients to:
SOS Medica Mongolia UB International Clinic
4a Building, Big Ring Road, 15th Micro District
7th Khoroo, Bayanzurkh District, Mongolia
Tele # +976-11-46-43-25, 46-43-26, 46-43-27
We carry an Iridium Satt phone. Tele# 8816 315-60857
Suggested Medical Kit Check List
- Aspirin or paracetamol- for pain and fever
- Ibuprofen- for swelling, pain in knees, after injury
- Antihistamine- (diphenhydramine (benadryl) for allergies, hay fever, to ease itch from insect bites or stings, prevent motion sickness, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, relieves, hives, dermatitis. Dries up runny nose. Can make you quite drowsy. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is a decongestant; it will make a congested nose run.
- Cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges, nasal decongestant
- Loperamide or diphehoxylate-'blockers' for diarrhea (Imodium or Lomotil)- Not to be used with fever or blood or pus in your stools
- Prochlorperazine or metaclopramide for nausea and vomiting Rehydration mixture
- Insect repellant, sunscreen, lip balm, eye drops
- Calamine lotion, sting relief spray or aloe vera- ease irritation from sunburn and insect bites and stings
- Antifungal cream or powder- for fungal skin infections and thrush
- Antiseptic (such as providone-iodine) for cuts and grazes
- Bandages, Bandaids (plasters), knee brace, ace bandage for wrapping, and other wound dressings
- Scissors, tweezers, and a thermometer ( note that mercury thermometers are prohibited on airlines)
- Pepto Bismol tablets
- Laxatives- Kaolin or Pectin
No specific vaccinations are legally required to enter Mongolia. Peace Corps Mongolia asks that volunteers have IPV (Inactivated Polio booster dose), Mumps, measles, rubella, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, hepatitis B, and Japanese Encephalitis B vaccine, Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A vaccine (e.g. Avaxim, Havrix 1440 or VAQTA) provides long term immunity (possibly more than 10 years) after an initial injection and booster fix at six to 12 months, Alternatively, an injection of gamma globulin can provide short term protection against hepatitis A -2 to 6 months depending on the dose given. It is not a vaccine but a ready-made antibody collected from blood donations. It is reasonably effective and unlike a vaccine it is protective immediately, but because it is a blood product, there are current concerns about its long-term safety. Hepatitis A vaccine is also available in a combined form with hepatitis B vaccine. Three injections over six-month periods are required.
Meningococcal Meningitis - A single injection gives good protection against the major epidemic forms of the disease for 3 years. Protection may be less effective in children under 2 years.
Hepatitis B - Travelers who should consider vaccination against hepatitis B include those on a long trip, as well as those visiting countries with high levels of hepatitis B infection, where blood infusions may not be adequately screened or where sexual contact or needle sharing is a possibility. Vaccination involves three injections with a booster at 12 months. More rapid courses are available if necessary.
Rabies - Vaccination should be considered by those who will spend a month or longer in the countryside. Pretravel rabies vaccination involves having 3 injections over 21 days. If someone vaccinated is bitten or scratched they will only require two booster injections. Make sure you are healthy before you start traveling. Make sure your teeth are ok. If you wear glasses, take a spare pair.
There is an old saying "if you can cook it, boil it, or peel it, you can eat it, otherwise forget it." Vegetables and fruit should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Fortunately we will be using cooks who have experience cooking for westerners and understand our hygienic concerns.
Mongolians insist that the tap water in UB is safe to drink. However there can be occasions in later summer when the water becomes unsafe to drink--but public health alerts are issued. The number one rule is being careful of the water. If you don't know for certain that the water is safe, assume the worst. Surface water from rivers and lakes may well have been contaminated by livestock feces and should be purified.
It's essential to carry your water bottle with you, regardless of where you are traveling. Have a Steri Pen to zap any bacteria. Dairy products in the countryside are always unpasteurized and should, in theory, be treated with suspicion, though boiled milk is fine if kept hygienically.
Boiling is one completely satisfactory method to ensure safe drinking water. A rolling boil for 5 minutes is effective. Store boiled water in clean covered containers. Iodine tablets may be used to treat water. One tablet per quart is sufficient, two if the water is cloudy or very cold. Mix well and allow to stand 25 minutes before use. At our camp, we boil our water, and use Steri pens on our horse trips which emit ultra violet rays to zap any parasites.
Infectious diseases to be aware of in Mongolia: brucellosis, bubonic plague, diarrhea, hepatitis, and rabies. Before you get angry and complain about why things just don't work as well as they could or should, take a second to think about what Mongolia has experienced and is still enduring: years of Chinese domination and Soviet Communism; a perverse climate; a terrible road and transport system; nomad lifestyle which rarely compliments western thinking and economics, a young, sparse population which suffers from poverty and poor health and unrestrained capitalism and development since 1990.
Mongolia is a very safe country and Mongolian people are some of the friendliest and most helpful in Asia. Most Mongolians are very poor and foreign goodies are a real temptation. Theft is seldom and violence against foreigners, just opportunistic. Pick pocketing and bag slitting with razor blades are increasingly common on buses and in the Central Market, but not nearly as a rife as in China. Valuables should be kept in a money belt and buried under your clothes. Some people find this arrangement uncomfortable, so another alternative is to keep these valuables sewn inside of a vest (waistcoat.)
Mongolia is probably the greatest country in the world for camping. Local people and even a few curious cows or horses may come investigate our camping spots, but you are unlikely to encounter any hostility.
Minimum Impact Camping: Carry out all non-biodegradable rubbish. Or bury deeply. Make an effort to carry out rubbish left by others. -Where there is no toilet, choose a spot at least 100 m from any water source, bury your waste at least 6 inches deep, and bury or burn toilet paper, if possible. - Wash with biodegradable soap at least 50 m (160 feet) away from the watercourse. Disperse the water widely to allow the soil to filter it fully before it finally makes its way back to the watercourse. Ensure that you fully extinguish a fire after use. Spread the embers and douse them with water. A fire is only truly safe to leave when you can comfortably place your hand on it. Don't rely on bought water in plastic bottles. Disposal can be a major problem. Use purification tablets and boiled water instead.
One thing to bear in mind is that when mounting a horse do so only from the left. The animals have been trained to accept human approach from the left. Horse may rear if approached the wrong way. The Mongolians use the word chu! to make their horses go. Most important advice: watch and learn-Mongolians almost invented horsemanship-and be prepared for at least one good spill.
GHER WELCOME GIFTS
Vodka, sewing needles with large eyes thread for women, lighters, toothbrushes, toothpaste, notebooks, pens, pencils, hand mirrors, snuff, Swiss army knives, and pictures of the Dalai Lama. Make sure gifts are small, otherwise greater expectations for future visitors. Pick 3 or 4 items put in zip lock bag. To show respect and avoid arguments, give practical gifts with both hands to the oldest woman and the tobacco, snuff, matches to the oldest man.
SUGGESTED READING LIST
- Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World; Jack Weatherford, Univ. of Minnesota Prof.
- The Lost Country, Jasper Becker
- The Journey of William of Rubruck to Eastern Parts of the World. Danzanravjaa, (Mongolia's most influential Buddhist poet.)
- Perfect Qualities, Translated from the Mongolian by Simon Wickham-Smith
- Riding Windhorses- A Journey into the Heart of Mongolian Shamanism - Sarangerel, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont www.InnerTraditions.com. ISBN 0-89281-808-5
- Men and Gods In Mongolia, by Henning Haslund Adventures Unlimited Press ISBN 0-932813-15-1
- Eagle Dreams: Searching for Legends in Wild Mongolia. by Stephen J. Bodio. The Lyons Press ISBN 1-59228-207-5
- Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia. Louisa Waugh. Published by Abacus. Winner of the ONDAATJE PRIZE ISBN-978-0-349-11580-1
- Wildflowers of Northern Mongolia, by J. Oyumaa
- Guidebook to Locales Connected with the Life of Zanabazar, First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, By Don Croner, Published by Polar Star Press, Ulaan Baatar ISBN 0-9779553-0-3 produced and Distributed by INMongolia Co., Ltd. www.inmongolia.com www.zanabazar.mn
- Lama of the Gobi- The Life and Times of Danzan Rabjaa Mongolia's Greatest Mystical Poet. by Michael Kohn ISBN 1-59971-905-3 Maitri Books, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
- Women of Mongolia by Martha Avery-Published by Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-587854-x
- Mongolia The Legacy of Chinggis Khan. Thames and Hudson ISBN 0-500-23705-0
- Mongolia The Land of Blue Skies, by Gauri Shankar Gupta Photos by Thomas L. Kelly. Published by Lustre Press/Roli Books ISBN :978-81-7436-454-8