The Hello Bar is a simple web toolbar that engages users and communicates a call to action. TiggerTours: Yak, yak, yak

Friday, August 24, 2007

Yak, yak, yak

Dear friends,

We last updated you on the eve of our departure from China. Our 30-hour train journey sped us from Beijing through towering mountain valleys towards the Mongolian border...

...for a uncomfortably long wait (with locked toilets) while they changed all the train's wheels to a fractionally larger size.

We awoke the next morning to a very different landscape. The vast, empty steppe stretched out for miles in every direction, punctuated only by the occasional nomad camp.

And it was in these ger (felt tent) camps that we spent many nights huddled around the central stove. As much as half of the country's population still live in these gers.

The terrain proved to be far more varied than we expected, with mountains and rocky outcrops dotted amongst the pastel-coloured grasslands. It's not hard to believe that Mongolia is the least densely populated independent country in the world.

While at one ger camp we were treated to a performance of local horse-head fiddle music, unsettling contortion and the national "long songs".

A long drive took us to the Erdene Zuu monastery at Kharkorum, its outer wall decorated with 108 giant stupa (a sacred number in Buddhism).

Within the walls were monks aplently, quite a few temples, and children practising their archery...

...and countless nomads in traditional dress at the end of their pilgrimage.

And atop a nearby hill an ovoo (sacred pile of stones) has become a shrine to horses; nomads place the skulls of their fastest steeds here after death to bring them closer to the sky.

The nomadic lifestyle is one of keeping livestock. Herds of sheep, goats, cows, horses and yaks like this one roam the plains happily chewing the cud all day long.

All roads outside the capital city Ulaanbaatar were a little sketchy, and our tour almost came to a halt a couple of times.

But luckily we always made it home in time for a warm mug of airag (fermented mare's milk), as modelled by our driver.

We stayed a night by the beautiful Lake Ogii for a little twilight horse riding, and to feed the local clouds of midges...

...and maybe also for a photo op for Tigs with our guide Otgoo and our driver Kolai.

On our final tour day we bumped into a very modern nomad...

...and had an encounter with the wild Prejevalsky horses in a mountain nature reserve where they are being reintroduced. Smaller, sturdier and quite genetically different from our horses, there are only 300 of these native horses in Mongolia.

Back on the Trans-Siberian Railway we crossed the border into Russia and passed the enormous Lake Baikal, so vast and deep that it holds one-fifth of the all fresh water in the entire world.

Continuing our lap of the nations liquids, we all found time to tuck into some local beers...

...all of which made our learning of the Cyrillic alphabet a little more difficult. This train station is Novosibirsk, apparently.

For the last three days of the 6400km journey to our final destination Moscow, we passed through the seemingly endless birch and fir trees of the Taiga forests. The Taiga is the world's largest terrestrial biome, containing one third of all trees on the planet.

As we emerge from the forest, our TiggerTour draws to a close. With a little over 55,000km under our belts it's probably time to plant a few trees ourselves. Time for a little reflection...

For now, that's all from us but we'll be back for many more (although somewhat shorter) TiggerTours in the future.

Thank you all for reading, and remember - if you've had half as much fun reading this as we have doing it, then we've had twice as much fun as you.

Much love,
Team Tiger

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only twice as much? We feel much better now- it sure looked like a LOT more than that.

Thanks for the fantastic photos and the fine writing. We aspire to Tig's level one day!