3Nations: Off to Mongolia

Previous 3Nations entries can be found on the Expedition page

Sunday 19th July 2009
The Chinese believe in the whole good/bad balance, they call it yin yang. This morning, at least was... well... balanced.

Good: We were getting a flight to Mongolia today! woo hoo
Bad: We had to leave the hotel at 3am to get to the airport

Good: We were given rice cakes on the bus
Bad: That was the only food we got til the plane as everything was shut at the airport

Good: We arrived at the check out desk the designated 3 hours before departure
Bad: No one told the airline staff this, they didn't start check in til an hour and a half after we arrived.

Good: The flight was relatively short
Bad: The flight was relatively bumpy

But all that didn't matter... we were all successfully transported to Mongolia, the main part of the expedition experience. If only we could say the same thing for the luggage. Heather was unfortunately without a bag, a hour or so of investigation... and getting us to all line up with our bags to make sure that none of us had it by accident... revealed that it had fallen off the luggage cart on the runway in China. errr, opps

Ulaanbaatar Airport, it's really small... only two gates!
Just before setting off on the coaches, we were introduced to our Mongolian scouts, they would be paired with an aravt (group... kind of like a patrol) for the length of our stay in Mongolia. I am a part of the Lion Aravt, and Anne is our Mongolian scout

go Lions!

... we rock...

Sorry, just a little bit of Lion PRIDE coming out there...

you know it's rude to groan out loud like that!

Anyway... it wasn't that long a trip to the camp site, located just outside the Bogd Khan National Park (on the south side, near the Manzushir Monastary and Zuunmod). It was an absolutely stunning spot.

Stunning isn't it...

Absolutely unbelievable, completely untouched and incredibly fresh (well the freshness was extremely noticeable given that we had just traveled from the smog of Beijing!). The grass even had some wild thyme in it... so when walking about you would kick it up and get a lovely whiff of it.

As you can see from the photos above, not all of the gers had been built (they're the 'tents' that Mongolian Nomads use)

Ger Building 101:
First, start off with the floor
... and some confused looking Mongolian scouts
Put together the center of the roof in the middle of the floor area 

Tie together the curved trellis like walls (all 5 of them)


... wait for Mongolian guy to fix your work....

Get some people to hold the roof centre upright in the middle of the floor area

Attach the roof slats, slotting them into the central wheel and looping the horse hair string to the trellis

Getting there...
woo hoo!

Cover roof with layer of cotton like fabric

Cover roof and walls in thick wool

Get someone to climb onto the roof

Final top layer of cotton like material (white of course)

Strap it all in...

... and stick two posts in at the door

And Bobs your estranged sibling of one of your parents (ok uncle then- but am sticking with the estranged, fine then.... just strange then)

Notice some people digging in the background in some of those photos? Well... that's people digging out the toilets. I'll leave those details* out, am sure you'll thank me.

With the completion of the gers and the toilets it was time to officially open the camp with a little ceremony. The Scouting, Mongolian, Union and Austrian flags were all raised over the camp, and the Mongolian part of the expedition was underway. Which is when Troll decided to surprise us with a gift. Our very own Mongolian top!

That's the Mongolian scouts being presented with the expedition neckies
Each aravt had its own set of colours, the Lions were red and silver, and it had Mongolia written in Mongolian script on it. Very classy. I still wear it to some camps actually

 Random lessons learned:
  • 80 people in a queue to check in at stupid o'clock in the morning can have an uncanny resemblance to human-pick-up-sticks.
  • Sitting next to Stu on a plane can be hazardous to your health (number of flights so far=2, number of people beside stu throwing up=2, number of others throwing up=0... coincidence?).
  • Tiny, little, sweet, innocent Beth can be a force to be reckoned with when she is trying to get the bus to sing.
  • In Mongolia, large stage coaches are apparently classed as off road vehicles.
  • ... either that or anything resembling a brown smudge on the ground is classed as a road.
  • The in fight magazine informed us that it is actually socially acceptable to throw bricks at cars that run red lights in China! 
*Throughout the Mongolian part of the trip the conversation regularly turned to toilet matters... things like colour, consistency and even artistic impression were discussed. This is how sophisticated we were, and this is what I will spare you from in the future! (except when I publish the International Toileting Badge requirements later- and yes we came up with all the requirements while away)

Again, thanks to those that let me borrow steal their photos