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August 14th, 2003

Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Thembi and I had paired up to do a trip out to Terelj, a national reserve just outside of Ulaan Bataar, and at the last minute were joined by a Spanish couple, Jesus and Carolina. A mere ten minutes after our taxi left the guesthouse the city had more or less disappeared. Smooth, grassy foothills dominated the scenery for the hourlong drive to Terelj.

We were deposited outside of a small cluster of ger huts and met by a Mongolian woman who ushered us into the main hut for some tea. Perhaps "tea" is too generous a word: the main ingredient was milk which exuded more than a hint of sourness. The four of us all found it disagreeable, but Jesus and I did our best to politely drink a respectable amount.

After depositing our bags in our own ger hut, Thembi and I wandered around the nearby hills and rocks, taking in the magnificent Mongolian scenery. We were slated to go horseback riding at four in the afternoon, but by that time only one horse had been requisitioned. Worse yet, an ominous front of clouds was starting to move in. Sure enough the rain began soon thereafter, and our horse riding excursion had to be postponed. The temperature dropped noticeably, inducing us to pile some wood into the ger stove and light a fire. It was a spacious and comfortable tent, and easy to heat, but I couldn't imagine spending a Mongolian winter in it.

The rain turned to a drizzle just before sunset, so we mounted our quartet of horses so as not to let our excursion be a complete waste. I was on the most docile and responsive steed. Jesus' horse was an ornery beast, unwilling to follow orders no matter how many times it was kicked. We rode for about ninety minutes, during which the steady drizzle and chilly air made us all fairly miserable. The sole consolation was that we'd have a toasty warm ger waiting for us at the end of the ride.

The evening meal -- bread dumplings filled with mutton -- was palatable, though no one asked for seconds. The four of us whiled away the evening hours playing cards and finishing off the dregs of Thembi's vodka bottle.

Our humble home
View of Terelj from above
Rock formations
Another cluster of gers
Me in Terelj
Hail on the ground
Thembi and her horse
Me and my faithful steed
Mongolian sky at dusk

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