Horse Trek in Mongolia Part Nine

Thursday June 23          Nomad Hospitality      Trek to Tavn Bogd base camp

Today was to offer spectacular views of the high peaks and glaciers, but we wake to low mist, drizzle and snow on the ground. Amy helps me take down the wet tent, commenting that the weather is not usually this cold and rainy. My rain parka has seen too many years – it soaks through before I even get to the breakfast tent. It will be one of those days.

For most of the morning the clouds are content to drizzle on us, although wind-whipped, heavier rain turning to snow dogs our tracks. Up and over ridges, narrow paths above steep gorges, rocks and uneven turf – the horses never hesitate. By noon we are all dripping wet and chilled to the bone.

Eddie has a friend he wants to visit in this high country, but has made no arrangements for our coming.

Dosjan rides up to the ger, opens the door and walks in, as is the custom among nomads, only to find the four occupants asleep. The idea of a crowd of soggy strangers descending without warning on this family and filling their ger to overflowing exceeds my comprehension, but hospitality is given unhesitatingly.   Water for tea is put on the stove, cheese and dried yogurt are set out, and freshly baked bread, no doubt intended for the family’s dinner, is cut.

I had read about nomad hospitality, how any stranger could walk into a ger and be fed and sheltered, no questions asked, no thanks expected. To experience it is deeply moving. I doubt that anything in my time here will be more memorable.

Patty gathers the children together to pass out her airplanes and bubble makers. Eddie chats with his friend through Dosjan as translator. Dosjan doesn’t speak Tuvan and the man doesn’t speak Kazakh or Mongolian, but they find common ground in Russian. The friend is ill; he has been to a doctor in Ulgii several times, but we are not sure what the problem is.

He is almost 60, looks 80. Average life span here is 60-65.

After tea and airag, we view the family’s handicrafts, feeling a genuine obligation to buy.

We ride onward and upward, pausing for lunch on a windswept bit of grass above a gorge.

The afternoon weather is no better than the morning’s, and Tavn Bogd base camp (really just the place where people camp to climb the nearby peaks) is anything but welcoming. Setting up tents in the wind is a multi-person endeavor.

We all crawl in and seek the warmth of our sleeping bags, doing our best to keep them off the wet floor until the wind can dry the tent’s interior. Amy and Eddie, thoughtful as ever, have the staff prepare tea and coffee to serve in our tents. Later we go to the party tent for more vodka martinis.

The weather eases a bit afterwards, and a few of the keener hikers scale the moraine across from camp to view the glacier.

For the rest of us, it’s early to bed.  Tomorrow will be the last day of our trek.

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