Under the starlit Mongolian sky

Known for its particular and sincere hospitality, nomadic lifestyle and truly stunning nature, Mongolia has become a dream destination for many travelers. Mostly those are backpackers who are too tired from all the regular sightseeing in the cities and going around popular destinations. Mongolia is a perfect country where to be as close to the nature as possible yet where there is also a great cultural and historical legacy being well preserved by the proud Mongolians themselves. The following story is just a small bit of a one month trip me and my twin sister did in Mongolia and it is also just one of many examples of how one should always be ready for plenty of unexpected occurrences that one might stumble upon in this vast yet warm country. Especially if you happen to be two blue-eyed European twins, hitch-hiking and hiking around the country with light backpacks and a tent as your only possessions.

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The beginning of the particular story can be traced back to our adventures in Ulaanbaatar where we were introduced with some seemingly important government officials and got to enjoy their hospitality (and some misunderstandings, too, of course) for several days. Long story short (as this is worth writing separate story about), we decided to hop in a train going any first random location heading from Ulaanbaatar train station. This took us to Zunharaa – completely regular Mongolian village with nothing too significant t offer if you think in more touristy terms of what one might see and do there. Yet we were not complaining. After finding ourselves in the most gorgeous Mongolian countryside with paradise-like sceneries (horses wildly roaming and swimming in the rivers, rough looking yet always smiling nomads riding their motorcycles on the deserted land, children curiously waving at us and giving warm greetings), we spent 2 days walking around 30km to the nearest town which sometimes turned out to be physically exhausting because of the heat but also provided some spectacular sceneries and gave us overall piece about getting out of the pollution, rush and crowdedness of UB city.

As we got out of the more or less wilderness, we ended up trying to catch a ride to Darkhan from where we would head to Amarbayasgalant Khiid – one of the three largest Buddhist monastic centers in Mongolia. Actually, we did not even have to try much. As soon as we made our first steps on the asphalted road, a car stopped. Without understanding much in English, the two guys in the car seemed friendly enough and we understood that we are heading the same direction. After a stop where it was simply impossible refuse all the food that was given to us, with lots of gestures and attempts, we came to a conclusion that the two friends are, in fact, about to spend 2 nights camping by the river which is exactly on the way to Amarbayasgalant Khiid.

Our Mongolian language knowledge could not have been closer to zero yet our new friends new exactly three words in English which turned out to be enough for us to understand that the smiling company offers us to camp with them and afterwards when they have to hit the road home to Ulanbataar, we would be dropped off at the monastery. The plan sounded good enough and as our time in Mongolia had just begun, there were no plans such turn of events could have ruined.

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What started as a calm trip to the riverside with two unknown drivers turned out in 2 nights under starred sky singing national songs, sharing a bowl of traditional Mongolian vodka and some local beer (only afterwards we found out that the impact in from of hangover will be quite impressive), pulling fishes out of the river and later on cooking them on fire. It did not take much when what began as a company of 4 was extended with some friends and even one adorable Mongolian kid who to our surprise was allowed to sip beer. Lack of language skills from both sides where still enough for us to discuss politics, explain bits and pieces from our cultures and tell some stories from our lives back in Latvia – a country they had very little clue about.

So, the two nights passed. The hangover vanished and we were ready to hit the road. Upon saying goodbye to us, we realized we have established very strange sort of a friendship here. One that probably won’t last longer but will surely be encapsulated in our stories. One of the fishes we had recently pulled out of river was being put in our hands with some 3-step instructions on how we are supposed to prepare it. „UB city, phone, my two friends, yes-okay?” are the last words we get to hear from our friend and, in fact, it is more than enough for us to understand that we will receive a warm welcome back in the capital. But to be honest, we liked it the way it was. Out of the rush, under the starry Mongolian sky.

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