March 31, 2013

Hustai National Park and the Ger

The Hustai National Park in Mongolia is not far from Ulaanbaatar – approx 100km and is home to the Przewaslki Horse. Viewing the przewaslki horse is a goal of any visitor who comes to the park. Coming into the park there is a large sand dune which we stopped at. Weirdly, there growing wild around the place was rhubarb! It wasn’t a weed, apparently it’s native and perfectly normal to find it growing there. I’ve only ever know it as something you’d grow in the garden, but there you go!



Their visitor center in the national park was quite informative and well worth worth stopping by if you had a chance. They also sell some souvenirs there and there’s a bit of a cafe, as well as some good toilets and showers to compliment the ger tents (traditional mongolian homes) that can be found there for tourists/researchers to stay in.

Ger camp at park headquarters

Ger camp at park headquarters

That afternoon we went on “safari”, on the lookout for the przewaslki horse. We had a few sightings, with the guides spotting a rather large herd away up in the hills. I’m sure they spent about 20mins trying to point them out to us, but eventually with the help of some of our photographic gear, we all spotted them. It never ceases to amaze me that guides in these places can spot wildlife seemingly so easy while the visitors (including me) seem to struggle. Safari’s here are different to safaris in africa, because over there you don’t get out of the vehicle. Here you can. Nothing really dangerous round here, except some wolves (supposedly). So not only did our guides get us out of the car but also sent us out exploring, as long as you don’t get too close to the wildlife (as in all national parks), you’re pretty right. Walking around the hills of the national park was great, and a bonus on the way back was rounding the bend to find a group of about 4 horses just off to the side sheltered in a little natural dugout. This actually proved one of the highlights, because there’s nothing like seeing wildlife in their natural habitat doing they things they normally do. So this time we watched as one horse tried to break his way into the other group, then literally being booted out with a double hind kick to the gut by one of the other horses!

No, you're OUTTA HERE!

No, you’re OUTTA HERE!

After that highlight, we headed off to our accommodation for the night. We were actually staying somewhere else, with a local family in one of their ger’s. I’m not sure whether they were actually in the national park or not, we did ask, but they didn’t really know, it seemed they didn’t even know where the boundary of the national park was!

Our hosts ger and animal yards

Our hosts ger and animal yards

They live a very simple life – there were 3 gers, one was for them, two for tourist groups, and only one toilet (a drop toilet), probably about 70-100m away from the gers (mainly for the visitors I suspect). They lived by the river during summer, which was when we were there, then in the winter packed up and moved to the shelter of the hills. They had herds of goats, some cows and horses. No power, some solar panels on the roof which powered some lights, mobile phone chargers and of course the tv!

Solar panel, satellite dish, tv inside...

Solar panel, satellite dish, tv inside…

We had some afternoon tea when we eventually found the gers (doesn’t seem to be any roads, just little tracks all over the place), spent some time with the kids playing archery and soccer and just watched the family do their normal farming stuff. Had some traditional mongolian food for tea – although didn’t seem too much different to African (in fact a whole lot less variety than there). Potato, rice and beef cooked in different pots, simple and filling. Amazing scenery, a great sunset and moonrise and a fire kept us entertained at night, which all added to the wonderful hospitality received from our hosts. It’s really hard to put into words the beauty of this place. For me, I love open spaces, I love standing on hills and staring in awe at the view and God’s creation. The hills of Mongolia are an area unlike I’ve ever seen and the simplicity of life would be compensated 100 times over by the view, . In winter however, I’m sure it would be a different story and the beauty of the surrounding area would become as harsh and isolating as the seemingly unending wind and snow. All I can say is if you ever get the chance to visit Mongolia and spend some time away from the cities, do it – whether you’re a scenic person or not, either way you’ll end up appreciating life a whole lot more. You’ll either be glad you don’t live there, or feel privileged to see some amazing views.

River winding away, national park in the background

River winding away, national park in the background

We left early the next morning to return to Ulaanbaatar, passing through some more amazing scenery, hills as far as the eye can see, but surprisingly very few birds and other animals around.

Back in Ulaanbaatar, there was a few hours left to do a few things – mainly grab some souvenirs. It poured rain here in Ulaanbaatar, water absolutely everywhere and flash flooding. Spent some extended time in the souvenir shop, but still not extended enough and ended up running home in the rain. Stocked up on food from the pretty ordinary supermarket (supposedly it was a big one with lots of stuff, but had nothing actually useful to any of us) and had a farewell meal at a local Mongolian restaurant to finish.




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