I had originally planned on posting about the entire day, but there is just too much information and too many photos, so I’m going to break it up over 2-3 days!
Several weeks ago I was given the name of a reputable tour company and the suggestion that we take a couple of their excursions. If you are ever in Mongolia, I highly recommend that you look into the tours provided by New Milestone Tours. They were timely, organized, friendly and their van was clean and comfortable. We also became fast friends with our guide and driver, Tulga! He is LDS and is hoping to attend BYU-Idaho in the near future! He had the MoTab CD, “Called to Serve”, in the van, and so we had some great music to listen to on the way home!
Also, just days before we headed out we found out that our friend Steve B.’s wife was in town visiting, so we invited her along on this tour! (Both Da and Steve had to work.) It was a fantastic idea and we enjoyed getting to know Janice immensely!
We were picked up at 9:00 at our apartment and headed out to Tsonjin Boldog, 54 KM out of Ulaanbaatar. On our way we stopped to get water (SO GLAD we thought to do this…more on that later) and then turned on the toll road that heads out into the country. We hadn’t gone very far when we came upon a man on the side of the street with two eagles and a vulture. Tulga told us that we could hold them if we want to, and WE SO DID! The price was MNT2000. I wonder when the Mongolians are going to catch on that they can charge MUCH MORE for these experiences! (MNT2000 is a little less than $2 USD.)
Those claws (see below) are pretty strong! We have bruises!
Mouse didn’t want to hold the bird, and so she got into a photo with Xuxu.
Star was not able to hold the eagle up in the air. She tried a couple of times,
but her arm always came back down. He was pretty heavy!
The shoulder hold turned out to be the perfect thing!
If she bounced up and down the bird would spread his wings.
Pie was also super shy about being near the bird, and so Xuxu dragged her over for a photo op.
This guy isn’t a part of our tour, but I had to take a photo just to show how large the vulture was! The vulture is only 6 mo. old and none of my girls wanted to hold him, so we passed on the opportunity!
I also took a turn holding the eagle. He was so beautiful!
Pie didn’t really want to get any closer to the birds than to watch us hold them, but the man running the show picked her up and placed her on the bench next to the bird and put her hand on its back! He didn’t ask, he just did it. As you can see, she isn’t too upset but also isn’t too excited about the whole thing. Thankfully the bird was pretty tame and didn’t seem to mind!
He then came over and placed her hand on the birds feet. Yep, that went over
It lasted just long enough for me to snap the picture and then she was OUT OF THERE!
Mouse was a little more willing, but still hesitant.
At least she smiled as long as she had her sister there with her!
Have you ever seen striped cows? We have! Who would have thought?
We finally reached our first destination of the day! This is a statue of Chenggis Kahn…
I know, I know! You’re all saying Chenggis who? We thought it was Genghis Khan?
Well, you’d be in good company because we always thought is was Genghis too! But, if you ask anyone here in Mongolia, they’ll tell you it is Chenggis. They would know!
So, if you want to hear for yourself, listen to the pronunciation here.
The girls are in this next photo. Can you find them?
Here is another photo with them closer to me!
This statue is the largest equestrian statue IN THE WORLD!
Inside the base of this massive statue is a boot, a traditional Mongolian boot, made of real leather!
It was awesome!
And of course, where you have a massive horse, and a massive boot you need a massive horse whip!
In the basement of this building we found a museum that contained thousands’s of bronze pieces found in this area of Mongolia. They were dated to be from the time of Chinggis Khan. (XIII Century)
- Did you know that Chinggis allowed freedom of religion in his kingdom? There are records of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and of course, the traditional religion of Mongolia, Shamanism. In the museum we saw a cross with Christ on it from 1210 A.D.! Yes, we did!
- It is also part of the story/myth that he fasted and prayed for three days before every conquest to make sure that this is what God wanted him to do.
- And, you’ll be interested to know that science has recently shown that 1 in every 200 men is a descendant of Chinggis Khan! (He only had 4 sons!)
(No photos allowed in the museum, but of course, we were told that we could buy the book!)
We saw a lot of the standard arrow points, some canons, lots of belt buckles and buttons.
The most amazing pieces for me were the swords and knives.
The workmanship was incredible and the quality so good that may of the pieces had no corrosion!
Our favorite piece: a whistling arrow head!
Can you imagine the sound of thousands of whistling arrow heads coming at you?
It would have an amazing psychological effect!
After we saw the museum we climbed the stairs (we don’t use elevators here in Mongolia because of the frequent power outages) to see the view from the head of the horse.
This view is looking out over the Tuul River from the top of the statue. Mongolia is so beautiful! I look forward to seeing this land in the spring and summer when it is lush and green. It actually reminds me a lot of central Utah/Idaho with its rolling hills, pine trees and low cover grass.
Here we all are, on the head of the horse, “riding in front of Chengghis!”
After leaving the statue, we continued to head East, away from Ulaanbaatar, toward one of Mongolia’s National Parks. There is nothing out here except Gers, herds of animals and the nomadic people that make up a little more than 50% of the population of Mongolia. (According to our guide.)
(I’ve heard numbers anywhere between 38%-50% of the population lives in Ulaanbaatar and its suburbs.)
We stopped several times along the way to attempt to capture the beauty of this place!
This photo (below) is the only time we saw Yaks.
This cute dog came to see us when we stopped to see a large herd of horse and was disappointed that we didn’t want to stay and play. In fact, we got in our car pretty quickly as soon as he got close. Tulga said he wasn’t worried, but we aren’t messing around with the prevalence of rabies in this part of the world!
He was a cute dog though!
In the winter time the nomadic families move their herds and their families to the base of the mountains to avoid the winter winds.
Occasionally we’ll see these wooden structures that are for the animals.
We were told that only animals that can stand the extreme temperatures (-40°F) are raised on the steppes.
(The dark smudge in the middle of this photo is a low manger.
It was far too dusty to keep changing lenses, so I didn’t have my zoom on the camera.)
We saw large herds of horses, cows (some yak), sheep, and goats.
The sheep and goats were usually together in the same herd.
We also saw several camels (6 being the largest number together at one time.)
We saw several herds of sheep/goats being driven by a herder on motorcycle.