Our final full day of activities in Mongolia was in an area known as the White Stupa. Thousands and thousands of years ago, this entire area was under the ocean which led to the landscape being unlike anything I had ever seen before. From the top of the 40 meter cliffs where we started you could look down on hundreds of small hills that seemed to have been transplanted straight out of the sea. The walls had distinct colors of orange, peach, and purples that perfectly played out the erosion that had taken place over all that time.
We were told that we were free to explore however we chose and our guide took me over to a “less dangerous” way to get down the cliff face. Well, it still looked pretty straight down to me, but hey, when are you going to risk your life than in Mongolia, right? So, down I went. It was only till I came face-to-face with a snake (for whom I almost stepped on) that I paused. I had no earthly idea whether this creature could kill me or not but I had better be safe rather than “dying alone in a crevasse” sorry. Soon the rest of my crew followed suit and the snake moved to greener pastures while we continued to explore.
We climbed all over the vast area, through tunnels and over hills, just taking in the breathtaking scenery. Once we were through, we headed to a camel and goat farm nearby where we would be staying for the night. The land was as flat as a board and we were allowed total freedom to wander. I took this opportunity to take a gorgeous, solo walk as far as I could go. Mongolia is known as the “Land of the blue sky” because there is rarely a cloud to darken it. I have never seen anything like the sky in Mongolia, day or night, it is awe-inspiring.
One of my favorite parts of this stay were the goats. This farm was home to over 100 goats, all whom I wanted to be friends with. Unfortunately, they were adamant about this not happening. In the evening, once the sun had set and a headlamp was the only means of guidance, it was eery to shine the light towards the heard and see no less than 200 glowing eyes staring back at you. Needless to say, I tried not to pee to much that evening. That, and, something about the outhouse attracted these goats and the swarmed it at one point. Thankfully no one was inside as 50 goats started banging and gnawing at the bathroom shed.
Speaking of bathrooms, here is a typical Mongolian bathroom that we used during our time in the Gobi. It’s basically just what it looks like: a deep hole in the ground topped with an ancient wooden shell with two planks to stand on. You’re super lucky if there happens to be a door. (Although, being momentarily trapped in a stall because of said door is one of the worst moments in you life, I’ll have you know.) I was so happy I had bought a Freshette (female urinary directional device) before this trip which allowed me to stand up and pee. Most of us ended up just using mother nature for the majority of the trip. Oh, and don’t even think about showering.
When we sat down for dinner, our hosts had prepared goat, vegetables, rice, and mare’s milk vodka. The goat was seasoned with only salt and the cooked veggies but it was some of the most flavorful meat I’d ever had. I guess that goes to show the benefits of free range meat. Also, the mare’s milk vodka is famous in Mongolia (and the world, I suspect) which is made by fermenting the milk for a number of days and it is always offered to guests who visit. It is customary to finish the bowl, but it would not be offensive to return it after a few sips. It would be unwise to refuse it altogether. The taste was bitter but wasn’t unpleasant in the least. We were also offered bread and fresh goat’s butter. The butter still had a layer of fat on it and was creamy and delicious.
As the day was coming to a close we all stood out and watched our final, glorious, Gobi sunset. The majesty of the country and the memories that were made washed over me like a flood. This place had become so special to me so quickly and the Mongolian people had been so generous with their homes and time. If I can recommend anywhere in all my travels I would tell you to get yourself to Mongolia. Get yourself there before the rest of the world realizes what they’ve been missing. It’s more than a gem, it’s an entire treasure.