Another Water Spot of Chinggis’

Baggy adds some stones and a prayer to the ovoo at the Chinggis Monument in Dadal

I did not mention it earlier but when we were doing our four Aimag, 2,500 kilometre, 4 1/2 day off road jaunt around the Khan Bank branches earlier this year, one of the places we stopped at was in Khentii Aimag and it was the soum of Dadal. Dadal is famous for being the area that Chinggis Khaan was supposed to have been born in. It is a really beautiful area full of trees, mountains, valleys and fresh mountain streams.Near the soum of Dadal is a spring that issues forth from the side of a hill. The water from this spring is clear and cold and really quite refreshing. The spring is famous in the area for being the spring that Chinggis drank at. Local legend has it that the water now has a curative effect, being particularly good for your stomach. I must admit to having felt worse for wear before drinking the water and feeling a lot better later that day.

Baggy gets me some water from the stream that appears from the mountain at this point

I must also report that Baggy, my ever faithful translator and aide confidante, found the opposite to be the case, and his condition deteriorated during the day. Mind you, Baggy always maintains that whatever bad happens to me happens to him two days later.

The Hunter

It was while we were visiting Dadal in Khentii Aimag (the Dadal area is thought by the Mongolians to be the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan) that Thomo was feeling a little blue. We had been travelling for a few days, covering a fair bit of territory (by this time we had travelled south almost to the Chinese border and then north almost to the Russian Border). I had been away from showers, comfortable beds and what have you and I was missing contact with family and some friends (the ever faithful translator and Aide Confidante, Baggy, was at least with me and that eased some of the blues).

“Let’s go to the hunting museum!” was the call after we had visited Chinggis’ birthplace. Off we went then. I must admit, I had no idea what to expect. However, I met a truly wonderful man by the name of Zunduidorj. He was (or rather still is) a hunter. He is 86 years old and is a truly inspiring person to talk to. He has hunted bear, wolf, deer and such and he has examples in his museum (see behind the picture). However, he is not at all wanton in that hunting, killing enough to feed his family and provide food for the local Soum, or what was required from the government licenses.

He does, however, have a wonderful love and respect for the environment, the trees, the animals, the weather and the spirits. Talking with him was for me a most uplifting experience. He finished our visit with him by presenting me with a container he had made himself. It was full of dried milk (if you give a container to someone in Mongolia as a gift, it should not be empty when given). He also called a wolf for me (after making me promise I would not try to do this, record the sound or to copy it).

I promised him that if I returned to Khentii after being back in Australia I would bring him something for his museum, something related to Australian animals, perhaps some shark teeth or crocodile teeth.

I should finish with a note about promises in Mongolia. A promise should be kept. If, for example, you say “I promise to buy you dinner tomorrow” and you you do not buy dinner, then this is bad. You will lose respect from a Mongolian. Better to say “I will TRY and buy you dinner tomorrow” and make sure the word “try” is emphasised.

To the hunter, however, all I can say is that he is a truly remarkable man and if you travel to Mongolia and Khentii in particular, visit the museum. Leave him 5,000 tugrigs as well as a “gift” to help him get his book written and published.

Road Distance Signs (Milestones)

I’ve just spent a week driving around Mongolia …. well, more like being driven around 🙂 Now, over most of the country there are not much in the way of roads, more like tracks, and these are pretty much totally unmarked. However, there are a couple of main roads running through the country. One, for example, runs from the Russian border in the north, through Ulaanbaatar to the Chinese border in the south, paralleling the railway line.

One of the interesting things on these roads is the travelling distance signs (milestones they would have been in the dim dark days of the past). For example, in Australia, if I was driving to Sydney on the Pacific Highway and I saw a sign that said ’85’, then that sign is telling me I have 85 kilometres to go before reaching Sydney. The next sign I saw might say ’80’, telling me I had 80 kilometres to go, and so on.

The signs like this (and the old milestones for that matter) are the same and work like this in every country I have been to …. except Mongolia.

Here, if I am driving from Ulaanbaatar and I see a sign on the side of the road that says ’80’, then it is telling me not that there is 80 kilometres to go until the next town is reached but rather it is saying that I have travelled 80 kilometres FROM Ulaanbaatar. The next sign I see may then say ’85’.

Before poo pooing this, think. When giving directions in Australia we generally say something like “head up the Pacific Highway about 80 kilometres and look for the turn” not “head up the Pacific Highway until you are 240 kilometres from the next town and then turn right.” The Mongolian system makes it easier to do this.

The picture is a manually powered ferry that we had to use during the Road Trip to cross one of the rivers here (the Onon gol in Khentii).

Two Camels, No Roadsigns — Hell, No Roads

I had to travel last week. The job required me to get out and about in our branches so we packed the car, and set off. The troop was our driver, his son who accompanied us as it was school holidays, Baggy, the faithful and long suffering translator and aide confidante and Thomo. We left Ulaanbaatar around lunchtime on Monday and headed south to Sukhbaatar Aimag (province/state). From Sukhbaatar, we would head north, passing through the edge of Dornod and then into Khentii Aimag, after which, we would return to Ulaanbaatar five days later.

Wonderful trip. We stopped and looked at bank branches in nine Soums (towns), one Aimag Centre (main provincial town) and a small village. The country folk were wonderful and some of the scenery was just totally inspiring.

At one point as we travelled along, two camels atop a hill watched our progress. It should be noted too that in the countryside, there are no road signs pointing the next town. Hell, there are no roads – just tracks – and some of them are hard to see if they are not travelled often.

Come visit Mongolia, but if you want to get off the beaten track (that would be the main north-south highway) then connect with one of the local tour people – or drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with some reputable groups. Come see the countryside though, it is an experience you will remember. I will get some more photos up in Thomo’s Hole Proper soon – in the meantime, here is the highway we followed from Baruun-urt, the Aimag Centre of Sukhbaatar Aimag to Norovlin in Khentii Aimag.