November 22, 2018
We’re back after a week in the valley.
It’s an enormous space made of steppes and a multitude of small frozen rivers, lined by high hills. Erdenee has placed at our disposal the very large yurt that is unused during the winter.
The day after we settle in, he brings back a whole team of nomads to help him double the existing felt covering, edge the bottom of the yurt with a layer of dirt, and cut wood with a chainsaw.
After having shown us on a map where our nearest neighbours are (their camps are between 3 and 8 km from ours), he leaves us the keys and a good old shepherd dog to watch over our new residence.
Over the days and aboard the Toy, which for the occasion has resumed service, we travel through the different areas of the valley, as one might explore a new playground, crossing peat bogs and frozen rivers. At one turn of a track, we cross a long column, a transhumance of yaks.
In the weakening light of this cold day, the atmosphere is unreal. It is no longer 2018, but two centuries earlier, on the foothills of the Himalayas.
Responding to visits by nomads, who come to warm up by our stove with a cup of some Iranian tea, we make many visits to the different campsites.
Here again, at the sight of many nomads wrapped up in their Deels (long Mongolian coats), a second skin that they never remove, and of the smoke-filled yurts with pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling, the atmosphere seems timeless.
We communicate with gestures and facial expressions, but without reaching the spontaneity of our friends in Greenland. Here people are reserved.
Of course, according to our needs, we will alternate with our base camp in the village located an hour and a half down the track.
Contrary to the image that one could have, the context is far from that of our Greenlandic life.
Here, whether in the village or in the valley, life is much tougher. We can even say “very basic”.
The first major difference is a wood-fired heating system : first we have to get the wood then we have to cut it. Unlike the Greenlandic oil stove, Mongolian wood stoves stop at night. We had temperatures as low as
-10°C inside the yurt in the morning when getting out of bed. It’s nothing, you get used to it, but how this will it be in the middle of winter when it’s -40° outside?
Another major difference is the collection of water. Here no filtered water is available 24/7 at fixed and maintained sites.
In the valley, it is necessary to look for the open water points on the frozen bank. And it is on the same small river that thousands of sheep, horses and yaks drink. Not to speak of the absence of communal houses that provide basic services such as showers and washing machines. Here it’s all done by hand!
As for the internet: there’s nothing in the valley and one gets 2 to 3 G at best in the village.
Another reason to relax and learn patience!
It is true that from this point of view Greenland is a good school.
I forgot the invitations to home-cooked dinners that would make a vegetarian wince…
In short, all this doesn’t keep us from appreciating the ruggedness of the great spaces of the Arkhangai and the area where we have landed, which besides being out of the tourist circuits happens to be one of the coldest areas of the country.
For the next seven days, we expect temperatures around -40°.
We will enjoy the warm season even more !
Translate by Marité Antognelli