Camel ride in Mongolia
by Kyle and Dan
Camel ride in Mongolia
Camel ride in Mongolia
Gun Galuut Nature Reserve: Endangered Animals and Nomads
Excitement was in the air when we left Terelj National Park for our third destination in Mongolia, Gun Galuut Nature Reserve. A Selena Travel itinerary dictated our trip in Mongolia and the plans were for us to accomplish a lot in the beautiful reserve. First, we were to visit our second ger camp of the trip, and then we were supposed to go horseback riding across the steppe to try and spot some endangered argali sheep and white-naped cranes, among many other animals. On our second day at Gun Galuut, we were due to visit a nomadic family, where we would spend the night after going camel riding on the steppe. Besides the planned activities, a lot of walking was in store for us as well as free time to relax and enjoy the Mongolian countryside.
The drive from Terelj National Park to Gun Galuut Nature Reserve lasted around two hours; our driver, Rentsen, drove just as crazily as he had driven the previous day. We asked our guide, Chaagii, about the road that Rentsen was driving along, as it was in fairly good condition, and Chaagii told us that some Japanese investors had built many roads through the Mongolian countryside; we think that it was probably in exchange for land as Chaagii pointed out several buildings and a golf course that had all been built by Japanese or Korean investors.
During the journey, we passed a construction site where an enormous, shiny silver statue of Chinggis (Ghengis) Khan, sitting nobly atop one of his horses, was in the process of being built.
The statue was nearly complete and Chaagii told us that a museum was also being built on the site; everything was due to open in 2008. Mongolians are extremely proud of Chinggis Khan and the area will definitely allow them to pay tribute to the famous and successful conqueror. We only made one stop on the way to Gun Galuut, to purchase some bottled water; therefore, we shortly arrived at the entrance to the reserve and Rentsen was soon speeding along the dirt track leading into the vast steppe.
...Back at the camp, we waited for Chaagii and the kids to get back from the walk. We passed the time by playing the card game "S***head" but once everyone returned, we taught Chaagii and the kids the card game "War", which was easy enough to play with little children, especially little children that didn't speak any English! The next activity that evening was camel riding and we played cards for a couple of hours whilst waiting for the camels to be saddled and prepped for the ride. The kids loved the card game; after playing for a while,
we had to slightly fix the game, by secretly looking at our cards before flipping them over, to ensure that the little girl won each time, so that the little girl in the family ended up winning. She went to bed very happy that evening!
Once we finished playing "War", we went outside to take a look at the camels and the horses that the family used for horseracing in national competitions. The family has won several medals and they were very good at breaking in horses. We were able to meet the father of the nomadic family and a couple of his cousins who help him with the work.
The oldest child in the family took us on the camel ride. The ride was really fun; Dan had never ridden a camel before and it had been several years since Kyle's experience in Egypt. Riding the camels was not very comfortable because the saddles were no more than thin rugs, and the camels were quite thin and bony; also, the camels were in the middle of molting, whereby they lose their thick winter fur to be able to survive the hot Mongolian summers. With the camels being in the middle of the molting stage, the already-ugly-but-still -cute animals were even more ugly-but-still-a-little -bit-cute animals. The poor things stank and really needed to have gone to the river with us and the kids earlier that day.
The way we mounted the camels was much different than mounting a horse. The camels were lying on their stomachs with their legs folded under themselves. As soon as we climbed on their backs, the nomadic boy made a noise and the camels stood up, first with the back legs and then with the front legs. This was a little scary because the animals were so tall; we felt twice as high as we did on the horses during our ride the day before.
Our ride only lasted one hour because we had to get back in time to eat dinner. The journey went over some rough terrain and, at one point, all of the camels were running quickly along the steppe. As the camels traveled forwards, we were rocking forwards and backwards with their movements. The pain we felt by bouncing up and down on the camels backs was immense (bear in mind that we told you above that the camels did not have padded saddles) but, despite the pain, the ride was enjoyable. However, we were glad to finally get back to camp and climb off the camels. Just to let you know, we decided to skip out on the second hour of riding after dinner, because we felt a bit bruised from all of the animal riding we had done over the past 24 hours.