Naadam Festival in Mongolia
by Claudia Fiedler
After 4 days with perfect weather, we returned to Bond Lake guesthouse and after having settled in, the area was inundated with heavy rain which leaked through the roof of the guesthouse (but our room stayed mostly dry). We stayed two days at the guest house while I explored the surrounding area and Bayarlai tried to organize a vehicle that would us take to White Lake and Tsetserleg.
After having found 4 more travellers, Laura and Leonora from England and Gabriel and Steffi from Switzerland, who were cycling around Mongolia, we negotiated our fare and left for Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur (Great White Lake). The lake is located in Arkhangai Province, a 10 hour ride from Khovsgol. We got to the lake at about midnight and had to look for accommodation. the first tourist camp charged $30 per person for a ger; too expensive for all of us.
The next camp was a small family camp with about 5 gers and the people there were happy to accommodate us. Gab and Steffi slept in their tent and we four went into the ger. It was cold but the family made a fire in the stove and it got hot were fast. One of the family members told us there was Naadam at the village of Tariat. Leonora and I decided to take the van as I wanted to hike back the 10km and also did not want to pay 5000Tugrug for the horse. This was our first exposure to Nadaam.
The Naadam festival, or eriyn gurvan naadam, is the biggest festival
of the year for Mongolians. Usually occurring in July, it runs for two or three days in all parts of the country and highlights the greatest athletes in horse racing, archery, and wrestling: Mongolia's most popular sports. Women participate in all but the wrestling category. The word Naadam means game or competition in Mongolian.
In Tariat, it was the last day of Nadaam which wrestling being the only sport to be seen in the arena. The horse races were outside of town but we got to see the young winners parading in circles in the arena. People ate lots of Huushur, fried mutton dumplings, ice cream and drank their favorite drink, airag.
It was good to see Nadaam on a small scale as it was possible to walk around and watch people and animals from close distance. I decided to hike back to camp and traversed volcanic landscapes without noticing that I am walking below the extinct Khorgo Uul volcano. I realized that I missed the volcano when I reached high ground and circled a huge ovoo three times. From the high point, I had a great view of the lake and the mountains.
I loved White lake and would have spent 1 week there, hiking and horseback riding around the lake and into the mountains. Compared to Lake Khovsgol, White Lake offered better scenery and more tranquility. It was my kind of place, a happy place for me. We only stayed two days as we had to make our way to Tsetserleg since the van had to be in UB on the 10th.