What’s Mongolia without a visit to the GER camps! The Terelj National Park was definitely one of the many highlights of my Trans Siberian Trip. On Day 2, we checked out of J Hotel and took only a day pack with us for the night. We made our way to famous Chinggis Khan Statue and spent about an hour discovering the Mongolian culture.
“Genghis Khan, the fearsome Mongolian warrior who conquered half the known world in the 13th century, is remembered for his brutalities and destruction. But to Mongolians, he is a national hero, a larger-than-life figure and the symbol of Mongolian culture, and for good reasons. Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history, revived the Silk Road, uniting tribes and was responsible for cementing the position of Mongols on the world’s map.” – Amusing Planet
This gigantic statue was erected at Tsonjin Boldog back in 2008. It was seriously massive. I’ve not seen a man on a horse that huge before. I was told it is the biggest equestrian statue in the world. Whoa.. Bucketlist checked! The exhibition hall was located in the basement inside the building and they displayed an array of weapons and other stuffs (too many things and i’m back at remembering museum artifacts after a month or two) used during the Mongol empire. I had the opportunity to ascend to the top of the horse’s head via an elevator and walked out of Genghis Khan’s lower body (more like.. you get the drill). I was looking forward to put on a Mongol’s outfit but they wouldn’t let me take it up to the horse’s head. Damn it! Oh well, it was pretty cool to see “Genghis Khan” up front!
What a great start to the day! We made a pitstop at Terelj Ovoo. It was a pile of rocks, which looked like it was accumulated over a long period of time. The tradition was to walk around the rocks three times in a clockwise direction, make a wish and throw a stone. I was feeling all spiritual. There were a lot of Buddhism influence in Mongolia. Even the five colours on the Ovoo (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, White) – each represented a specific element.
We arrived at the GER camp just in time for lunch. We were served fried mongolian dumpling, grilled vegetables, desserts and free flow of coffee and tea. I helped myself to some local beers too. Once our stomachs were filled, we went for a hike over the hill and made our way to the Aryapala International Meditation Centre (AIMC). It was about 11 degrees and thankfully, the parka kept me warm. The hike was a pretty challenging with fashion boots (I left my sports shoes in Ulaanbaatar) and took us about 2.5 hours in total. It is true! If you love outdoors like I do, you will love the lush greenery, rolling hills and vast amount of land Mongolia has to offer. How to not fall in love with the beauty of mother nature?!
Upon entering the meditation centre, there were hundreds of boards with Dharma scriptures and enlightenment quotes. I tried my very best to read each and every one of them as I go. 108 is a religious number in Buddhism and there were exactly 108 steps to climb before reaching the top. There weren’t many tourist at the site and it was rather nice to go on your own pace on the way back to the yurt. The day seemed to be longer and we had some time in the evening for an archery session with Tuya, our Mongolian tour leader. She guided us through the basic techniques of how to release the arrow.
Archery was pretty damn fun, but it was also getting really chilly. My parka clearly wasn’t enough and I needed two extra layers and a thick coat to keep me warm. We headed back to the main dining room for a ‘Dumpling Making Session’. The dumplings were going to be our dinner and I was pretty excited to get shit done before we all start starving in the cold. Tuya led us step by step on how to wrap a perfect dumpling and we totally nailed it. 80 dumplings off to the steamer and it was a feast!
It was a long day and we called it a night early. My GER camp-mates were Marichka, Kristy and Kristina. Our fire kept going out and they had to restart the fire several times. It was getting really, really cold and to our surprise, it snowed the next morning. I woke up to a blizzard of snow! Well, not really.. but it was SUMMER! The mongolian yurts were covered with snow and the view was spectacular! I left with a heavy heart but it was one of the most memorable part of the journey. The best is yet to come.