Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lotus Refurbishment

MCS, the company that market Coca Cola in Mongolia, bought the building next to the Children’s centre for Lotus. Gek is setting up the centre’s craft workshop and visitors shop there. A leaky roof, no heating or water and ancient electricity. No problemo. Enter Gek the construction project manager,

and work a transformation. Using money that she has helped to raise herself through the sales of her art work and other projects, the building is well on track to be ready for the children’s return from the summer camp towards the end of August.

The heating water is coming from the main building’s boiler and needs to be deep in the ground and lagged to prevent the water from freezing in the pipes at 30 degs below.
Builders!!!!! The same the world over. I reckon they are all belong to a secret society……. Torsos.

Salt Lake

A salt lake near to Darkan. The picture was taken by Linda. Such a beautiful photograph.

Darkhan VSO

Cory, the guy with the meaty tea shirt, and crew at his leaving do. Filippino, French (recently of Cardiff, Wales), Dutch, Canadian, Singaporean and English. A typical VSO multi-national group. Best wishes for your future, my boy, and keep writing the songs.


Darkhan old and new with a Buddha sitting between the two. A tidy place with a population of 100,000. Mongolia’s second city.

A symbol of friendship in the centre of a round about. The first impression of Darkhan after the chaos of UB is made by the road system. Everything road seems to be an extra wide dual carriageway with no pot holes and few vehicles,

or the tree lined avenues. The 16 storey tower block is by far the tallest building in the “city” and it’s claim to fame? It has no lift. The most sparsely populated country on the planet, so why build high? To keep warm, silly!

Poole, the major outdoor pursuit. Well it is semi desert all a round. Darkhan is lower than UB sea level wise. Which accounts for the rivers running north into Russia. For some reason, I find that counter intuitive.

No prizes for guessing the inspiration for this little chap. Nice boots!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Going Home

The last meal stop before heading back to UB,

, a final swim in the river Onon.

and a last chance to shop for local dairy products.

The diary products production facilities.

The children were not phased by our sudden arrival, just curious.

Naked Camels

Bare camels. Mother clearly had got the hump at someone stealing her lovely warm coat!!!

Camp Mosquito

A new camp by the river Balj, 17 km north of Dadal. But mosquitoes rule here.

By night fall we were burning dried dung to drive the little beggars away. At one point we took the bucket into the cabin. It worked, giving us a bit free night.

But before the battle of the mosquitoes we had a chance to climb the hill

and contemplate the beauty of it all.

River Balj

The river Balj is a tributary of the Onon, only 2 km from the Dadal. The lads are returning home from the Nadam.

Great place for a picnic.

And Camp. We came across these three gers on top of the ridge between Dadal and the Balj river. Just three gers …..and a toilet!!! Amazingly, we hired them!!!!!

The setting sun illuminated a football match.

and a galloping horse.

Date, 12th July, official Nadam evening. Party time. Toasts and songs. Car Disco. Flashing indicators and a blasting sound system. Uber’s beating up the countryside but an unforgettable evening. Some of us were slightly worse for wear in the morning!!!!! Someone had to be put to bed!!!!

Chinggis Monuments

There are two places that claim to be the birth place of the great man. Here, within sight of Dadal or 80 km to the south west at a place called Binder. The Secret History, the first written version of the Mongol’s aural history penned in 1228 at Avraga, the first capital of G K’s united Mongolia, only mentions G. K. fishing as boy in the river Onon . Binder is closer to the Onon than Dadal. The Onon flows north east into Russia and the area between Binder and Dadal is the Onon’s source, being fed by numerous smaller rivers. So, go figure. But scholars are coming down on the side of Binder. Me, I like to think he was born here.

Close by is a natural spring with the sweetest tasting water ever. We filled our bottles here several times during our stay. Returning to drink the bottled water we had brought from UB was a shock. It tasted foul!!!!

Another interesting monument was erected last year on the 800 the anniversary of the Great Mongolian Empire . G K’s great, great grand father is credited with establishing the control and command systems that the Mongolian tribes used in lieu a regular government. It is said that he was the first to recognise the need for some sort of order in the affairs of the nomads.

Dadal Camps

There are only two places to stay in Dadal. We stayed in this ‘hotel’ in the centre of the town. Only the gers. No other facilities. Not even a loo. The town loo is just behind the camera position.
(Trying to get a picture)
In 1962, the Chinese Government made a big thing about C. K. They sanctioned the building of a Mausoleum for C. K. in Inner Mongolia in an attempt to make it appear that C. K. originally came for that part of China. Mongolia, with Soviet approval, built this monument to C. K. surrounded by a holiday camp. Sadly the camp has fallen on hard times with very little of the accommodation still useable. Could have it’s wheel put back on though. It is in a beautiful setting by a small lake


This old gentleman is 92 years young. He has a small museum with all sorts of bits and pieces. He showed us great hospitality with distilled mares milk and dried curd. He also now has a tin of English snuff.

The main exhibits were of animals he had personally hunted. Most times I am saddened by such a sight, but on this occasion I was strangely accepting of what I was looking at. It was in context. Our host had lived here all his life, though extreme times, times hard for any of us to even start to comprehend.

He is also a very talented wood carver. He created this for his grand son. Beautifully done. Respect.

Manly Sports – Archery

The Mongolian bow can do damage at a much greater distance than the English long bow. It is manufactured from a composite of horn and wood. At the time of the Mongol empire’s expansion, Mongolians could out shoot anybody else …….from a charging horse. Even today you can see riders standing in the stirrups of a charging horse, the riders head maintaining position relative to the ground. A favoured strategy was to never engage in set piece European style battle. If such a situation seemed to be developing the Mongolian cavalry feigned a retreat, only to turn in the saddle and shoot the pursuing enemy, wheeling round when the pursuers were hopelessly strung out. Gotcha!!!!! Shades of the battle of Hastings, me thinks.

This manly sport is the only one of the three that accommodates women. The target is the row of cylinders on the ground. A ground running arrow that hits the target does not count. The blue and red sashes act as makers.

Our Hero

Watch for the bottom slapping. The sportsmanship is excellent. Once the shorter guy has downed his taller opponent, he then helps him to his feet. The couple in the foreground were locked together for over 15 mins. The end was so quick, I completely missed it.

Nymaa got through to the second round of the wrestling but was then knocked out of the competition. Still, he got a prize.........1000 tug!!!!.

Manly Sports – Wrestling.

Mongolian wrestling begins and ends with a dance. Each contestant has a second to hold his hat. But before the symbolic hat taking, the wrestler dances round his second with extraordinarily light steps for such big men. Then there is the first bottom slap.

Once the struggle is joined, the object is to ground your opponent. This can take less than a minute or half and hour. There are usually a number of bouts going on simultaneously on the field, so if two guys are really enjoying each other’s company, there is always someone to watch who is about to hit the dirt. As encouragement, the seconds circulate the guys and occasionally slaps his man on the bottom by way of encouragement. A bit of a miss match here but I guess you have to start somewhere!!! No prizes for working out who won this bout!!!

Being triumphant, the winner almost pirouettes with graceful arm movements that wouldn’t look out of place in Swan Lake. The two contestants then collect their hats from the seconds and part with a final bottom slap. All quite touching.

Manly Sports - Horse Racing

The master. This striking gentlemen organised events in the stadium after the races.

The jockeys are all boys between the ages of 6 and 12. This little chap has just raced a gruelling 15 km cross-country, bare backed, no hard hat, no goggles…….and won.

Back from the race, all the horses circle the Stadium three times and the leaders circle the flags in the stadium itself, three times.

All the riders looked exhausted.

Even though they had just come in ahead of the field all the boys were subdued, too tired to be elated. But oddly none of the horses seem to have broken sweat, in spite of the 30 deg heat.

It is the horses that are being tested. The races are classed by the ages of the horses and several races are run over the two days of the Nadam. These two have clearly been in the winners enclosure before.


The leader of the parade. I have no idea where the flowers came from. There were none in evidence in the area. In fact the area is suffering a drought. The lady Speaker told us the meadow grasses and flowers usually grow to above knee height but this year they were barely above our ankles.

The audiences in the arena was made up of all ages.

Love faces.

No words needed.

But here the tables were turned. MY face became the fascination. A little kid would spot me and then bring her mates to have a look at me. Must say it felt really quite strange to be under such scrutiny. I seemed to be some kind of alien, with white skin and pointed features.