No 1 Our flight to the Gobi Desert departed at 630am so it was a 4 am start. Our flight took us over vast steepe to the Gobi, Mongolia's southernmost province in situated in semi arid desert. We were met and transferred by air conditioned 4WD to the Yole Valley in Gurvansaikhan National Park situated in the lap of the Altai Mountains. We settled into our comfortable deluxe air-conditioned ger with attached bathroom, after we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the massive dining room. In the afternoon we drove into the Yol Valley, this picturesque Valley is surrounded by sheer rock walls rising over 2600m above sea level.
With its dramatic scenery and natural creation of meters of thick ice almost year round. We hiked towards the glacier following the stream, we spotted wild goats and argali sheep scrambling on the hight cliffs. Later we drove further into the gorge where we came across a Nomad family herding 1500 goats and sheep 200 Kim's in 5 days, this was certainly a site to be seen. We helped them herd the animals through the narrow gorge then later as we returned by our vehicle we spotted the nomad family erecting their temporary Ger for the night. We all pitched in to help erect our first ger which was so much fun.
The following day we left our camp, it was a 4 hours drive over rough corrugated roads to Khongar Sand dunes which is the most beautiful and largest sand dune in Mongolia. The dunes stand at 800 mets, 12 Klm wide and 100klm long. The sound of high wind blowing the sand can be heard from a long distance hence the name "singing dunes". We checked into our camp, enjoyed another great meal before driving to visit a Nomad family. On the way we saw many camels grazing in the hot temperature of 37deg, incredibly we experienced seeing mirage, of what looked like a massive blue lake. The Nomad families receive new baby horses each year, and they choose a good day from the Buddhist calendar to perform a celebration. This day should be the dog or tiger, today the tiger is the auspicious day. The family breaking their horses invite their neighbours, and professional herdsmen to agree that it is a good day. The herdsmen who are the owners of the horses should also have had a good year with the horse. The first milk from the mare is brought to the property owners Ger, the milk is in a bucket on a long stick.
The herdsmen first catch the horses with the stick, the baby horses are tied and held whilst the mares are being milked. The first bucket of milk is brought to the property owners Ger and offered to the owner and nomad family. The horsemen then circle the Ger three times, and the horses three times. The visitors all wait outside until the first horsemen welcome the guests to his Ger then all others join. Vodka is their drink of respect and on opening the first vodka bottle a sip is offered to nature and to their Buddhist statue which is situated on the north side of the ger.
Everyone then celebrates and the family talk about the coming winter and hope that it will be good. Most of the children are given a small gift and received with their palms up as they believe they will not only receive a gift but more importantly blessings. The ceremony is simply celebrating the new baby horses and hope that the number of horses increase the following year. In Mongolia horses are the only livestock that are celebrated in this way. This was a very special day for our group to be welcomed to join in the ceremony, we thanked the family by presenting them with small gifts from our home country.