The early evening work would usually end between 800-830pm. The very last task of the day was to “hobble” the riding horses (tying three of their legs together) so they could graze but not wander too far. This usually occurred in the dark of night.
As I mentioned in the last post, sometimes we would eat dinner before or after this point. Biyambai usually prepared the evening meal in the late afternoon. She is a skilled and talented cook, and prepared a variety of dishes. With a few exceptions, almost all food in the camp was made from scratch (natural ingredients) even the noodles!
One of my favorites was the homemade noodle, meat and vegetable dish called Tsuivan:
In the early spring, the day begins well after sunrise. At about 645 am, Biyambai, my host Durukh’s wife, would be the first out of bed (although sometimes I would lay awake under the warm covers, well before the others woke). As expected morning is the coldest part of the day, and she would brave the cold to first get the fire started in the stove, then head outside to gather water from the storage barrels next to the Ger. The day’s drinking and cooking water is usually boiled the first thing in the morning. The central and critical portion of the Ger is the stove. It’s most important function is providing heat and warmth.
Thankfully I woke up with my strength back this morning. I was very relieved as the day before I had thoughts of having to go to Altanbulag (the closest town, 18 miles/30 km away) on the back of a motorcycle, over outback terrain, while feeling like hell to see a doctor. Then the though of even going to Ulan Bator to see an English speaking doctor crossed my mind which would mean ending the job at the nomad camp.
Mongolian Brand “Mustang” Motorcycle
BUT, my body and mind redeemed themselves and I felt much better than the day before:
Still my hosts told me to take it easy today after the morning goat sorting. The day was rather uneventful, and I just did a few random tasks and helped with the evening herding and sorting. Rather than writing a boring post about today, the next one will describe the typical day of a nomad.
The river nearest the nomad camp (about 2 hour horseback ride). Your can see the typical mountainous landscape of the Mongolian outback in the background. This is only about 300 km (180 miles) outside of the capital city of Ulan Bator.
There was still ice in the river in April. Photo is from a fellow volunteer-not mine.
I woke up at 630 am and realized that I had slept with my mouth open. I felt my through was a little raw. After getting out of bed though, I realized that I was feeling weak. I did the morning ritual horse tracking and goat sorting, but by the end of those tasks I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the herding on horseback. I resorted to the handy dandy Mongolian phrase book: