I’m surprised at how peaceful and warm a ger can be at night. I think I slept better in my ger than I did in my motel back in the city. The Mongolian people are traditionally a nomadic people who live in their ger, a sort of tent house, and have up to 300 animals, including horses, sheep, goats, and cows. They will pack up their home and move up to three times a year to find favorable grasslands for the animals or shelter from the winds during the winter. Each ger has a woodstove to help keep the family warm at night. If it gets too cold (down to 40 degrees below zero!) they will sometimes bring the baby animals inside the ger. The gers are tall enough to stand in but the doorway is lower than we are use to, as a result Dr. Abram kept hitting his head on the door frame. You would have found it especially humorous to hear a “thunk” followed by an “OW!” every time the neurologist walks out the door. You would think a doctor of the brain would take better care of his noggin.
We decided to enjoy a morning rafting adventure down the Herlen River, except the doctors only brought dress shoes and sneakers, so they wound up stealing the shower shoes from the bathroom. Tsegi loaded up the raft on top of his van and drove us 7 km up river. As we started to float down the river we discover that our tour guide Bazaara had never been in a raft before! Luckily Dr. Sandler is an old rafting pro who steered us straight, (unless you count all the circles he made us do down the river). The river was very calm and peaceful with no rapids. We passed tons of sheep, goats, cows, and of course horses! It’s reported that there are approximately eight horses for every Mongolian.
In the afternoon we went on a horse ride, which was my first. The Mongolian horses are smaller and sturdier than the ones we see in the states. These are better suited to the altitude and rocky and hilly environment of Mongolia. They also do a constant bobbing thing with their head. Our Neurologist Dr. Abram is convinced they have some sort of brain stem defect from so much head movement. If you want a Mongolian horse to go faster you don’t say “giddy up,” instead you say, “choo choo.” I tried to envision myself as a warrior in Genghis Khan’s army but I felt more like a train conductor yelling “choo choo” across the Mongolian steppes. Since there were only three horses for five riders we were also given a yak cart for the other riders. Upon closer inspection we realized that our “yak” was really just a cow. I won’t admit that it took us 20 minutes to realize they tricked us. The yak cart (cow cart) had a bum wheel that made for a super bumpy ride. Being on the horses even let us get up close to the local equivalent of prairie dogs called marmots. Marmots are supposed to be yummy to eat but we couldn’t talk our guide into catching one for us. I bet if you were here you could catch one for us in no time.
This evening it rained so we lit the wood fire stoves in our gers. Those things sure did an awesome job of keeping our gers warm and toasty. Normally sleeping in a tent in the rain is a cold and wet prospect, but the sound of the rain falling on the sheep skin roof was enough to lull us into a deep sleep.