Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Mongolia

Staying with a nomad family

We had no accommodation arranged for the night. The plan was to find a family of herders and to stay with them.

So Chinzo talked to a young boy who was looking after a flock, and after some discussion the sixteen of us descended on his family, who were in the middle of shearing. They had three or four gers and would move out of one for us, but even with our drivers sleeping in the vans that was going to be a bit cramped. So one van drove 500 metres or so to where a young couple with one child had a single ger, their own little flock of sheep and goats, and a few cows; it was arranged that half of us would stay there (they would presumably move in with one of the other families).

Imagine if sixteen people turned up at your front door, without warning, and it was considered normal for you to move out of your main bedrooms to make space for them... this is pretty much how Mongolian hospitality works, at least in the countryside.

We brought our own flour and meat and we had an array of gifts, mostly for the children, but there was no payment per se.

Christine later counted 36 gers visible in the valley; our local cluster had maybe a dozen, which I suspect held three or four families.

Chinzo and Patti arranging accommodation
with only a few sheep to go, Justin lends a hand

Our host and hostess went back to shearing sheep and milking the cows -- they'd almost finished for the day. A few of us had a go shearing.

We played with the children, who got quite excited. Two frisbees that people had brought as gifts were a great hit. One little girl was extremely hyperactive — she played ball energetically and then started carrying her not much younger brother around.

54mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100
54mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 100

Our hostess, Chinzo and Basraa cooked dinner, while most of us sat around drinking vodka, talking, and taking photographs of the children. Dinner was excellent, with fresh dumplings and vegetables as well as the near-mandatory mutton.

father and daughter
A man with his young daughter came up on a motorbike around 10pm, stayed around for a while to pose for photos, and then went off again.

I was in the group that went up the hill to the second ger — this had a small solar panel and an electric light, which was nice. But it was a pleasantly warm evening and the sky was clear, so I ended up sleeping outside, along with Chinzo.

Friday 24th June

I woke at about 7am - Peter and Carol were already up. Packed up my sleeping bag and walked down to where the others were.

taking the sheep to pasture
a churning machine - also shows the ger frame
at the water cart
Before heading off, we gave our presents to the family — mostly items for the kids — and watched the morning activities: milking again, sending the sheep and goats out to pasture, and so forth.

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