Kara and I just returned from a 3 day trip to Hukh Nuur (Blue Lake) here in Arkhangai. We were told it's not a very common trip for foreigners to take, other than on horseback, and we soon figured out why. Between the massive boulders, rivers that were easily 3-4 ft deep in spots, and the absolute middle-of-nowhere location, it's not an easy trek to make no matter what form of transportation you have.
It was beautiful countryside we passed through, and other than the massive number of flies and mosquitoes, it was great to be outside sleeping in tents and walking through such untouched land. There were 15 of us that went on the trip - it was partly a summer getaway, a thank you to some of my staff, and partly a goodbye trip for Kara and I. We swam in the rivers, cooked over an open fire for every meal, shared traditional meals as well as some of the more rare ones (marmot!), and generally baked in the 80 degree sunshine!
My staff presented me with a couple of gifts. First, they gave me a signed certificate from the governor of Arkhangai acknowledging the past 2 years of work I've done here. Then as a gift from all of the staff members I've worked with I was presented with a blue "hadak" (symbolic blue cloth) and a brass cup or "ayag" that is presently being engraved with a short message. In return I gave a short speech, mentioning some of my favorite memories of each of my staff members and then concluded by giving them a photobook with pictures of memories from the past 2 years.
As expected this trip reminded us rather starkly of all the things we find beautiful and fascinating about Mongolia and it's people...but it also reminds us of some of the hardships we/they face on a daily basis. We have learned to have an incredible level of patience in this country - sometimes because "waiting" will bring about the best moments, but other times the "waiting" is simply not worth it in our minds. But that's ok. In the end, we have the memories to look back on...and of course the photos:
(no sound, only pictures)