July 12, 2009

7/12/09 River Campsite

After a hearty breakfast at the ger camp, we got ready to hit the road again, with the girls being the last out of their gers. Today we drove to Kharkhorin (where the ancient Mongolian capital used to be) so we could visit Erdene Zuu Khiid, the first Buddhist Monastery built in Mongolia. Most of the buildings were destroyed in the Stalinist purges of 1937. It was reopened as a museum in 1965 and a new monastery was built inside the complex after the collapse of communism in 1990. The monastery is enclosed in an immense walled compound, surrounded by 108 stupas.

The 108 stupas surrounding the monastery

The new monastery

Inside one of the temples

No more pavement, just a dirt track

Here was were we left the road and drove cross-country on dirt tracks. Several hours later we entered Khangai National Park. After a picnic lunch, the kids got to horseback ride up to the Tovkhon Khiid monastery while the rest of us took the hour-long climb up to the top. Zanabazar founded this site in 1653 where he spent 30 years meditating and . Destroyed during the communist era, it has been recently rebuilt. Lots of Mongolian pilgrims here with very few westerners.

Anu's first time on a horse

Tovkhon Khiid monastery

It was getting late as we left. We must have driven another three or four hours across four-wheel drive country. We saw lots of goats, sheep, horses, yaks, cattle, gers and even other vehicles. Bysa found us a great campsite along the shore of a small river. I rode with Anu and her family so she could practice her English. She has been studying Chinese in Shanghai for the last two years and next year she will start university in China. She will be studying economics but what she really wants to do is be a dress designer. At 19, this is her first trip to the countryside, a real city-girl.

Everyone preparing dinner

Some little girls fromm the gers in the distance came to our campsite and gifted us with some fresh milk. While Glenda, Fran and Lily gave the girls toys, Bysa's dauther Anon printed a photograph she had just taken. Well, word got out. Another woman showed up with her three little girls dressed up for a picture. What a great idea - to bring a portable photo printer - a lot better than a Polaroid.

Little milk maids getting a treat from Gyatso

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