5 June 2012

Why Spend Autumn in Mongolia?

If I was to have a favourite time of year in Mongolia, September would have to make it to close to the top of the list. 

As autumn slowly unfolds, the peak tourist season has come to an end - September is a time for late-comers looking to enjoy the sense of space and peace that descends now the crowds have gone. It can feel as if you have the country to yourself  and it restores your sense of the world’s beauty and makes you feel free. 

Autumn days - Ikh Gazriin Chuluu
The vastness of Mongolia is a perfect antidote to the rush and crowds of everyday life elsewhere. The days are dominated by the blueness of the sacred Eternal Sky. Nature is still visible before the start of the long hibernation period. Naturally, it is a time of spectacular autumn colour - throughout the grasslands and the mountain-forest steppe. 

Demoiselle Cranes start their migration in early autumn - this is one of the toughest migrations of all birds - high over the Himalayas.
Autumn is a time of  industry - there is harvesting of the wheat and barley crops and communities come together to help create eskii - the felt used for covering gers. However, it is also time for locals to 'take five' before the harshness of the winter takes hold. 

For example, when staying with Batbold and Jargaa at White Lake  (Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park), their son, who had completed school in the June, was enjoying the freedom of not having to return to boarding school and was out on horseback tending to the yak herd that they keep. The four of us adults also had a similar sense of freedom - duties had to be completed but our afternoons were dedicated to marathon games of  shagai (ankle bone shooting - highly addictive and competitive) fuelled by bread, jam and clotted cream and  washed down with tea. DE-LIC-IOUS!

Autumn evenings - White Lake

I was asked by two individual clients to design itineraries in September - one based on mountains, Buddhism, Przewalski's horses, nature, flowers and people and the other to the east of Mongolia and the Gobi.

Neither of the itineraries were based on 'tick list' travel -  the core experience when travelling in Mongolia lies not in going to a lot of places but rather it lies in 'just being' and the itineraries concentrated on the amount of time spent in a location and the wildlife, history and nomadic communities of those locations. As I've said, a majority of other visitors have been and gone and travelling in the autumn creates the strong feeling that you are in a secret corner of the earth - it restores you sense of the world's immensity and makes you feel deliciously free. It was a true delight to run the itineraries and we're gladly looking forward to the crisp autumn days of 2013.

Religious life at Erdene Zuu - part of our  Monasteries, Mountains and Nomads itinerary