This is Day 2 of our Seven Day Roadtrip into the Gobi Desert. Jesse woke early and saw the sunrise over the Ger camp. Unlike our other travelers, Quan had a restful 12 hours of sleep thanks in part to jet lag. We had gone to bed at 8pm the night before and the others vowed to have later bedtimes for the remainder of the trip in order to shorten the long cold nights.
After breakfast we went on a horse ride across the valley. This was a great experience. Mongolian horses are very low to the ground, we could imagine how this gave Mongolian warriors more stability in their battles. It was a phenomenal experience as riding on the horses gave us amazing views of the surrounding planes.
As we are partners with Sherpa we had agreed to take photos of their balloons all over the world. Sherpa is a visa company we have partnered with and are our main providers of visas. We thought it would be fun to have some photos of the balloon riding horseback in Mongolia. We hadn’t thought through how stupid it was to blow up a balloon on a horse. After we blew up the balloon our Mongolia guide said “No!” We thought that meant not to deflate the balloon as it would scare the horses (turned out later it was something else). Quan carried the balloon for the remainder of the ride afraid to deflate it. While trying to take a selfie near the Ger camp, Quan accidentally dropped the balloon and the horse saw it and freaked out and started galloping off with Quan on top. The guide holding Quan’s horse tried to hold it in place. He very skillfully held on while gracefully rolling off his horse onto the ground. However the horse kept flying, Quan thankfully hung on and was able to finally reign him in to a stop.
With enough excitement for one day we headed off to the Erdene Zuu Monastery. Lesson learned in Mongolia: no more balloons while riding wild horses.
The Erden Zuu Monastery was adjacent to the site of the Former capital founded in 1235 by Ogedei Khan, who was Genghis Khan’s successor and his third son. As mentioned in the opening post, Gheghis Khan’s wife was briefly kidnapped. The first son was conceived around the time of the kidnapping and his lineage to Ghenghis Khan was not definitive. The third son became successor for this reason. We’re not quite sure what happened to the second son.
The Capital of Mongolia was destroyed and moved in 1388 during the Ming dynasty to China. The Monastery was then built in 1585 after Mongol ruler Abtai Sain Khan met with the 3rd Dalai Lama and declared Tibetan Buddhism as the official state religion of Mongolia. This is the biggest and likely the oldest surviving monastery in Mongolia. During the 18th century there were 600 temples here and 1000 Lamas. In 1939 the Communist government destroyed most of the temples and killed many of the Lamas there as the Soviets outlawed religion. 18 temples are left in this walled area, Stalin had ordered those temples to remain and be used as a showpiece for international visitors to give the impression that the Communism permitted freedom of religion.
One of the visitors in 1944 was United States Vice President Henry Wallace, at which time the Soviets created the appearance that this was an active monastery, which it was not.
After the fall of Communism in 1990, the site was again turned over to the Lamas and is now an active Monastery, monks live on the second floor of the main building and we saw them chanting their daily prayers when we went inside.
After the monastery we ate lunch and headed on a long 4 hour drive to our next Ger. On the way we stopped to wait for Rinchen and Nidup’s car, thinking they were just going slower. After 30 minutes of waiting we drove back on the road we came and we found out their car had broken down (it was the first but certainly not the last car trouble on the trip). Luckily this was exactly when we were switching guides as well as cars with a group heading the other direction. When they left they attached a rope to the broken-down car and pulled it away.
We arrived to the Ger 1.5 hours later right after the sun went down. We asked that the roof of the Ger be fully closed that night so dirt would not blow in and everyone, except for Quan was hoping it would be a better night sleep. Quan of course was hoping for a repeat of the prior night and she fell asleep at 8:00 PM again.
Day 3: Ongi Monastery & Flaming Cliffs