As a nomadic tribe enthusiast, Mongolia was like a dream world for me. So many unique and picturesque people and places previously only seen in glossy coffee table books and Bored Panda posts. I knew that traveling to the far corners of the country was going to be a long and uncomfortable haul, I was prepared for that, but what I hadn’t been expecting was the hospitality, kindness and cuties on the way.
In a way, I valued these sparse encounters more.
The tribes were wonderful but sometimes I questioned their authenticity. The people we met along the way were raw, honest, kind and a pleasure to meet.
En-route to the Tsaatan reindeer herders, (a journey which consisted of a 14hr back country jeep ride, followed by two days on horseback), I found myself camping in a tiny green tent in the “front garden” of a lovely families ger (yurt).
My horse guide slept inside with the family, although I struggle to imagine where as I only spotted two beds for a family with six to eight kids. (It was hard to tell who lived where as children would just appear out of nowhere and then leave again!).
It had been a long day and the sun was not far off retiring for the night as we approached this ger. The mum and the eldest boy (around 9/10) were seeing to their cows and horses whilst the younger kids hung out inside.
We entered and after a minute or so of stares, were served with what was a lovely gesture, but in fact the coldest, milkiest, saltiest tea of my life. I took a big sip as they all watched me enjoy their warm (I should I say barely tepid) hospitality.
I struggled to dribble my mouthful back into the china bowl unseen and made a fuss of the baby, who was left in the hands of a child barely bigger than itself in a bid to shift the attention.
The baby cried and I stood there like an alien who had just invaded but couldn’t quite recall why it was there.
The mum came in and my horse guide ushered me outside to set up my tent.
I was thankful of the privacy after spending the entirety of my time in Mongolia as of yet in hostels, shared staff quarters (volunteering at Anak Ranch) and sharing a single room with entire families.
Privacy. My arse.
I made the tiny mistake of inviting these tiny hospitable humans into my tent and feeding them some of my noodles and chocolate. I got told off by a friend back home by likening them to a pack of stray dogs who you show a little love and cant get rid of them for the next 4 hours, but I stand by that.
When you are psychically picking children up and throwing them out of your tent yet they still scramble back in, you just have to embrace it, give them big cuddles and all of the attention you can muster up.
I gave the kids my camera and let them have a play around. They took some lovely photos of one other from a vantage point I wouldn’t have be able to get.
I was sad to leave these kids but was only half a day away from the reindeer herders so onwards we rolled….or should I say trotted..!