Without doubt, Mongolia has been the unexpected highlight of the trip so far. The one thing that will stay with me is the staggering natural beauty and immense scale of the terrain. Had I been riding solo I might have just dipped into UB and back, staying on the tarmac. That would have been a real shame as I’d certainly have missed all the best bits. So a big thanks to my traveling buddies just for being there. (And taking this awesome picture!).
As for the people and the culture, I’m left with mixed feelings about the future for Mongolia. Little Dom said that the country just needs to sort it’s act out. “If they built one decent road through, the tourism industry would boom and they’d never look back”. That’s certainly true, but I’m not sure it would actually be progress for the people who live there.
To the nomadic tribesmen who herd their cattle, living in gers and taking their families with them, the occasional traveller is a welcome diversion. They’re nothing but welcoming, sharing anything they have and will always make a detour to come and say hello. (Even when hello is the only word they know). They’re fascinated by some of our equipment, obviously stuff they’ve never seen before.
If they do run a decent road through it will change all that. A sudden influx of tourists with cameras, dumb questions and wads of cash would spoil a lifestyle that’s lasted many generations. Already most gers have solar panels and a satellite dish, sometimes a car parked outside. I’m left wondering how much longer their unique culture can last.
As we rode out of Olgii, dozens kids ran out of their gers to wave to us from the side of the road. It was an overwhelming send off. Goodbye Mongolia, whatever the future holds for you, I wish you luck.