Hills, Horses and a Hangover … Travels in Mongolia
There is no denying it … Mongolia does have a lot of green hills and horses! After leaving the dry landscape of the Gobi desert I found myself in the greener pastures of Central Mongolia. With a loaner mountain bike in tow I spent many a day losing myself in hills of endless green and choosing my own adventure on trails trodden down mainly by hoof. The moments in between I toured with my fellow travellers and local guide experiencing Mongolian hospitality at its best and witnessed the national cultural celebration which is Nadaam, a festival all about national pride, prowess and partying.
And of course being Mongolia I can't forget to mention the horses, lots and lots of horses! … we muscled our way through herds of horses; we rode unsteadily on horse back with see-sawing confidence; we watched racing horses kick up dust and excite colourful crowds; we payed our respects to horse skulls as they lay before us on sacred mounds; we stalked Mongolia's rare wild horse's in the hope of an exclusive pic; we drank fermented horse milk that tasted like vinegar; we ate dried horse meat that tasted like beef; and never did a day pass where horse poop wasn't under our feet! This was quintessentially Mongolia!
Returning to Ulaanbataar I set off for the final and most anticipated leg of this adventure ... travelling to the remote, rugged and little visited Western Mongolia! The more eager I was, the more it seemed the local Aero Mongolia flight was delayed. My patience and enthusiasm being put to the test! After a seemingly protracted twelve hour delay my travel buddies and I, feeling decidedly cheery on Mongolian brew, were finally up, up and away.
The wild west was just that, and after a week of rough roads, rough sleep, and rough “roughing it” I was also feeling a little wild and rugged! Even the persistent longing for a hot cleansing shower took a back seat to the feelings of contentment and gratitude. This place was something special, a place where steady feet and don't look down always got you through some precarious situations, particularly when your pants were down; where following the path of a shaggy bactrian camel led you to a dizzyingly high Altai mountain peak that literally took your breath away; where entering the perilous personal space of a weathered sharp eyed Eagle Hunter and his hooded raptor filled you with awe and respect; where stoking sun dried yak dung kept your ger warm and your food hot; where Chinngis Kaan vodka preceded an insightful history lesson on Chinngis Kaan; and where quality time with a traditional Kazakh family exposed undealt marital dysfunction at its best … awwwkward!
On that note this adventure had come to its regretful end, with the final solo act of leaving Mongolia being no easy feat ... what started as a beautiful calm morning waking up along the banks of the Khovd River was thrown into chaos by a succession of challenging transiting events. As a blonde western single female I navigated my way in and out of ... three clapped out Russian vans, one beaten up taxi, one godsend Landcruiser, one highly anticipated coach, one red-eyed domestic flight, two more beaten up taxis, and two on-schedule international flights, over a whooping 72 hours! … an absolute transit from hell with a brutal travel hangover to boot!
But I did make it home! Despite all the potential risk, where I could have easily lost myself in the mountains; or eaten a marmot infected with the bubonic plague; or been swept off my feet by a handsome nomadic Mongol with a drinking problem, I made it home. Safe and sound and ready to contemplate my next adventure!
About the AUTHOR: Lisa Matuzelis
"For years I worked in an office cubicle day dreaming of a more fulfilling life, one of adventure, curiosity, challenge, achievement, inspiration and genuine connection …. so cliché I know! But I didn't want to be a dreamer, I wanted to be a doer! So I meticulously picked my way out of the golden handcuffs and constraints of normality to start a life of adventure and uncertainty!
After packing up my life in 2017 I purchased a one way ticket to Japan, setting my course into an exciting, new, yet terrifying direction. From that came a cathartic year of solo travelling through Asia, Europe & Africa; then three inspiring months of mountain biking New Zealand; then returning home to start a different kind of adventure … taking on the challenging yet rewarding role as a Firefighter. I have worked as a permanent Firefighter for over two years and I have been fortunate this career choice has given me the flexibility to still continue travelling and seek out new experiences, as well as pursue my passion for mountain biking. With an eye for photography and a love of journaling I hope to continue sharing my travel experiences for others to enjoy.
I currently reside in the Illawarra near my family and friends."