But I haven’t really talked about life in the Ger.
What is a Ger?
A ger is a round tent that can be easily packed up and moved as the family moves locations with the seasons. It has a stove in the middle of the Ger for cooking and warmth and a matching round hole in the top to let out smoke.
The floor is either grass/dirt or a thin layer of wood. Furnishing consist of a few stools, a table, maybe a few beds, and shelves for storage.
There are often several gers clustered in a given location to house a large extended family. Usually a pen or stable is set up for the animals.
Thats about it.
We usually stayed in the “guest ger” which typically is a smaller empty ger. No beds, no stools, no tables and in many cases no floors. Just us and our sleeping bags. Sadly, in our case, the company we stayed with did not provide adequate sleeping bags. They were only rated for 9 degrees celsius and it got down to 0 many nights we were there.
Luckily the families tried to help out with extra blankets and pads, but many times they had none.
All the food and drink was cooked and prepared by the families who hosted us. We did bring a few snacks and some instant oatmeal but for the most part we ate whatever they ate.
Most meals consisted of some combination of noodles, rice, meat and onions. One day however, our host “mom” made the most amazing dumplings with meat and potatoes.
Dairy products are big in Mongolia so we also ate a lot of cheese. Most famalies had it drying all around the Ger and it was served with most meals and for snacks. Most versions were very sharp and dry and a bit hard to eat.
We were stupid enough to not bring any water with us on our trip and we soon found out the the nomadic Mongolians don’t drink water. Instead they drinks a salty milk and tea mixture known as milk tea. They drink it pretty much constantly – it’s served at every meal as well as when guests arrive. And while its not horrible, it’s not thirst quenching and its pretty much the last thing you want to drink after a 18 km walk.
So what did we do for water? We boiled water from the stream. Constantly. There were six very thirsty westerners so we were in a constant cycle of boiling water and cooling it off in a collection of cups we set out around our ger like that crazy little girl in “Signs” (How’s that for a random movie reference)
Boiling water helps kill the bacteria and parasites that may be in the river water, but its does nothing to remove the dirt and other floaties. So for six days we drank luke warm, brown water with very obvious silt. As the saying goes, dirt don’t hurt, and we all survived without getting sick – but I don’t think I’ll be starting my own line of Mongolian River Bottled Water anytime soon.
This probably goes without saying, but there were also no showers and no bathrooms. Occasionally, you did have this to use as a toilet:
So, that was another long stretch of time with no showers. Thank god for wet wipes.
Obviously we played ankle bones a lot, but we still had a lot of additional down time to fill. For the most part we hung out with the families we were staying with – we played with the kids, we helped in the kitchen and we had conversations using hand signals and our one Mongolian phrase book.
One family taught us archery.
Other times we went on long walks through the countryside. One time, my host “mom” indicated that she was concerned I would be cold on the walk and offered me her coat. I agreed and this is what I ended up with:
We also spent a lot of time reading and journaling.
Every day we had to travel to the next Ger. We had not guide and no driver so all transportation had to be arranged through our local family. This meant we had three options.
In case you are wondering, ,an ox cart is a big wooden cart that is attached to an ox. (Shocking, I know). Believe it or not, those oxen can truck it and we usually made pretty good time.