Getting ready and preparing for our community stay
Last day in Ulaanbaatar, we left the hotel in the morning after getting ready and had a meeting just outside of the hotel. We all met to discuss the plans for the day. The group was split up into smaller groups to complete tasks simultaneously and faster.
There were three groups: catering (Who bought the food for the 6 days in the community), equipment (tools to use when we are working on the the project) and accomodation (looking for a hotel to stay at when we come back to Ulaanbaatar from the project).
We have planned to pay a local Mongolian woman to cook us food. It will be interesting to experience traditional Mongolian style cooking. We are having meals ranging from fried rice, stir frys, soups and even a traditional Mongolian dish. The traditional Mongolian dish consists of sheep roasted with many spices and vegetables.
I was chosen to be on the accomodation team as I am on accommodation duty when we come back to Ulaanbaatar from the village. We spent most of the day locating various hotels in Ulaanbaatar and calling them to find out whether they are in our price range. We visited many hostels some which were very dirty and had limited space. One of the places we went to had a room with around 6 or 7 bunk beds and one bathroom, the floors were very dirty and so were the beds. It was interesting to see the types of hotels available in Ulaanbaatar. We managed to stumble across a really nice hotel that was within our budget so we talked to the hotel owner Gilly and he was able to give us a discount because we are volunteers with world challenge. We were able to successfully book the dates. We went out for lunch at a western restaurant which was a nice break from the strong flavoured traditional food.
The rest of the day we had time to relax at the hotel before heading out for dinner.
Arriving to Terelj
This day was a very fast paced day. Still in Ulaanbataar, we woke up earlier than usual in order to quickly have breakfast and catch a ride on a bus to the village where we do our community work. The village is called Terelj.
We spent half an hour walking to a cafe and found out that the the lady wasn’t able to cook breakfast for so many people so we had to spend even more time wandering around looking for food. We came across the state department store so we were able to buy ourselves breakfast. Looking for food consumed a large chunk of time from our schedule so we had to quickly race back to the hotel and pack all our gear ready for the bus trip.
We geared up, carrying our ruck sacks, day bag and extra boxes of equipment/food. It was extremely tiring especially because of the weather in Ulaanbaatar. Ulaanbaatar has very clear skies with hardly any clouds during the summer. This made the 6 km trek even harder.
On the way to the bus stop we stopped at Ger to Ger to drop off any extra equipment and food they were able to send to Terelj. Once we arrived at the bus stop, the bus came and I was shocked to see a very old public bus stop right before us. We got on board and sat down. We had to fit all our bags in between our legs and on top of us the whole ride which was very painful, especially because the bus ride was 2 hours as well.
It was fascinating to see the variety of backgrounds and cultures on the bus. I could hear multiple languages being spoken by different people. One Mongolian came onto the bus and was showing an acquaintance of his a cardboard box that he was carrying with a white bird inside.
After sleeping most of the way to Terelj we made it. We got off the bus and we were immediately greeted by locals who offered to take our bags to where we were staying.
We had lunch. The meals consisted of a large chunk of mutton, rice, potato salad and a Mongolian salad (Strong taste) with a grape juice tea which was really nice. We also drank milk from a mare and had doughnut sticks with curdled milk and sugar.
We were able to talk basic English to locals and have a look at the school before we begin work on it the next day.
The school is an extremely small building with a tiny playground at the back. Most rooms inside the building have small benches and tables with a blackboard at the front.
It was amazing to see the difference between my education and theirs. We saw the area we are working on and which areas of dirt need to be dug up.
We then travelled by ox cart to where we will be staying over the duration of our stay, across the river.
We bathed in the river, the water was freezing but very clear.
There is a bridge over the river. It is used if the level of water in the river is too high. The ox can’t go on the bridge so we get dropped off half way and we have to walk the other half.
Travelling by ox cart was definitely not something I would forget. The amount of power taken to pull a cart of people across a river is tremendous. Sitting on the back of an ox cart is a very peaceful journey especially when you are travelling through the green steppes of Mongolia. It is beautiful here, very hilly and green.
We arrived to our Ger and inside was a stove in the middle with two columns either side. In our Ger there were 3 beds and 5 people so two of us had to sleep on the ground.
I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor.
It is amazing to see the cultural difference between Australia and Mongolia. But the views are breathtaking, it is beautiful and so peaceful here.