Mongolian Hospitality – Mongol Rally

September 13, 2011 17 Comments »

Our early morning visitors

Once the sun came up, they started appearing. They were just puffs of dust off in the distance, and as they got closer, you could see 3 or 4 people squeezed on the motorcycle. They were curious about what two little tents and a car were doing in the flat, rocky landscape they call home. Or maybe they simply wanted to come and say hi. For whatever reason, they came, they stopped, they smiled, and they shared.

Discover Mongolian food in the Gobi Desert – it’s not what you think

This particular morning at our camp near the village of Dariv, we had lots of local visitors. Our campsite wasn’t one of my favorites as we had arrived in the dark the night before and had to choose our camping spots carefully among all of the rocks and prickly weeds with our headlamps. But this morning, when we woke up and could actually see our surroundings, I was warming up to the place. It even had a toilet nearby! The toilet was so nice that I had to take my camera with me to capture the spectacular view!

toilet with a view mongolia
Does your toilet have this view? Bring your own toilet paper…

Visitors started arriving shortly after we had cooked up breakfast. It wasn’t just the locals; it was also camels! We apparently were camping next to a favorite resting spot of camels; they came meandering towards us in the morning, and all sat down in a huddle not too far from our camp. Dave and I decided to go greet our furry, flatulent friends. We walked up slowly and quietly so as not to scare them, but soon realized that they weren’t at all intimidated by us. We practically could go up and pet them…that is if you could stand the smell.

camel mongolia
He looks like he’s smiling for the camera!
camels mongolia
Me with my furry, flatulent friends

Families on motorbikes started showing up and looking in wonderment at our cars and tents. Little did we know that they were sizing them up as they wanted to buy them! They made the ‘universal’ sign for “How much” (rubbing your thumb and two forefingers together).

Learn about the Mongolia nomad culture first-hand

We had to tell them that nothing was for sale and tried to explain that we were driving to Mongolia. We showed them the map on the front of our hood, and they all huddled around to see the details, excited to see the map of Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

mongol rally
Sharing our route with our new friends

One family pulled up, got off their motorcycle, started digging through a big bag on their bike, and brought us each a piece of hard goat cheese. Just to set the record straight – this goat cheese is not like what you buy in the store at home – it’s hard, salty, and a bit tangy/sour. It’s definitely an acquired taste. But we graciously accepted their gift.

Why you should visit the Gobi Desert

They sat and watched us pack up our camp, smiling intently, and then, when satiated with watching the foreigners, they all got back on the bike and drove off. It was one of my favorite mornings of camping: the toilet, the camels, and the locals – you can’t beat that! We got a late start driving that day, but it was totally worth it!

mongol rally
Dave and I posing with our new friends and goat cheese

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