Dotted with lakes and rivers, dominated by steppe and rolling hills, the Orkhon Valley is a beautiful introduction to nomadic life. It's the perfect place to be seduced by Mongolia's scenery and to get a real taste of the country!
A trip to Mongolia will make you change the way you view life and the world in a number of different and surprising ways. During the journey from the capital to Orkhon, you'll see wierd and wonderful animals such as yaks, whose cries sound like loud snores as they wander across green steppes. Suddenly a desert emerges - the famous Bayan Gobi, home to herds of camels.
After a very long, uncomfortable bus ride or hours bracing the elements in a bumpy Jeep, the end is finally in sight, in the form of a yurt camp, close to the Orkhon Waterfalls, appears on the horizon. A landscape carpeted with different colours, merging steppe with rolling hills, Orkhon boasts astonishing rugged, rural views. The yurts blend perfectly into the countryside; little dots of white nestled on lush, green steppeland. Water and windproof, yurts are remarkably resistant and form efficient barriers against the harsh, cold climate. The fireplace, in the centre of the yurt, is often lit throughout the year, as temperatures can plummet both night and day .
Nomadic life is about freedom and appreciating the value of all living creatures. Animals are free to roam and are never herded into enclosures. Horses gallop around the steppe, disappearing out of sight one minute, reappearing the next! Nature is held in high regards, which is perfectly normal considering each element is often home to a spirit. Nature is in charge here and nature decides what happens next. So whilst you'll see animal skeletons dotted around the countryside, not so long ago human corpses were also left out in the elements - part and parcel of Mongolian custom and tradition. This practice was banned during the Soviet era.
During a trip to Mongolia, living a Mongolian life also means playing the part of a Mongol warrior galloping across plains at a frenzied pace! Horses have, since the dawn of time, played an integral role in nomadic life. Mongolian horses are much smaller than European breeds, so won't present a problem to beginners. Horse riding in Mongolia is a must if you want to learn more about and enjoy the nomadic lifestyle. Travellers who are not used to jumping on a steed will probably feel a bit stiff at first, but galloping across the steppe is an unforgettable experience. Words can't express the sense of freedom. Once you've slowed to a canter and reached the mountains, your mount will carefully pick its way through the undergrowth, whilst you admire stunning nooks and crannies that Jeeps can't reach. When you arrive at the first of the eight lakes at sundown, settling down in a yurt to ease your aching muscles is a welcome relief that's followed by having your fill of local dishes - 'airag' or yak butter are invariably on the menu. And, whilst you're waiting for the next day's outing, you can enjoy a wander around the lake.
Inspiring, intoxicating, romantic, picuturesque and full of surprises, Mongolia is a land of the free, where peace and solitude are the order of the day!