Three beautiful young Mongolian women with smiling faces walk towards us as we arrive by Japanese jeep at the camp in Jalman Meadows in the Khan Khentii wilderness area. “Welcome, how was your trip? Coffee and tea are ready, lunch will be served at 1 o’clock. Where are you from? The Netherlands? Oh, nice, we have two people from Germany in the camp as well right now“.
I feel welcome and blessed to be here from the first minute. It’s something about the air, the amazing uninterrupted 360 degree view, the way the sun touches my face in this place. We’ve just spent four hours in a jeep, driving out of Ulaanbaatar for two hours, driving ‘off road’ for another two hours. The jeep was able to handle the ‘off road’ easily, and the drive took us through the typical Mongolian landscape I craved to see for months already. Golden green hills in the form of wavy curves, all covered in what most resembles a soft and golden green carpet.
The hills soon just became background for the amazing colours of green and yellow trees alongside the Tuul River, a sacred river for Mongolian people. We drive along, amazed by the beautiful surroundings, now also showing more and more gers, tons of wild horses, sheep and cows, and specks of red from bushes that show autumn arrived on the Mongolian steppes.
“Welcome to your ger“, says the girl who invites us in one of the fifteen available gers. Excited to ‘live’ in a nomadic home for a few days and nights, we step over the treshold. I hold my breath. It’s SO beautiful! A wooden floor, blue carpets, beautiful orange and blue paint work, a big bed with blue curtains, a sink, two chairs with woolen pillows, another two chairs to sit on outside, also with woolen pillows and woolen blankets… It feels like home instantly.
Nara, a friendly guy we met at Nomadic Journeys and who sincerely recommended this camp to us, is also in Jalman Meadows these days. He visits our ger to check if we’re settled, and to tell us it’s time for lunch. From earlier experiences in a remote area I expect a good and filling but basic lunch, which I look forward to after the long drive. But nothing prepared me for the three course lunch that is better than anything I ate in two weeks in Ulaanbaatar. A lovely fresh salad (even though vegetables are rare on the countryside), a hearty soup and tasty beef with rice fill our stomachs with comforting nourishment and warmth.
Ready for our first walk from the camp we decide to climb the closest hill. I’m amazed by the many different flowers, grasses and even wild grains we can spot in the seemingly golden green carpet on the hills. The carpet in reality exists of green grass, yellow grains, white, red, blue and purple flowers, and many more that I don’t even know the name for.
Of course, the view from the top is even more amazing. We can see the surrounding hills, the valley, and the Tuul River at the same time. There’s nothing that can top this view. No people to see, since the camp hosts a maximum of 30 tourists (!), and the gers are not even fully booked. With no paths, signs, or a guide that says ‘walk this way’, the chance of you meeting another human being in these hills is practically zero.
Looking over the valley I can see some other gers in the background. I wonder where their stock is. The longer I look, the more I begin to understand the scale of the surroundings. It takes a while, but finally my eyes are able to notice little black and brown dots, which I know must be cow or sheep. I expected to see them, but there’s a lot of optical confusion around this place. The wideness of the valley and remoteness of even the closest hills is incredible, and can’t be compared with anything I’ve seen before.
Full of first impressions, we return to the ‘restaurant ger’, already warm from a crackling fire in the big stove. For the second time today, we receive an amazing multiple course meal, as healthy and hearty as the first one. When returning to our ger, all warm and filled up, another surprise awaits us: an amazing dark sky filled with millions of stars, and a clearly visible Milky Way that stretches all over the valley .
The next few days we learn there’s a magical fire creature walking around the camp, who lights all the stoves at convenient times. Right after dinner, so you can recover quickly from the cold evening walk to your ger, and right before waking up. Well, maybe not ‘right before’, as the first night I wake up from flash light and a stove being fired in our ger at 6 o’clock – but nothing can beat the feeling of waking up in your own ger, under two thick woolen blankets, all warm and cozy, with only a crackling fire to listen to.
Another day full of beautiful views and adventures awaits.