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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Nomads

After returning from horse-riding we scoffed another massive wonderful meal and then set out across the steppe for a visit to a family still living the nomadic lifestyle. Normally the camp visits a particular family but, being nomads and all, they’d left for their winter spot, so Nasaa had managed to locate a Kazakh family roughly 3 km away on foot.

We loaded on the layers which proved daft on the outbound journey as we could have done it in shorts and t-shirt and were quickly shedding. It was an uphill walk and we were stacked with excessive camera gear as always but we had a good time.

On our approach the family had to secure their dogs who, in stark contrast to the Elstei pooches, were far more interested in savaging us.

It turned out that we were the first foreigners to ever visit this family and you could tell by the obvious nervousness, shyness and awkwardness they each exhibited. That said, it was Mongolian Milk Tea time with a vengeance and enough “Donuts” to feed an army. Such was the hospitality we were shown that we couldn’t finish a cup or donut before being refilled or encouraged to eat more. Being typically British and hopelessly polite we consumed our body-weight over the course of our short stay only to be told afterwards of the simple way to politely decline.

We broached the subject of taking a family portrait for them but they were reluctant, concerned that they been seen as a spectacle given the gulf in wealth between their lifestyle and ours at home. While disappointing – not least as we had no intention of exploiting such an image and actually wanted to take it for them as much as us – we could appreciate their concern. Later, on leaving, we did manage to get a photo with “Jack” the father outside the family Ger.

We’d brought along a few token gifts and presented the lady of the house with a small bottle of DKNY, Jack with some flavoured Vodka, and their 11-year old son with some sweets. With a little more forward planning we’d have aimed instead for more “English” gifts, but then we’d have probably needed a higher weight allowance, and they seemed pretty happy anyway.

Nasaa seemed pretty upset that their son had never been to school. Her background was in teaching so this was pretty understandable but she seemed pretty intent on pursuing this at a later date. On our way back to camp the young chap passed us riding bareback on his horse, rounding up other horses that had strayed too far – I don’t recall being able to do anything quite so impressive at 11.

The journey back to camp was set to another spectacular sunset and before long the extra layers shed earlier were essential. That night we again dined well, before playing 3 traditional Mongolian games involving pieces made from the ankle bones of an animal I can’t remember. We left the next day on our return journey to the city for our last night in Mongolia, stopping only to meet a GOLDEN FREAKING EAGLE.

2 in fact, one a year old, one 6 months. We had some pictures taken and were back in the van in a blur. It was only afterwards that I started to feel concerned about the very idea of a bird that magnificent in captivity. If it’s possible to have a favourite bird as a kid [of the avian variety of course] then the Golden Eagle was mine, so concerns aside it was pretty cool to come face-to-beak with one.

Our city day was always lined up for relaxing, so we did just that, spending most of it in the Bellagio [one of the hotel eateries] – part restaurant, part lounge. Today we embark upon the final leg of our epic train journey – Ulan Bator to Beijing. We’re sharing our 4-berth with a lovely couple – Jessie and Jo – from Heidelberg in southern Germany who are also bound for the delights of Beijing…