I honestly didn't think you could get chubbier babies than Chinese babies. But then, hello Mongolia! These little ones, members of Saara's amazing family, were literally all cheek. It must be all the milk they're getting. Sometimes facial features would just disappear inside a cheek cavity - so cute.
Four days with a Mongolian family and our cheeks nearly grew that big. All we did was drink hot milk and when we weren't drinking hot milk, the family were getting us to try horse milk. Horse milk is one of the worst things we have ever tasted. Sour, salty, fizzy and thin and watery in consistency. This does not come recommended. I used vodka to wash it down - that's how bad it was.
Hot milk or Mongolian tea as locals call it is the equivalent to water at home. It is drunk all the time with everything. First thing in the morning - milk. 11 o'clock snack - milk. Drink with lunch - milk. 3 o'clock - milk. Dinner - milk. Before bed - you guessed it!! Milk, milk, milk. In a little cafe in Ulaanbaatar people were dipping meat pasties directly into cups of hot milk before eating it. Not very kosher but clearly the way it's done in Mongolia. We did a lot of drinking milk with the family so some pictures of all the milk related things we did below:
Spot the difference... These are the meals we had with the family. Bit of gristle, potato, a chunk of carrot if your lucky and all on a tasty bed of noodles or rice. Mmm. We didn't mind too much as this is what the family ate too. The only time was Friday night when I was dreaming about my mum's roast chicken dinner.
Like a lot of nomadic Mongolian families, Saara's family live a nomadic but modern life. They still keep cows and horses which the family survive on. The cows are used for their milk, some of which is turned into cream and yogurt for the family. The 40 or so horses which the family own are their bread and butter. The income they make from running horse trekking trips, mainly between May - Oct, keep Saara's whole family ticking over and it seems like they have a great little business.
Saara offered a three night horse trek to us but we declined, deciding to relax around the ger and spend time with the family instead and although there was no common language, I'm glad we did this. Not only did we get to go on some short horse treks anyway, but we were also really immersed in the family's day to day routine.
Things we did included meal times with the whole family, milking the horses, making hot milk and cream and going on two horse rides and hanging out with yaks! Check out these fluffy beasts below. We also tried and failed many times to light the fire inside our ger. It really is difficult and even with all the materials and a box of matched to hand, we still failed miserably.
Inside the ger, the nature of chucking an unknown amount of wood and coal into live flames means it is really hard to control the temperature. On the last night, our ger was hotter than the Russian Banya we had and we were forced to sleep with the door wide open.
Sleeping in the ger was the best bit for me. There was something really fun about putting on our fire and getting cosy in the ger every night. A ger is a traditional Mongolian house and most married couples will get given one on their wedding day. Mike and I are thinking that a ger might be a useful investment the way London real estate is going. Many Mongolian couples will live in the same ger for the rest of their lives. The gers are mobile and some nomadic families will have up to four different spots to erect their gers depending on the season. Saara's family have been able to build a proper brick house which they live in most the time so they don't need to relocate.
Getting out of Ulaanbaatar into the countryside and to the Gobi can be expensive and time consuming. All of the hostels in UB can help arrange tours but if you only have a few days, something like Saara's family homestay, just 60km outside the city is a great way to hang out with locals and experience life as a modern nomad.