Ian Wright travels through the grasslands, mountains and deserts of Mongolia. He begins his journey in China’s Beijing, once the ancient capital of the Mongolian Empire, and catches thetrain to the present day capital – Ulaan Baatar.For 67 years Mongolia was part of the Eastern Block, but when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 the Russians pulled out. Mongolia has a population of 2.3 million and over a quarter live in Ulaan Baatar.
After changing some money on the black market, Ian visits the Gandan Monastery. It is one of the few Buddhist monasteries to survive the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Kubla Khan, the grandson of Ghengis Khan was responsible for bringing Buddhism to Mongolia from Tibet.
Ian travels south west from Ulaan Baatar toKarakorum. In the 13th century, Karakorum was the capital of Mongolia. Only a few stones are left of what used to be an amazing city full of temples, fountains and palaces. It was from here that Genghis Khan used to rule his entire empire, the largest the world has ever known.
After hearing Mongolian throat singing, where several notes are made simultaneously deep in the throat, Ian eats the national dish – mutton. It’s impossible to avoid mutton for long in Mongolia, and even when you’re not eating it you can always smell it.
On the move again, Ian travels south across the plains and comes across some nomads who live in a traditional ger. Ian sets out on horseback to go marmot hunting. The traditional skills of tracking, hunting and cooking are handed down from generation to generation.
Ian’s next destination is 300 miles south in theGobi Desert, the least populated area of the country. Ian spends the night in a tourist ger camp and the next day sets out for the nearby Valley of the Dinosaurs. Seventy million years ago parts of the Gobi were home to dinosaurs, and archaeologists have discovered that there are hundreds of bones, fossilised footprints and eggs here. Ian and a local ranger find dinosaur rib and spine bones.
Before leaving the Gobi, Ian is determined to see some sand dunes (97% of the Gobi is instead grass, scrub and rock) and the rare two humped Mongolian camel. He rides out into the sand on a camel before taking a small plane back to Ulaan Baatar.
Ian arrives back in Ulaan Baatar in time for the annual 3 day Naadam Festival. Naadam is a huge contest of ‘Three Manly Sports’ – archery, wrestling and horseracing. Ian gets a good vantage point and sees huthendreds and hundreds of horses coming over the plains towards him, ridden not by adults but by Mongolian girls and boys aged between 5 and 13.
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