Quarantine lifted I took the fist MIAT (Mongolian
airline) flight to Khovd. We stopped off at
Gereltsogt had phoned his brother in law, Buriat from UB to
say when I was arriving and to look out for a long red haired man, of which I
was the only one on the plane. I waited
for a while, all the other passengers had been met. I then notice a man pacing
up and down in his Deel (
Buriat spoke absolutely no English, like most of the
Mongolians I met. He took my luggage and me on the back of his motorbike.
Buriat’s ger (Round felet tent) was not in Khovd, but just by the
I was welcomed by his wife, Pagam (Gereltsogt’s sister) and was sat in the honoured north west section of the Ger. Suutei tsai (milk tea) with salt was prepared on the dung powered stove. This staple was odd at first, after a while I acquired a taste for it. Then the Vodka toasts with blessing to Khokh Tenger (Blue Sky), Gazariin Eej (Mother Earth), Gal Golomt (the spirit of the fire) and to the Buddha, yourself, with other variations of the four directions or to the people gathered in the ger.
Buriat wanted to introduce me to his relations and friends, so off we went on the motorbike into Khovd city. The dusty streets were empty, even when we got to the only traffic lights in the centre of the city. We would enter compounds where gers and ram-shackled wooden, brick and concrete houses were by shouting out what about the dog to the owner. These dogs are vicious and must be held back by the owner the first time you come in. In the countryside it is the same, once they have you scent then everything is usually ok.
Each time we met a friend it was more toasting and demonstrating my Anglii khöömii, my flute and Jews Harp playing, this along with photos of my family,
house and Morris Dancing really broke the ice. That meant more Vodka!!.
My first breakfast was fried potatoes, lamb, raw onion, noodles and tea. Very sustaining, but hard to eat on a hangover.
We visited a Buddhist monk who had recently put on his robes again, my photos of H.H. the Dalai Lama proved very welcome and this was an ideal present for him. He blessed us with incense, prayer and his damaru (small pellet drum).
A new temple, Shar Sum had been build about 3 or 4 kilometres outside Khovd where the old monastery may have been. We travelled there but it was deserted and locked up. Later we found out that the monks had gone to UB for the summer.
In the late 1930’s most of the monasteries and temples,
maybe over 800 were destroyed by the Mongolian Communist Purges. Countless
monks were killed, others were put into prison, became herdsmen or escaped to
Inner Mongolia in