Khovd Mongolia 1993
It took a while to get to a plane ticket to Khovd as there had been an outbreak of bubonic plague in the province!. I needed to check with the British Embassy until it was ok to travel. Eventually the quarantine was lifted so I took the first MIAT (Mongolian airline) flight to Khovd. We stopped off at Moron for the plane to refuel. I bought some soup 80T (tögrög). The landscape further west seemed much drier with the odd lake. Eventually we flew by a huge lake, Khar Us Nuur (Black Water Lake) adjacent to Khovd.
Gereltsogt had phoned his brother in law, Buriad 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 (Mongolia traditional robe) and pointed toed Mongolian boots. He looked at me a couple of times and then timidly came up to me. I presented the letter and his eyes lit up and he greeted me with a half hug/half smelling of noses!
Buriad spoke absolutely no English, like most of the Mongolians I met. He took my luggage and me on the back of his motorbike. Buriad’s ger (Round felt tent) was not in Khovd, but just by the Buyant River about 2 kilometres away. He seemed to be working a small pumping station that supplied water from the river to the town. This meant he had a supply of electricity for lights, a fridge that was crammed full of meat & and there was also an old large Russian TV in the ger!
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.
Buriad 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 know your 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.