This week was our spring break at school. On Tuesday morning Pepper, Jordan and I packed up and loaded into a car at 9 for a two night trip to the Amarbayasgalant Monastary which is North of Ulaanbaatar. We met with the other car and transferred passengers so the only person sitting on laps was Jordan. By 10:30 we were clearing the city limits. We stopped for a lunch at the Mongolian equivalent of a rest area restaurant. I had a decent size plate of vegetables and noodles. There was meat in it though – most of the time there is meat in food here. After another three hours of driving we turned off the paved roads and across the steppe toward the monastery.
Six hours after leaving Ulaanbaatar we were moving our things into the two gers we had rented. We met the two little kids in the cluster of homes and gets near the monastery.
Then we walked through part of the monastery complex. Some monks were sweeping and lots of birds were active but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.
The first night we made a stir fry dinner for all 9 of us right in our ger. We played games, laughed, stoked our fires and went to sleep. We all woke pretty cold. The three of us brought cold weather sleeping bags so I felt fine but the cold drove some of the others out of bed and to warm the ger up by rebuilding a fire. We had scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast and then went to the monastery to watch and listen to the monks do their reading. I have video that I will post later.
Again we had the monastery to ourselves. There were birds and a few monks and us.
We spent the rest of the day hiking around the area, relaxing in the sun, and playing with the kids, dogs, and cats. Three dogs followed us on a 45 minute walk to a group of nearby stupas. On the walk back a cat followed us nearly half way back.
That night we had a huge spaghetti dinner and then the monks invited us to play soccer with them on their makeshift pitch in front of the monastery.
The sun set while we played with the monks and after 45 minutes or so we headed back to our gers to settle in for the night. With the hiking, soccer, and relaxation we crashed pretty early. We were prepared for starting up the fires in the stoves though. I woke just before six and saw snow falling through the opening in the roof of the ger. I dressed and grabbed my camera to check out the monastery and scenery while fat snowflakes fell.
By 10:30 we were packed up and headed back to Ulaanbaatar. We made the return in five hours by not stopping for food. The total cost per person for the trip was 106,000 tugrik (about $82) which included food, fuel, the drivers, and our accommodations.
The trip was amazing. The solitude of the monastery, the monks playing soccer with us, the birds, the fellowship, the snow, the food… it was all fantastic.