Sleeping out on the Steppes
When you go to Mongolia you will spend some time in a ger (English = yurt). Or at least, if you do it right you will. How could you go to this country of nomadic tribes and not experience life sleeping out in a ger set on a vast lonely plain of green grass under the stars? There is something almost magical about these part-tent, part-house and it’s a completely mobile home.
Most of the gers we slept in were not as ornately decorated as the one pictured. Here we see a family’s home with all of the usual furnishings. Hand-knotted carpets, plush wall to wall coverings, and of course satellite TV. It sounds like a swanky apartment on the upper west side, doesn’t it? But of course these furnishings have been passed down from generation upon generation. Except, of course for the satellite system. That seems to be a fairly new arrival on the Mongolia plateau. Nearly every family has one, and it naturally fits on the disassembled ger ready for transport at the top of the stack like a big tin hat. A satellite, battery, and solar panel for every ger must have been a politcal promise in the not too distant past.
Some tips for traveling the back country of Mongolia and staying in gers would have to include warm clothing. Oh, and some kind of full covering pajamas or a silk sleeping bag. Don’t worry about an eye mask, these things are pitch black inside after the orange glow of the dung burning oven dies down.
For food, I would recommend instant oatmeal and a large coffee mug. Freeze dried or instant soups are also highly coveted among fellow travelers as are instant coffees and tea bags. Bring plenty to share with your hosts as these small treats will carry you a long way towards a lasting friendship.
One last bit of advice. Don’t be the last one to claim a bed when you arrive in a new ger. You might just find yourself sleeping on the floor atop the sheep dung micro-habitat of beetles and ants. Believe me, you do not want to be there!