En route to the Tsaatans – Part 1 (by minivan)

Wednesday 16/08

Early departure (8am). Difficult to wake-up (I went to bed at 4am, answering to emails related to the world tour and writing ‘summary’ posts about Russia). Our guide for our trip to the Tsaatans, Natsca, comes and picks us up at the apartment.

I indeed booked a 13-day (!) trip to go and see the Tsaatans tribe in the North of Mongolia, in the North-West of lake Khusvgul, near the Russian border. The Tsaatans are nomad reindeers herders. It will take 4-5 days just to arrive over there…

First step is a flight to Moron (at 10am).

Arrival 1h40 after.

A driver, Tala, is waiting for us with the same grey van as the one we had in the Ust-Barguzin region (but the passenger seat is much less comfortable…).

Quick shopping (mainly water and pasta + other stuff; I even managed to find one pack of Barilla pasta and Barilla ricotta sauce!).

We have lunch in a local restaurant in Moron.

Departure for a 4-hour drive to Lake Khusvgul, our first stop.

After 15′ one tyre exploded. After repairing it, we went back to Moron to buy a new one. Easier said than done…

Two hours after we are leaving Moron again…

The landscapes are beautiful, with herds of sheep, goats, cows, horses and even yaks… Gorgeous!

Nice arrival on the lake Khusvgul (beautiful view). Unfortunately with the 2 hours lost because of the tyre we don’t have time to enjoy much the scenery; it’s already time to eat (7:30pm); set menu.

It’s rather cold after sunset. I put my polar for the first time of the trip. I didn’t know at that time that I won’t remove it for the next 10 days…

The yurts are nice but the camp has too many other yurts, with mostly local tourists.


Thursday 17/08

We wake up around 7am. The light outside is nice. There are yaks around the yurts.

Quick (hot) shower. Again, I didn’t know then that it would be the last one before 10 days…

Same road as yesterday, back to Khatgal (at the southern tip of the lake), where we load tents and mattresses in our minivan.

Lunch on the road, in a nomad family living in 3 yurts located near the track, in the middle of nowhere. Nice setting!

There is (yak) yoghurt drying on the yurts, for the winter. They have solar panels and satellite dish but not much else. The yurt is their full house; in this confined area, you have everything: the kitchen, the living room and the bedrooms, and also the bathroom (I mean I saw some toothbrushes…). We quickly go round in circles in there (you can say that again).

We prepare instant noodles (I had thought / hoped that they were only for the train…) and we eat them outside; the weather is nice. We try the yak butter for desert.

These nomads families move every 3 months.

The track that we follow goes through empty landscapes. Mongolia has a population of 3 million people while it is 2.5 times bigger than France. There is cattle everywhere: there are 58 m heads of cattle in the country.

We arrive in Ulaan Uul for the night. The yurt is located in a nice setting (with a very nice view on the Khorido Saridag mountains range), 2km outside the town. Our yurt is one of the 2 yurts of a nomad family, the other one being theirs.

We go back to town to have diner in a restaurant; we eat dumplings and rice.

Beautiful sunset tonight. And great sky full of stars later on.


Friday 18/08

Isabelle light up the fire before we wake up so we can go out of our bed in the warmth. So kind!

Departure at 8am. Nice sun, nice sky. Beautiful road, in the steppe.

Lunch: a bit farther than Renchilkhumbe, in Tala’s family (wooden) house. Pasta in broth with vegetables. Good yak yoghurt for desert. We take one of the family member, Tsitse, with us; she will be our cook for the week to come.

One hour later, we arrive at our location (1 wooden house and 1 yurt) for the night. For the third night in a row, night in yurt. But this time we only have 3 beds inside…

Tala leaves us there. His brother will guide us to the Tsaatans.

Unlike the 2 previous days, we had some free time before diner (it’s only 3pm). Kids are happy. They put their swimming suit and go to the small lake nearby. Isabelle and I write a bit our diary (which, for me, becomes the posts of the blog).

Ludivine tries to help the woman to milk the cows but unsuccessfully; not enough previous experience probably… We then help her to bring the cows to the ‘corral’. Kids love it.

Other members of the local family are cutting up a sheep. The meat of the whole beast will be taken with us during our trip to the Tsaatans (in a bag) and used in nearly each meal of the trip (during a week!).

Diner is not bad: fried dumplings, cooked inside our yurt and eaten inside our yurt. We basically do everything inside the yurt.

We only have 2 beds but it doesn’t seem to be a problem: all except me prefer to sleep on the floor… Jules say that it is more “aventurist” (one of his new frequent invented words..).




8 Replies to “En route to the Tsaatans – Part 1 (by minivan)

  1. Isabelle light up the fire before we wake up so we can go out of our bed in the warmth. So kind!

    Bravo Isabelle! Je savais que tu étais la femme et la mère parfaite !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *