IT is a very long way from Mere in Wiltshire to Mongolia. It is not just the thousands of miles – daunting though they are – but the massive difference in language, culture, history and geography between northern Europe and one of the most remote regions of the Far East. But when farmers market member Janet Wood of Mere Fish Farm first heard about the possibility of a trip to Mongolia, she was fascinated.
In the first of a series of articles for the Fine Times Recorder, Janet describes how it began:
It is amazing what can happen at farmers’ markets. I meet such interesting people all the time, on both sides of the table. Last spring 2012, I was talking to a couple who were off on a scientific trip, with the Scientific Exploration Society, to Nepal to count and catalogue wild elephants. On their return I asked how it went, and of course it was wonderful with close encounters with a rhino and a tiger (not at the same time), as well as wild elephants.
Then they passed a comment that they were going to Mongolia next year. Now that really caught my attention. I left it for a month but looked up the trip online and next time I asked if they would send me the itinerary, costs etc which they kindly did.
Well, that was it really, truly incredible, a real adventure and affordable – no five-star hotels and tourist buses so accommodation and travel costs kept to a minimum.
The expedition starts at the capital, Ulanbattur, for a couple of days, then a flight north west to Moron for the Nadaam Festival to watch the traditional archery, wrestling and horse racing contests which I have only seen, with wonder, on TV. This would be followed by a long rough jeep ride north to Khovsgol where we would meet our ponies for a week’s trek into the Taiga Mountains and visit the “reindeer people” and their shamaans, running clinics with a doctor and dentist.
Then back to UB and hopefully bed and shower and then south west to Hustein National Park and another camp, to study the Przewalski horses and other wildlife. The aim of the expedition is to catalogue flora and fauna, so we were to be joined and assisted by Mongolian scientists, as well as bringing welfare to the local people who live in remote areas.
I had to get on this trip so duly completed the application form, several times, aided and abetted by my children. Then I was interviewed by Col Blashford Snell who runs the expeditions from his base at Motcombe – such an interesting man, akin to meeting David Attenborough! He said he would let me know by the end of the week but he contacted my referees that day and phoned to invite me to join the trip that evening.
All this from asking farmers’ market customers about their holiday!
Janet is pictured eating dumplings in a restaurant in Ulanbattur.