Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia


July 26, 2017

This was a day to remember! It started with an influx of goats into “our” lake, joining us in our morning dip.

And what a satisfying dip that was for me. I floated way out over a rocky bed beneath crystalline water, let my hair float free, and welcomed the heat of the sun. The cows and sheep arrived later, during breakfast. Afterwards, Bogie and I went for a hike, wading to the other side of the lake before heading up a steep incline of black shale and scree.

He ran. I inched my way up the deceptively steep slope, slipping precariously and wishing I had brought my poles. Exposure is something I do NOT like, and I have many horror stories to prove it. Give me trees or big rocks on at least one side and I can climb anything! Put me out in the open with nothing but eternity down below, and I freak. By sheer willpower I reached the top, turned around, sat down, and inched my way toward the bottom. Halfway down I stood up, determined to make my way back, not looking down, but straight across. After all, I had my reputation to uphold, as if Bogie cared. As is the problem with all these hills, they have no trails. I don’t do well on piles of slippery stones.

Bogie traversed the ridge to take pictures, and returned to find me cooling my sore feet in the water, and keeping company with a gorgeous dragonfly. I dared him to swim back to camp and he did, after unloading his gear on me. I must have been a funny sight dragging along, carrying Bogie’s camera, binoculars, clothes, and pack, and wearing his jaunty hat. Our late arrival necessitated a rush to pack up camp and be on our way by mid-afternoon.

Click on photos for slideshow.

Just before we left, one of the nomads approached me with the offer of a long horse ride. I told him it was a camel ride, or nothing! He had been staring at me for some time. I think it was the wild hair that intrigued him. Shortly after leaving, we sped by a beautiful lake. In it shown a perfect reflection of the Tsetsen-Uul mountains. Oops, too fast for a photo. Another scene to put in my memory bank.

We were still in Zavkhan Province and approaching the small town of Santa Margate. Masses of birds—sand martins—were burrowed into the riverbank.The whole colony would congregate in the village on the electric wires in the parking lot of a housing complex, which was surrounded by wooden fences. The houses were close together, each with a different colored roof.

There was a park nearby with statues, one of a camel…which looked like the closest I’d come to riding one on this trip. Evidently, because of the dry weather, the camels are loose on the prairie, or desert, and only the few who are trained for tourists are for riding. I should have taken advantage of the one that came around on our first day of camping! If only I had known.

Now began another cross-country sojourn over the desert, bumping all the way. I learned a very helpful phrase: amaa tat, meaning shut up. Sounds pretty benign, doesn’t it? Algaa taught it to me and said he would use it if I didn’t quit complaining about his driving! I didn’t….Repetitio est mater studiorum.

After stopping for yogurt and milk at a ger, and managing to spill most of it, we loaded up on lamb bones, which everyone ate, but me. Sheep and large cows grazed a few feet from where we rested. While the buying was going on I grooved on the munching sound of the animals eating. They sure keep the grass low! I also noticed how cruel most of the Mongolians were to their animals, especially dogs. They throw rocks and stones at them, behavior similar to that of the Indians and Nepali.

At last our search ended and we arrived at a lush permafrost pasture near a winding stream and jagged mountains. There was a sweet odor permeating the air. Bogie said it was the plant, artemesia, related to sagebrush. Dinner was perfect: homemade noodles and lamb stew, Mongolian-style. Just as we finished, a crescent moon appeared overhead. It was, indeed, a heavenly campsite!






  1. J. carol Goodman

    youve given me enough scenes for a life time to paint rearrange them in my mind. thanks for the sights.

  2. Claudia George

    Another beautiful adventure ! Thank you for sharing Meg.

  3. Jerene

    Thank you again dear Meg! Great work on your blog…how in heaven’s name do you ever distill such a marvelous adventure into these few tales? I am so happy for you that you keep traveling and sharing!

  4. Tim

    Tooo much Fun!

    Thanks, again …

© 2021 Meg Noble Peterson