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Event Price – $40
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- Name – Aaron Birkby
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This was my first visit to Mongolia and I had no idea what to expect. Mongolia is sandwiched between China to the south and Russia to the north. The border is 10,400km long, which we know because our guide for our 8 hour snow-covered hike was a Colonel in the Mongolian Border Patrol who had just spent the past twelve months and four sets of hiking boots literally walking the entire circumference of the country.
Mongolia has a population of three million people and is the most sparsely populated sovereign state in the world. Approximately half of the population now live in the city of Ulaanbaatar, which was only ever designed to accomodate 600,000. The other half of the population live in the rural countryside, with a third of the total population still living nomadically.
There was talk of herders migrating to be closer to the city, but we also met several who had moved to the city from the country, only to then return to the country again. Other than the nomadic agricultural base, we heard that the country gains most of its export revenues from mining.
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The Mongolians we met in the countryside seemed absolutely content. We would ask them about their fears, and their answers were always entirely to do with seasonal weather patterns or the welfare of their animals. When we asked them how they faced and addressed their fears, their answer was always about being prepared.
It was the simplicity of that which stood out to me. There was no overthinking, and no fears based on artificial social constructs. Plus there was specific action to address and mitigate their fears, rather than dwelling in them.
But by far the most memorable part of the experience was the 24 hours we spent living with local nomadic families. We donned traditional Mongolian deel clothing (I seriously want one) and watched as their young children competed in a bare-back 3km horse race for our viewing pleasure. We got to see them demonstrate traditional herding techniques. We did archery, and a few of us even participated in Mongolian wrestling.