We take a step back from the yurt craze sweeping Europes campsites to travel through Mongolia with nomadic communities, where yurts originated.
Yurts are all the rage these days, with posh camping (glamping) sites springing up all over Europe. You are probably familiar by now with the yurt concept rounded wooden structures, canvas covered, comfortable, spacious, more like a home than a tent. Its no wonder they have converted many an ardent anti-camper. Easily dismantled and moved (in theory), Mongolian yurts evolved as the home of choice for the nomads of Central Asia. So this month we travel back to Mongolia, one of the regions yurts originally hail from to meet an innovative foundation called Ger to Ger (or Yurt to Yurt) who is working with nomadic families in Mongolia to invite adventurous soles to discover their world.
Since setting up in 2005, Ger to Ger have worked with dozensof Mongolian nomadic herder groups and their communities to develop a travel network of nomadic trekking, horse riding and 4×4 routes through the Mongolian steppe, taking you literally from Ger to Ger, staying with host families and sharing their way of life. Its possibly as close as the modern adventure traveller will get to understanding life as a nomad. North, South, East and West, new trails are continuously being coordinated with the local communities. Check their websitefor a full list. A classic is the Great Gobi Quest, a 12 day exploration of the Gobi desert by jeep, horseback, camels, carts and trekking.
For those less interested in being continuously on the move as the nomadic lifestyle dictates, the agency have helped local community groups set up a series of cultural and homestay programs allowing you a rare insight into their life and customs. One that really caught our eye as a totally outof this world experience was the chance to spend a week learning to train Kazakh eagles in Bayan Ulgii province. Here, Mongolian Kazakhs maintain a 2000 year old tradition of training female Golden Eagles to hunt foxes, rabbits, owls and even small wolves, and you will learn just how its done.
That might not be to everyones tastes, but is certainly going to be memorable, as would opportunities in different communities to , among other things, learn the language, work with horses, become a Mongolian archer, or discover embroidery and felt making techniques.
Ger to Ger is a unique travel foundation and social enterprisewhich takes an innovative approach to mobilise, train and support rural communities to develop sustainable livelihoods through community tourism.They take an all inclusive approach based on the theory that Even a homeless man with an upright and honest character, with proper knowledge and some applied experience, can walk and guide visitors from point A to point B safely.
Through tourism incomes theysay that rural nomadic herder groups and their communities are developing an understanding that they are custodians of nomadic culture and heritage, and guardians of local environment (as it becomes an income asset). The results are certainly tangible. One nomadic herders testimony, Mr. Chimiddorj, mirrors that of many others:”Our household income has increased. So now, I can pay my daughters tuition. I have learned many thingsduring the training and project.”
Its a far cry from a luxury yurt camping holiday in Cornwall,but travel to Mongolia to discover the origins of theyurt will certainly leave you with a different perspective on life, and gives you the chance to support others in their fight for a sustainable future in this brave new world.
You can read more about Ger to Ger and contact them direct to discuss your travel plans here.
Its not the first time we have explored Mongolia in the adventure mag. You may remember the furious debate that followed Ripley Davenports walk across Mongolia, or followed Tim Cope on the Trail of Ghengis Kahn.