The Herder – Western Mongolia

Jul 2, 2019 | Travel

The Herder – Western Mongolia 

It’s 8am and -5 Celcius. Holy smokes. Oooooh! It’s sooooo cold! Getting dressed under three sleeping bags, in the back of the Land Rover is no mean feat. The sun creeps over the distant snow-capped mountains and streams into the car; stirring the thin layer of ice on the windows.  

A call to prayer wafts up from the small picturesque town of Olgii, which lays down in the valley. Allen is already up, frozen fingers and all, tussling with a puncture in the tyre so we won’t be leaving in a hurry. 

It’s sticky sweet rice with sultanas for breakfast on this glorious morning under a magnificent sapphire blue sky. 

The familiar whistles of the herder sing on the wind. Moments later a herd of over 100 sheep and goats, of every colour, swarm up over a rise. The herder sits astride a white horse as he takes the flock up into the hills to graze.  

With binoculars, I get a closer look at an older man, short with a very chunky build. He’s dressed in a dark traditional ‘del’ with a bright orange sash.  

The Mongolian dismounts, leaving his horse and walks in our direction. As he approaches, he appears to stagger, leaning forward as he walks. “Vodar! Vodar!” he calls out; distress evident in his tone.  

At ten metres away, I see that he has his hands clasped together, under his chin and they’re covered in blood. In fact, there is blood everywhere, half of his face is covered, pouring through his fingers and dripping down onto his ‘del’. 

The man tilts his head, peering up at me, with a look of imploring helplessness. I rush to him, handing him toilet paper and with a bottle, I pour some water into his cupped hands. 

The water is icy and he gasps, as he splashes it over his nose and chin but it does nothing to stem the flow of blood. I put the kettle on to warm some water and drag a chair over to him. 

Allen looks up calmly and says, “Don’t worry, he’s just having a serious nosebleed from the cold.” 

As the bleeding slowly subsides he cleans blood from his face and hands. Bending over, he wipes the blood from his boots and the front of his dark green winter ‘del’. 

I hand him fresh clothes, which he stuffs down the front of his ‘del’.  Looking deeply into my eyes, he leans over and takes my hands firmly into his huge calloused, warm hands. The human connection is palpable. 

Walking off a few steps, he stops and turns back to look at me again and with a slight nod of his head, he turns towards the distant mountains and strides away, back to his herd.   

A local herder on his horse

Rensina guides a tour in Mongolia each year which she runs in partnership with a Mongolian family. She can be contacted on 0487313566.



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