As a reward for enduring a year in Ulaanbaatar, we made a trip to see Tsambagarav in Mongolia's Altai mountains in the remote west. Flying in to Khovd over the mountains, I read Sunand Prasad's piece about the UIA (International Union of Architects) and remembered that my Mongolian colleagues (Dagshigdorj et al of the Mongolian Association of Architects) visiting UIA Turin had declined an invitation to attend a RIBA reception in my stead - at a beautiful 16th century Palazzo there. Thinking of their reluctance reminded me of my work, my final report in progress and exit interview on the 27th.
After driving by jeep past the impressive snow-capped Tsambagarav (4400m) to stay in a Khazak Mongolian family Ger, I noticed the family's work programme. Six hours of each day - 5am-8am and 5pm-8pm - spent milking thirty yaks for about 100 litres of milk, from which they make various cheeses, curds and yogurt. Yak wool/hair and crafts supplement the income from the milk products. I enjoyed the evening meal "five fingers" of dried and boiled yak meat mixed with pasta sheets just made by a ten year old girl. Delicious yoghurt followed. By the light of a single solar powered lamp in the Ger, I flicked through the letters of RIBA Journal, reading Iain Borden defend the Bartlett, then a review of "Instant Cities".
After giving the farmer host and his saddle a lift to a valley where he thought he might find his horse, we travelled north and stayed a night with another Khazak family in a Ger by a river near Altantsogs village, where thirty goats were milked once a day to produce 18 litres. While I was relaxing in the ger, a farmer slaughtered a goat outside the door and then unexpectedly brought it in to hang in our ger for butchering. A slightly threatening old man - a drunken Khazak relative - argued with me in Mongolian that Australia had been part of Germany. (In vain I painstakingly distinguished Austria from Australia)
Staying in Olgii town centre's 'Green Garden' Ger Park with its delightful gardens provided an opportunity to unwind. It was the farthest point from UB. Reconvening in our ger with two German trans-Mongolia cyclists we had earlier seen climbing Tsambagarav, two Spanish cyclists (project) from the Turkish restaurant and a backpacking English kindy teacher from UB joined in for a little spontaneous party.