After a long day, hitchhiking from Ulan-Ude in Russia to Mongolia, we walked on a sandy road towards our destination. A group of cows were grazing freely near us and their curious eyes followed our steps. The whole territory was an amazing mix of islands of forests on a wide green steppe – vast dream land in the sunset.
Soon an impressive sacred tree Eej Mod stood in front of us spreading its strong branches towards the sky. This spiritual landmark is one stand-out example how in Mongolia two religions, Buddhism and Shamanism, are often blended into one. Its fame brings lots of worshippers from Japan, Korea and China to homage to the Mother Tree. The lines of blue silk scarves adorned the area while the wind had spread offerings and gifts (alcohol, sweets, tea), which people had brought, all over on the ground. During our walk in the forest nearby we found another worshipped formations covered with shawls. The descending sun made the whole place magical and it was hard not to feel that there’s some sort of power around us.
Thanks to the kids, who were near Eej Mod, we could later prepare warm tea. Once they learned we need water, they run shouting something in Mongolian, to the wooden house. Their kind mother came out and offered to fill our bottles. Like many families in Mongolia, especially in rural areas, they lived in poverty. Unfortunately the effects of the growing economies are mostly shown in the capital Ulaanbaatar, where luxury stores compete for space to attract customers. Meanwhile, in the countryside, lots of people are struggling as their traditional livelihoods are dissolving.
We found a calm place for our tent on a hill, from where we could see the outline of the Trans-Mongolian railway. The approaching train made us think of it passing through many beautiful landscapes hidden behind mountains and forests – and from the train, only a glimpse of it all can be seen. The sounds of wheels rolling on the railroad slowly faded away and although our eyes were heavy, we gazed for a long time at the pink coloured sky that gleamed in the darkness.