Mongolia – they call it the ‘Ocean of Singing’ and ‘the Hometown of Drinking’ – I was curious to know what is behind…
In autumn 2018 our way leads us to Inner Mongolia ,officially called the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region or Nei Mongol Autonomous Region in the north of China , bordering to Outer Mongolia and Russia. Coming in from Bejing we arrive at Baotou Airport and our local guide is waiting for us. We drive through the city to our hotel and passing by the golden deer statues in the middle of the boulevard.
The deer is the symbol of Mongolia which is the 3rd biggest province in China stretching about 2400 km( 1490 miles ), located on an inland plateau in the height of 1000 m and with a small population of 24 Million people only.
A little further in the middle of the city we are then passing by the entrance of the biggest grassland in China.
Our guide says that without a guidance over there you are definitely lost in the grasslands as it is soooo huge !
The landscape of Inner Mongolia is vast grasslands which is actually the region between a forest or a mountain and the desert .The grasslands are also called savanna ,steppe,prairie or pampas in the different countries. In the US they are called the prairies ,in the South American continent they are called the pampas, in Central Eurasia they are the steppes while on the African continent they are named as the savannas. The vegetation of the grasslands are various types of grass and you can find grassland on all continents besides the Antarctica. The rainfall in the grassland is not strong enough to create a forest but it is more than in the desert. 25% of the land on the globe consists actually of grasslands.
The grassland in the northern hemisphere can have grasses which are about 2 m high which have strong roots under the soil. Actually the grass is more growing under the soil then above.
Animals in grasslands are deers, goats,rabbits, camels ,cattle,yaks, mongolian horses ,sheeps which have adapted themselves to the dry environment and the harsh winds in the region.
The sky in Inner Mongolia is very famous for having a special bright blue color. The meaning of the capital City of Hohhot means ‘ Blue City ‘ in Chinese. It is October 2018 and we have autumn and it is just before cold winter days start .Daytime temperature is about 10 degrees while nighttime the temperature is already below 0 .It is quite cold for us .From time to time there is also some power cut in the city , you might also miss some hot water and electricity in the hotel and this is why some industries have their own power plants. We spend 2 days for business and visit some production plants but on the 3rd day we have a little time to drive abroad.
From Baotou we drive northwards to Ordos which is a 2 hours distance.The climate gets a little colder, even drier and the sky gets even more crystal blue. Our goal for today is to visit one of the little cashmere goat farms in the North of Ordos – we are leaving the normal road and our driver takes us to a narrow land road into a region where the grassland begins .The way is long and there is nobody around but just silence and nature – we feel the sun on our skin and can hear the wind whistling in the grass and in our ears.
The color of the grass is yellow- beige like in the savanna in Africa ,the sky is a beautiful blue and you can see some small spots of green which is a little tree. Here and there , there are some small natural water holes where the sky is reflecting itself. It looks really gorgeous like a mirror of the sky .You have the feeling as if you are at the end of the world and there is no sign of any kind of civilization over there any further.
At our right hand side we see a herd of cashmere goats moving like little white clouds on the rolling grassland.
We just drive further and arrive at a little farm where some herds of cashmere goats are hold.
İn front of the gate of the little farm we get to know Ms. Mei Lian Chen , the so called ” Beautiful Lotus Flower”, the female shepherd of the goats , who is living here.
There are about 200 goats which are held in a little barn. Most of the goats are white but few are also in greyish brown color and they look so cute as sometimes they all turn their heads and faces at the same time to you and it is as if they question what we are doing here – so funny !
In the front there are 2 cages full of sweet corn to feed the animals.
The fields in front of the barn are wide ,there is a small waterhole and a very little river in front.
At the right hand side there is a field where a donkey with very long ears is standing – İ think İ have never seen such a big donkey.
It is looking at us and moving its long ears back and forth. Somehow I have the feeling that it could be quite sensitive and aggressive – so we just pass by . The whole scenery looks like a picture in a book – so ideal , so natural , so unreal.
Ms. Mei Lian Chen is opening the doors of the barn and lets all the cashmere goats running out of the barn just to move a little bit and show them to us.
They run and jump like hell leaving clouds of dust behind. They are running along the fields ,jumping over the little river and up a hill and Mei Lian Chen is running after them with her shepherd stick in her hand and crying after them to direct.
We try to follow but it is so difficult as the goats are so fast and it is not possible to catch them.
The autumn colors in the grassland and in this little valley are so beautiful as the few trees that are growing here have beautiful autumn leaves – reddish , yellowish colors and some little green .
Everything looks so pure and so peaceful – it is as if mankind has never touched these spaces – it is so virgin .
The water of the waterholes is so clear, the sun is glittering on its surface – so is the water of the cute little river. I dream that all the water in the world would be as clear as the water is here.
For the Mongolian people water is the spirit of pureness – so better never wash your hands or clothes in a river , don t throw any trash into a river – as the Mongolian tribes always live close to the riverside and water is limited ,they need pure water for their survival – that is why they are used to save water and to keep it clean .
We are overwhelmed with the beauty of the place – the wind whistling in the grass , the autumn winking in the trees , the song of the little river and the stretch of the huge blue sky over us .I think it is not possible to describe – you must see and live it and it gives you so much power ,positive energy and faith for peace.
The weather is sunny but fresh and cold and we just feel really awesome to be here and not cold at all . We just enjoy this beautiful ,awesome environment . It is another minute where I do pray to God and be so thankful to have the unique pleasure to be at this wonderful place and breathe this atmosphere …
Our goat herd is running with Lei Mian Chen up and down the hills and we observe them from the distance . They are so cute ! Somehow Lei Mian Chen reminds me of Heidi in the Swiss Alps who is running up and down the hills with her calfs and cows – so funny …
After having got tired the shepherd is directing the goats first to the waterhole to drink some water and then gets them slowly back home again to the farm .
These are actually the goats which are used for the cashmere yarn production in Inner Mongolia .The cashmere goat of Inner Mongolia is very important for the industry in this region as Mongolia is producing 35 per cent of the global supply for cashmere products .
It is said that there are about 32 million cashmere goats living in Inner Mongolia though there is no official registration.
In October the goat gets pregnant and stays pregnant throughout the wintertime. A 3- sided barn is the only shelter that the goats have in wintertime as a protection .
The single baby is dropped in April and 1 month after the birth the mother goat is going to be dehaired in May and June .
A goat grows 2 type of hairs – the cashmere comes from the fine , downy and soft undercoat – it is collected by combing the hair in spring time.
Mongolian goats are the best goats to produce cashmere hair.
The colder the temperature is outside ( Mongolia can be at – 50 degrees ) and the longer the days are , the longer is the hair of the Mongolian goat.
The thinner the goat is , the finer is the hair of its cashmere !
There are 5 different strains in Inner Mongolia :
the Alasan Cashmere Goat , the Arbus Cashmere Goat and the Erlangshan Cashmere Goat which all produce very fine cashmere hair while the Hanshan and the Wuzhumquin grow rougher quality of hair but in bigger quantity.
The goats of our barn here are Arbus cashmere goats.
The Mongolian goat produces about 200-300 gr cashmere yarn per year which is equal to 1 cashmere sweater per anno.
The farmers comb the hair of the goats ,then it is first sorted by hand – at that moment it smells sharp but then it is washed and combed many many times in industrıal washing machines until it gets its white color and becomes babysoft .Afterwards the hair is spinned and dyed ,dried and then ready for knitting and finishing .At the end of a very long and sensitive process you get the cashmere sweaters or scarfs made of a highly valuable and natural yarn.
The amount of cashmere yarn worldwide is very limited and the demand for it is raising every year as it is for instance getting very popular in the middle class of the Chinese society.
Due to the new environmental policy the Chinese government just released new regulations which also cover the goat farms in the grasslands where it will be no longer allowed that the goats are grazing free outside their farms but need to be hold in a restricted area in barns to avoid overgrazing as the environment of the grasslands need to be protected .
Arriving back at the farm Ms. Mei Lian Chen is bringing us her favorite cute little baby goat which is soft like a white little cloud 🙂
We are so thankful to Lei Mian Chen as she spent some time with us and showed us the grasslands around.
We give her some delights for welcoming us on her farm and giving us such nice unforgettable memories in this special location!
How much we enjoyed the day with them and how unreal it was for us.
We drive back to the city with a lot of wonderful impressions in our minds and in the evening we are invited to a typical Mongolian dinner.
We start with drinking some salty delicious milk soup and move forward with lots of different dishes of the Mongolian cuisine – beef , lamb ,camel , lots of different special local mushrooms, salad ,vegetable, pumpkin, potato , beans – all very delightful.
Later in the evening a Mongolian welcome ceremony takes place – a Mongolian singer is joining us with a little bowl with rice liqueur in hand.
She is singing a beautiful Mongolian song and is approaching us with a blue shiny shawl in her hand . Blue is the color of the sky and the water .She is standing in front of me as the guest of the table , placing the shawl around my neck , giving me the bowl while she is continuing to sing.
I feel very honored and glad and need to tap my right ring finger into the liqueur and splash some of the fluid towards haven , another dip and splash towards the earth, a third dip and some fluid onto my forehead and some last dips while putting some of the fluid on the foreheads of all the other people sitting at our table and giving them good wishes.
İt is a praise to nature – a shamanist ritual .
Drinking liqueur at the table of the Mongolian Host means accepting his pure kindness of hospitality. The ceremony comes to an end and we all feel very warmly welcomed, proud and happy.
I learn that Mongolian people love to sing and have very good voices . Often, instead of talking to each other, they sing to each other as a way of communication .
This is why Mongolia is called the “Heaven of Singing”
The Mongolian tribes like wrestling , horse riding , artistic horse riding, camel riding and archery. Here in the prairie they are moving from one place to the other – this is why they are living in strong huge round huts which are inside warm and very comfortable and protect them from the wind , the cold and the sun outside.
In Inner Mongolia nowadays just 20% of the population is Mongolian while the 80% are Chinese.
It is a long evening with a long ceremony and songs – the friendship and hospitality is great .
This special region in the World is so charming with its beautiful landscapes and flocks of cattle , sheep and goats on its grasslands. Our trip was short but very impressive and now I know what is meant to be in the grasslands .
I would be delighted to have another chance to go more deep into the region whether it is the Inner or outer Mongolian countryside to get to know the people and their animals and their whole natural surrounding even much closer and more in depth but if you are a nature lover you will be not able to resist the awesome beauty of this world and its people.
The next day I fly back home which takes about more then 35 hours – yes it was really a very far location and I have all the great pictures of the whistling grasslands in my mind.