There are many spectacular places to experience adventure travel in the world, but you’ve got to share them with the hordes – except in Mongolia.
It’s the land of the eternal blue sky, but also a land where the road doesn’t go. In many places especially on the Western steppes where Tusker takes its small groups, there are no roads – just a few dirt tracks in scattered places. You make your way like Genghis Khan’s Mongol horde did on foot or horse following your instincts and your love of adventure.
A Living History
Mongolia’s history is chiseled in the craggy faces of the Tuvan and Kazakh herders you meet as you move through the glacially carved valleys on Tusker Trail’s 60 mile trek in the Altai Tavn Bogd National Park. The park features Mongolia’s highest peak, Khuiten (14,350 feet) that was first climbed in 1956. It also has Mongolia’s largest glacier, Potanin that is 14 kilometers long.
The park is an international boundary separating Mongolia from China and Russia. The three countries agreed not to spoil the setting with checkpoints and border guards. There aren’t even border markers. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011.
This cultural crossroad is far less traveled today than it was centuries ago. The rocks attest to that long, powerful and undisturbed history. On Tusker’s route there are thousands of petroglyphs that make it Northern Asia’s richest cache of rock art. There are 10,000 pictures for 10,000 years of history, a prehistoric record of the animals and people who trod along the same rivers and tundra you are privileged to share.
There are no other tourist groups about, but you will encounter the warmth of a nomadic herder’s ger, his round warm dwelling wrapped in felt. He will share it without hesitation, a throwback to the ancient bond of hospitality that has been dominant amongst the herders for millennia. Warm hospitality is still intact in the Mongolian backcountry.
Weather is another compelling factor. You can start the day in dank, rainy conditions, but by lunch the sun is shining and the mountains reappear. Be thankful Tusker’s 15-day trip is in July and not January when temperatures at night frequently are -40 degrees. Mongolia is blessed with 250 sunny days annually, but the climate is dry. Mongolia’s piece of the Gobi desert is among the driest places in the world.
Despite these harsh conditions, the Altai region is home to a rich array of wildlife. Wild horses still roam in addition to Ibex, red deer, moose, and myriad birdlife including snow cock and golden eagles. The Kazakh herders still train these eagles to do their hunting for them.
Mongolia was the first non-African itinerary that Tusker founder Eddie Frank added to his list of adventures. You know it had to be special for Eddie to venture out of Africa. It was on his honeymoon trip that he fell in love with its pristine vastness. The trip was so adventurous Outside Magazine labeled it one of its Trips of the Year in 2011. “Open steppe and emerald meadows. Forested valleys and thick marshland. Turquoise alpine lakes and glaciated peaks. Western Mongolia’s 2,456-square-mile Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, in the Altai-Sayan eco-region, near the Chinese border, has it all,” wrote Outside in its description of Tusker’s Mongolia trek.
If it sounds like it’s like no other place in the world it is, especially for adventure travelers.