Day 11 – Erdene Zuu monastery

Daniel left us to catch a bus back to UB, whilst we meandered our way back more slowly over the next couple of days. We stopped at Erdene Zuu monastery along the way. The town had a market which we had a brief look around. Most of the stalls were housed in metal containers, the kind that are used for transporting goods. We found it especially interesting because some of the stalls were selling parts to build a ger – you could kit yourself out on this market with all your wooden struts, trellis and ger paraphernalia. Imagine going to a market and buying a DIY house!

The monastery was beautiful. It had also been part destroyed in the Communist purges, but there were three main temple buildings that survived. These were located centrally and had beautiful curving oriental style roofs with brightly painted carvings. The whole complex was enclosed by a high wall, lined with white stupa, and there was a wide grassy area just within the wall. The doors had fantastic knockers with oriental style lion faces. Towards the back there was a building where the monks lived, and we saw some of the younger monks receiving tuition and some of them fooling around! We went inside the temples to look at the statues of the Buddha and the protection gods. The protection gods are pretty scary looking (although they have 72 different forms, some of which are less scary). They all have a little row of skulls on top of their heads and have blue faces. There is one protection goddess, and she rides a horse and carries the hide of a man she has skinned and has her baby between her teeth as she had to eat it as it was sired by the skinned man who was evil. Something like that! You wouldn’t want to mess with her! There were passageways leading around the inside of the walls of each temple, with a gong hanging over the top left part just inside the entrance. You are supposed to bang the gong with your hand and then walk clockwise around the passageway.

After this, we entered the semi Gobi and spent the night in Elsen Tasarkhai, a flat landscape with a few camels. The kite, which had been a work in progress, was completed – after several tweaks to form and function. We established that it could fly, but sadly the wind wasn’t strong enough any more for us to fly it properly. We found an antler, presumably from an antelope, on the ground and used this to wrap the string around. We also made a small raft and sailed it for a short distance on a river; it’s marvellous what you can do with a ball of string and some sticks! That night we shared the ger with two German men who were also nearing the end of their tour. We had seen them at a distance and played guess the nationality. Luke won the prize! The beds were pretty uncomfortable! My bed wouldn’t lie flat, but Sally definitely drew the short straw – she elected not to sleep on it, which turned out to be a wise decision, as when she sat on it in the morning a plank fell out of the bottom!

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