National Geographic Trip to Mongolia – Day 9, June 19, 2017
After breakfast we headed to the Tugregiin Shiree to walk where dinosaurs once walked. We were in no rush. Our caravan made its way through the desert, again forging new paths and kicking up dust. As we crested a hill, we suddenly saw a herd of sheep and goats being sheered. Of course our caravan stopped and we all got out, cameras in hand. The family’s ger was across the road, with two motorcycles along the side. But the family was all participating in the shearing.
There was the grandmother who was trying to keep track of two younger boys, there was the father who had his lasso and whose job it was to catch the goats. There was the mother who was pulling the wool from the sheep and painting their backsides green when they were done. There was the grandfather who was shearing. And there were the older son and daughter who helped catch the animals, hold them (by sitting on them) while they were being sheared or painted and who seemed to do whatever else was needed. It was a true family affair.
As we have come to expect, the family was very gracious and did not mind at all that we all stood there watching. We tried to stay out of their way (and out of the way of the sheep and goats who were running every which way).
The young boys had fun posing for us, flexing their arms and putting their fists up in the air to show us their muscles.
The grandmother had a beautiful, creased face full of life.
The grandfather was the most gruff, but when I asked if I could try shearing, he moved over, handed me the shears and showed me how to do it. There were two techniques this family used to shear the sheep. One was with shears, which is what I did. You gently pull the wool away from the skin and cut at the point where the two meet. It clearly did not hurt as the sheep was lying down quietly and was very cooperative. The second way is to just pull clumps out. The wool is then placed in big bags, to be sold for cashmere and other wool items.But he never smiled. When I asked him to pose for a picture with me, he looked at me like I was crazy.
We had little interaction with the parents or older kids as they were the busiest running around after the sheep and goats.
There were quite a few lambs running around and like puppies, they would come right up to us. The young boys were picking up the lambs and posing for pictures with them. When the lamb liked his ear, he laughed and laughed. I bent down to pet one of the lambs and it started sucking on my finger, the way a baby would.
We stood watching for about an hour (or it seemed that way; I didn’t time it). How wonderful not to be on a schedule and just be able to afford the time to stand and listen and observe the Mongolian life in action.
Tugregiin Shiree and the Fighting Dinosaurs
But eventually we had to leave as the rest of the day beckoned. We drove a bit
farther, through the vastness of the land and of the sky, the barrenness, seeing mirages in the distance, forging new paths.
And we arrived at Tugregiin Shiree, where in the 1970s paleontologists unearthed the tangled remains of “The Fighting Dinosaurs,” two dinosaurs which appear to have been locked in a struggle at the time of their abrupt death. Paleontologists assert that the fossils unearthed at the Flaming Cliffs formation (see the previous blog) and here were preserved by being buried in sudden sandstorms.
We hiked down the mountain (really more like a big hill), stopping to look for
dinosaur bones. The terrain was almost eerie. Green shrubs were popping out of rocks. The rocks were all different colors, including bright orange. And we walked carefully, our eyes focused on the ground looking for dinosaur bones. So, how to you tell a dinosaur bone from a stone? The dinosaur bone sticks to your tongue.
How incredible to hold a real dinosaur bone that you find just lying on the ground? Never in my wildest dreams did I think I might ever do this. A real dinosaur bone! I stood there, looking at the hills around me, the camels wandering in the distance, the sound of the wind in my ears, and just tried to imagine dinosaurs roaming in this same spot.
On the way back we again passed our sheep shearing family. Other than their ger, there was no sign of life. The sheep were gone. The goats were gone. All grazing somewhere else. It is all in the timing and we were lucky to pass by at just the right time.
Today was our last full day in the Gobi. It was sad to see this part of the trip come to an end. The Gobi was magical. The people were magical. The sunrises and sunsets were magical. I will never forget the Gobi or the feeling of peace and tranquility that permeates everything.