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Part 7 - What to Expect in the Taiga

Special accommodations can rarely be made in the taiga. Travelers should come with the expectation of adapting to local rhythms and cultural nuances. Visitors are urged to bring a translator to aid in communication as a matter of safety and respect.

Riding

Saddles will be soft Russian-style saddles. Riding will be in open and wooded terrain, almost entirely at a walking pace. If you want to go faster, ask your guide, if not, you don’t have to. Rides can be anywhere from 1-12 hours depending on the distance of the camps, weather and trail conditions, as well as the pace of the group. Your guides will keep a close watch on you and if there is ever a problem, they may ask you to stop for saddle readjustment, etc. Your guides will give mounting, riding and horse handling instructions before your trek. Even if you are an experienced rider, Mongolian horses, equipment, and riding style are different so it is important to pay attention. Expect to be sore and challenged.

Food

Food resources are scarce in the remote taiga and families should never be relied on to feed your group. Community members ask that visitors bring their own food, or better yet, arrange to have meal and cook service provided through the TCVC. This gives women employment opportunities and ensures that you will be well fed in the taiga. If you have purchased meal kits you will be provided with bread, jam, coffee/ and/or tea for breakfast and served a delicious lunch and dinner prepared by a TCVC certified cook who has been trained by Mongolia’s College of Food Technology. Accommodations cannot typically be made for those with special dietary needs. You are encouraged to bring your own specialty snacks. If you do so, it is polite to share with your guides and hosts. Sweets should be given to adults and not just children, but of course in moderation.

Accommodations

In the taiga, you will be sleeping in an ortz (teepee) or in your own tent. The community may have an extra teepee or “ortz hotel” set up in camp. Staying in the ortz hotel brings revenue to the community and helps ensure that you have your own space to be comfortable. Ortz hotel fees are paid to the TCVC at the end of your trip with income shared amongst families in the camp. Ortz usually have wood-burning stoves but it gets cold at night at all times of year so be sure you are prepared. Pitching tents is also acceptable. Please ask your guide where an appropriate place is to set up a tent (i.e. away from sacred areas, waterways, and areas where animals are kept). It is up to you where to spend the night. All visitors must come prepared with a sleeping mat and sleeping bag regardless of their selection of accommodations*. There are no snakes or rodents and virtually no bugs to worry about in the taiga.

Luggage

You do not need, nor is it possible, to transport a lot of luggage to the taiga. It is recommended that you pack the essentials into a small backpack that can be worn on your person during the horse trek. Extra gear (sleeping bag, etc.) should be packed in a small soft duffle that can be tied onto a packhorse. If you wish to carry a lot of gear, you may need additional packhorses. There is a locking storage closet at the TCVC to store items and valuables that you would like to leave behind.

Weather

The weather in the taiga can change from hot and sunny to freezing and snowing within a few hours or during a single trek. Be prepared with layers for heat, snow, and rain. If you don’t, you will regret it when your rained drenched clothing freezes over after a hot morning ride.

Winter
Very cold, lots of snow. Temps drop as low as -67 F/ -55 C. Visitors must have expedition-grade sleeping bags and clothing. Road conditions are dependent on snow and ice conditions.
Spring
Highly variable conditions. Temps range from -40 to 56 F/ -40 to 15 C. could be snowy, rainy, dry, or mild. Precipitation is usually snow until May, rain from May onward. Road and riding routes are dependent on snow, ice, and mud conditions.
Summer
Usually mild temps during the day, but still cold at night. Temps from 32 to 86 F/ 0 to 30 C. Mosquitoes can be bad during late June through early August. Mud can be bad throughout the summer. Some snow may remain on alpine passes. Rain likely in June.
Fall
Usually mild temps during the day through mid September. Snowfalls can occur from late August onward. Temps range from -35 C to 20 C. Mud can be quite bad. Temps below freezing most nights. Rains likely.

Activities

A big part of your time in the taiga will be spent with community members, telling stories, playing games, and getting to know the Tsaatan people and their culture. Activities will vary depending on time of year and weather. Visitors may wish to learn local card games, play outdoor games with children, learn to cook bread, listen to storytelling, take a nature walk, go berry picking, or swim in the chilly lakes and rivers of the taiga. You may be able to help with basic tasks around camp to experience a slice of daily life. Some chores and activities, however, are best left to the herders. If you don’t know how to do something, it is usually best to sit back and observe before offering to help. If there is something you would like to do, such as hiking, learning about plant life, or hearing local myths, communicate with your translator and TCVC guide. Please do not expect to have full days of activities planned for you or to be entertained at all times. Visitors should be prepared to ask questions or sit back, be quiet and observe.