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The Last Tribe of Mongolia, Tsaatan

Met the last group of nomadic reindeer herders in the world, maybe is one of the precious moment that I ever had. It’s not an easy to meet this last tribe of Mongolia.

Well, I will let you know, what is Tsaatan and what happened with this tribe right now.

Tsaatan also known as a Dukha,  a nomadic reindeer group who are living in the Northern part of Mongolia, Khovsgol Aimag. Living in the remote subartic Ulaan Taiga for a thousand years by moving 5 until 10 times a year.

It’s so sad when we know the fact that this population decrease year by year because of the modernity. Numerous young Tsaatan generation prefer to move and living in the city with an easy life. Based on the information, on 2010 the poputaion of this tribe around 144 families, on 2016 44 families and the last time I visit this family on 2018 I just met less than 10 families.

What makes this tribe looks very interesting? Yup, because they are living with reindeer. The main animal that Tsaatan used for their daily activities. It’s more than an animal. For Tsaatan, If the reindeer disappear which means it will threat their culture to be vanished, because they were born to live together between Tsaatan and reindeer. They had good relationship, this things that makes this tribe looks unique.

Reindeer provides anything for Tsaatan, such as milk, meat and transportation. From this milk they can produce another things such as yoghurt or cheese. They can sew their clothes with reindeer hair, used reindeer dung for the stove fuel, and used the antlers as a tool and Chinese traditional medicine. It’s been 43 years for Tsataan export the antlers to China, start in 1975.

How about their house? They live in the triangular tents made by primarily of birch bark, also known as yurt. On traditional yurt, you won’t find any bed, rather than animal skins covered the ground. There’s a traditional stove on the middle as a heater and for cooking. If you walk to the behind part of this building, you will find a bag that houses the guardian spirits of a shaman rests. They also build a small terrace from the wood, it contain hunting equipment, saddles, tools and utensils. They also hang the reindeer antlers on the trees near the yurt.

Tsaatan practice shamanism, a religion based on nature worship which is they believe their ancestors ghost live in the forest as animals, and giving them live guidance.

They have seasonal migration, they move based on the 4 seasons. A residential group consisting of several families is called “olal-lal” (meaning “them” in the Tsaatan language). They usually refer to a specific group by the name of a representative member.

On summer, in the middle of June, they will move to an altitude 2300 m because reindeer cannot handle heat really well, they should be pastured in high plains in the summer.

In  the beginning of August the fall season starts, Tsaatan will going down and move to different sites. When the snow coming on the middle of September, there’s no insect and that’s the time for the reindeer to get their power back, and the young males will be castrated. The mating seasons comes at the end of September until the beginning of October and it will takes 7 months for gestation period.

Winter, hmm it’s not too many activities during this time. Regarding the cold temperature and the wind blew very strong. Tsaatan will move to an altitude 1800 m, and settled there. You might be thinking it will be hard for the reindeer to find the food. Oooh, you are wrong. They can keep survive by digging the snow with their hooves, they eat mosses, small flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations.

It’s easy to find them during the winter, If you find many foot steeps with mosses along the way, there you are. You will find them easily. How to make them surrounded you on the winter? It’s easy peasy, you just need to pee. They will directly comes to you and lick your pee, because it’s hard for them to find the water. Believe it or not, when you pour the hot tea and you pee in front of them, they prefer lick your pee, and didn’t choose the hot tea. It’s weird, but that’s the fact because I came on winter and I knew how Tsaatan call this animal.

Spring, this the time when the female reindeer became pregnant, and it’s hard for them to move quickly. Reindeer give birth between late April and mid-May.

How about their dress? They used Khalkh hats, and traditional Mongolian overcoats called deels. They used luxurious shoes known with their workmanship shoes, it’s very strong and warm enough to against the cold.

About the food and beverages, they mostly eat with meat, and salt milk tea. Yup, salt. You might be shocked when you realized they pour salt to their tea. That’s Mongolian culture, don’t worry about the taste. It’s tasty, I promise. It’s really good when it’s hot, because it mixed with the reindeer milk. During the winter, they will melt the snow to drink. How about the taste? Hmm it’s good, as long as you don’t want makes your self thirsty hehe.

Well, you already know anything about this tribe. It’s interesting though? then you asked me. How to get there? You said it’s not an easy. Take it easy, I’ll tell you how to get there.

Itravel.mn will provide you the best trip and unforgettable moment between you and Tsaatan or Reindeer family.

Okay, before I tell you about this trip, I will suggest you some tips.

Bring a portable solar charger, because you will visit the remote area of Mongolia. They also have solar panel, but only enough to charge the phone. You don’t want missed every precious moment right? So it’s better for you to be well prepared, so you can charge all of your devices such as camera, laptop, etc. Last but not least, this one is the foremost things of your life I guess. Yup, Toiletries such as wet or dry tissue, because they don’t have any toilet.

Now I’ll tell you about the trip with Itravel.mn

Day 1, you will start your trip from Ulaanbaatar in the morning by jeep/van and go to Mörön (Murun). Be prepared with your camera, and battery. You will see scenic view along the way, cross the famous Khuvsgul lake known as the largest fresh water lake in Mongolia and enjoy the wilderness forest near Khuvsgul lake. You will arrive at Khövsgöl province in the evening. On the first night you will stay in the luxurious hotel with hot shower, WIFI, and dinner.

Day 2, when you finished with your breakfast you will continue your journey to Mörön at Ulaan-Uul, a region of Khövsgöl populated by the ethnic Mongolian group of nomads known as Darkhad. A nomadic family will welcome you as their guest and lodging will be provided in a family ger (yurt) or tent. Meals will be prepared by the Darkhad and will consist of traditional dishes (usually not vegetarian).

Day 3, Get ready to meet Tsaatan or Reindeer family. After breakfast you will ride a horse to meet this tribe.

Day 4, Prepared your camera and make sure you have full battery, you will hike to the mountain by riding the reindeer.

Day 5, you have 2nd opportunities to ride the reindeer. You can also take a part with reindeer family to learn more how they cook, milking the reindeer, etc

Day 6, 3rd opportunities to ride the reindeer. Omg, you’re lucky because this travel gives you a lot of scope to ride the reindeer. You also have a chance to ride the horse, you don’t need any experience about it.

Day 7, you will spend the whole day with Tsaatan and you will do many activities with them

Day 8, Ride a horse to nomad family on Khuvsgul lake. Lodging will be in a tourist ger camp with wood-fire heating and traditional Mongolian family meals.

Day 9, you will have an opportunity to sightseeing and hiking around Khuvsgul lake.

Day 10, back to Moron and stay at hotel

Day 11, back to Ulaanbaatar, you will arrive at night

How’s the trip? It’s very interesting right? Don’t miss it, you can check for further information in here https://itravel.mn/tour/switzerland-7-days-in-zurich-zermatt/

See you, and enjoy your trip!!!

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