MONGoLIA: TAVAN BOGD
In the summer before I went to university, I enrolled in an expedition to walk through Western Mongolia for two weeks. As the trip progressed, I increasingly found value in recording my memories in the form of sketches. Originally, I had started to draw with the intent of practicing my landscapes, but quickly realised that the beauty of the country is not bound in the alpine landscapes alone, but in the people who inhabit it. Portraits, therefore, also feature heavily in these pages.
When I signed up for this expedition, I did not know what to expect. Like many of us, I suspect, I felt a little bit like going to Mongolia was akin to treading into a black hole, a place I've always had on the periphery my mind but didn't really have a concrete idea of what it was like.
Two weeks, and 180km later (not counting the altitude, which I suspect made the journey quite a bit longer in reality), it feels equally surreal to be sitting writing this review. There are so many small details that keep bubbling up under the overarching memories of grandiose landscapesand unbelievable vistas, that I am sure this trip will stay with me for the rest of my life. Laughter, blisters, cold and heat, the soft turf beneath our feet that gave way to swampland and again to rock that cracked like glass beneath our boots, walking from winter to summer in two days, fields of flowers that reached to crystalline horizons... it was an amazing trip, and I cannot begin to describe how glad I am to have done it.
Without the excellent leadership of FoundLost, both in the large-scale organisation of and regarding day-to-day matters of the trip, I doubt that it would have been the same. From beginning to end, the logistics were seamless and well prepared. Aside from our expedition leader, Chris Schräder, who took care of us on the ground, FoundLost representative Alex Shrestha was only ever a phone call away, keeping our parents and friends up to date on our progress, and immediately ready to assist if an emergency came up. There was no time on the trip that I felt like I was unsafe, or poorly cared for.
While being without internet for so long seemed unfathomable at first, once there was literally no coverage for hundreds of kilometers, it simply became a fact of life. We spent most of our day walking, a steady rhythm yet never one that got boring or tedious, because each hour brought us a new perspective on the world we were walking through. These visual perspectives meshed with the cultural ones. Our local nomad support crew, despite speaking little English, did a phenomenal job taking care of us and, if we asked, showing us glimpses of their culture. I am incredibly grateful for the hospitality shown us by the locals, who invited us into their gers for meals and tea. These views of a simpler life gave me a deep appreciation for their lifestyle, and instilled in me a desire to help preserve the age-old traditions and customs.
This may have been my first expedition, but I have no doubt that it will not be my last. Whether I return to Mongolia or explore other corners of the world with FoundLost, I am sure that the professional and competent execution of this trip will be reflected, and perhaps even improved upon, in the future.
For those who are looking for adventure: I say, go.
For those who are unsure whether they will be able to make it: I say, go.
As I learnt in Mongolia, at FoundLost, no one gets left behind. In our teams, among our friends, a family brought together by a common cause and a common drive, no one gets left behind. When I look back on my experience, it will be not be with the slightest hint of regret, but with a smile.