Wednesday, October 31, 2007
A Mystical Gobi Adventure
We're just back from an adventure in the Gobi Desert. On Monday morning we took a 12-hour train down to Sainshand, the capital of Dornogov Province and John's former Peace Corps home. We traveled with Urna and her aunt and spent the night in Sainshand at a small hotel located in the back of the provincial government building. On Tuesday morning we first went to a museum in Sainshand that houses many of the historical items of Danzan Ravjaa, a Red Hat Buddhist from the 19th century (sometimes called the "Terrible Noble Saint of the Gobi"). We were incredibly fortunate to meet Altangerel, the contemporary protector (descended from a long lineage of protectors) of Danzan Ravjaa's legacy. Zorigoo, my Mongolian dad, is a friend of Altangerel's and called ahead to arrange a private tour of the museum. It was really an amazing opportunity. Check out this article in the NY Times about Altangerel.
After visiting the museum, Altangerel arranged for his driver to take us out to Khamarin Khiid, a monastery re-established by followers of Danzan Ravjaa. It was an incredible day, filled with lamas reading prayers for the sick and recently departed in our family, an opportunity to see dinosaur bones and ancient caves where monks sealed themselves in and prayed for 108 days at a time, a chance to enter a recreation of Shambala, to honor women at a special set of stupas, and to ask for wishes at a mountain in the desert. There's so much to write about this experience, and I've barely got the words to do it now since I'm seriously sleep-deprived (the ride back was another 12-hour train ride, this one from 9 pm last night until 9 am this morning-- although the beds in our sleeper car were comfortable, it was cold in the coupe!) So I'll have to write a longer blog about the whole thing when I've got my wits about me. For now, enjoy these photos of our Gobi adventure.
John standing next to the main ovoo inside Shambala at Khamariin Khiid.
Stupas intended to honor women and the crucial role we play in feeding and nurturing the world.
Urna and I standing at a way station on a mountain that men climb to the top to send their wishes on the wind (and windy it was!)
John at the bottom of the mountain he climbed!