Mongolia’s only float centre & Dog Sledding in Terelj
By Danial Williams
After a day of traveling, airport stopovers and a flight delay, Carla and I finally arrived in Ulaanbaatar (UB), the capital of Mongolia. Having a float booked was the perfect way to settle into the country. I do this everywhere I visit because it’s a great way to settle into a new environment and get over jetlag, its something I highly recommend! We visited Mongolia's only float centre. The MUS floating centre was 3.3km from our hotel. That's the same distance from home to Altered States Float (unit 3/33). It was around -30 degrees Celsius outside and a good friend once told me the number 3 means divine protection. That’s a lot of 3’so we thought f*** it lets walk there. Our float wasn’t booked until the afternoon, meaning we had all day to explore UB. We ended up walking around like lost un-acclimatised tourists the whole day, in the coldest place we have ever experienced. By the time we got to the float centre it would have been 5 plus hours walking outside and by the end of it we couldn’t feel our toes or noses. I suppose that didn’t matter, maybe it would speed up 'letting go' during the float since the water set at body temperature aids with losing sense of the physical body (haha). Finally it was time to slow everything down a little. The staff were extremely welcoming and a lovely lady named Erika looked after us. After our float we had blind masseurs give us a soothing massage which was pretty cool. Then at the end we sat down with Erika and spent a long time talking about our stories and the introspective side to floating. The centre housed 6 custom built float rooms designed by the young owner who unfortunately was away during our visit. The good thing is I still keep in contact with him online and we share a lot of the same interests and both want to see floating evolve in the future. I hope to join him on a trip to explore Mongolian shamanism in the near future. I highly recommend a float at MUS floating centre if you ever visit Mongolia, in fact it should be mandatory!
The next chapter of our journey consisted of a 7 day dog sledding tour down frozen Lake Terelj. About 3 years ago I started talking to the experienced French musher Joël, who started the tour company ‘Wind of Mongolia’ many years ago. Joël, his Mongolian wife Bayaana and her family run winter dog sledding tours from December to April. They treat you like family and are very laid back. As you would expect from a couple who spend a lot of time with their loving dogs trekking through peaceful landscapes. Everyday the routine was wake up, have breakfast, pack the sleds, harness the dogs to your sled, then spend the whole day sledding to the next destination with a lunch stopover by a fire. The dogs are mostly Alaskan huskies as well as big powerful Greenlanders. They are all loving and love a good pat and hug. I liked some of their names which included Angus & Young, Bowie, Sid, cocaine, cannabis & poppers. One dog was called Carla and our Carla got quite the fright every time Joël yelled at Carla the dog (HAHA). Most nights we stayed with the nomads in Mongolian Gers (tents) and the rest were spent camping on a mountain. You would here wolves at night, see vultures circling areas and wolverine prints scattered along the track. To sum it up, the trip is basically a very raw camping trip without the necessities of western life, including toilets and showers. We drank a lot of vodka and ate a lot of meat the nomads prepared for us. That’s just what they did and too bad if you don’t drink, they will force it down you... I liked their thinking. I will save most of the details on what we ate but to give you an idea, one dish was a full sheep’s head on a plate.
We absolutely loved being isolated and surrounded by peaceful silence. It’s our kind of holiday we thrive on rather than the hustle and bustle of a noisy city. Everyday just picturesque landscapes, lots of wildlife and a night sky filled with shooting stars. A culture so rich in history and a nomadic lifestyle that has hardly changed from the Khan Empire, the longest contiguous empire the world has ever seen. I’m trying to remember what my thoughts were during the journey and to be honest there weren’t many at all. That’s the beauty of it, just being in the present, no distractions, picturesque views, surrounded by animals and nature with not a care in the world. Studies have shown that exposure to quiet natural environments will enhance immune function and lower key indicators of stress… or in layman terms, studies have shown you wont give a f*** for a while. Its true and we have heard of people dealing with problems going on the trip then changing their whole outlook on life for the better. So if you love dogs, don’t mind eating meat and are seeking adventure then this trip may be for you. Oh and the cold you have to not mind the cold! Age also shouldn’t be an excuse. The oldest person that has participated on the tour was a 91 year old French guy and it was something he wanted to experience before he died. How cool is that! Although Bayaana did say it was quite stressful because she couldn’t sleep properly, constantly checking he was still breathing when he slept. Apparently the oldest Aussies they have had were a couple in their early 70s, and the husband holds the record for eating 80 Buus (Mongolian dumplings) in one night which still baffles the tour guide to this day who loves to share the story.
Next time you’re at Altered States Float play the ancient Mongolian fortune telling game (Shagai) out in the back area. It was given to us by a nomadic family as a Mongolian new year gift, be aware though the fortune telling can be quite brutal.