Ulaanbaatar is nestled in a valley of at the foot of the Bogd Uul (mountain). The mountains add some lovely scenery to the city, act as a canvas for large designs (i.e. Ghengis Khan) made of white stone, and do a nice job of containing all that lovely smog within the city during the winter. They also serve as a respite for urban folk who yearn for nature.
There are a few hiking and trekking clubs in Ulaanbaatar, and I was luck to hook up with one of them last Sunday. We spent the majority of the day (8 – 5) climbing Bogd Uul and enjoying the rewarding scenery at the top (well worth the climb).
As we made our ascent, I was surprised to learn that the pine cones we saw littering the ground were actually edible – or at least their seeds are. I feel a bit naive for not having put it together before, but pine nuts come from pine cones and are all over the mountains in Mongolia. My hiking partners taught me how to pick open the pine cones and crack open the tiny seeds with my teeth to get the good stuff. I must have eaten two pine cones worth. Before we headed down, a few of our hiking companions took out some large plastic bags (size of a garbage bag) and began filling them with pine cones. “They were for the orphans,” one explained. We spent the next 30 minutes picking pine cones off the ground and filling the bags. People will sell the nuts on the street in UB, but I think these were just a nice treat for the kids. Once the bags were packed, and I felt sufficiently like a squirrel preparing for winter, we headed back down.
I’m headed back out with a different hiking club on Sunday. It will be good to get some fresh air and a little perspective after my first two crazy weeks here.
Here are a few images from the hike. Check out more photos here.