The Bees of Terelj Park, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
31 May 2015
Out on a green valley hemmed in by rolling hills, dotted with gers, and watched over by the eternal blue sky, my daughter Ysabelle and I, Bruce and Ogno, discovered, encountered, the fierce bees of Gorkhi-Terelj.
After a hearty lunch of grilled fish, steamed vegetables, rice and tsuivan, our little band crossed the bridge over the gushing clear waters of the Tuul River. The last time I saw the river was in wintertime, when it was a shimmering white solid block of ice.
We followed a path in the woods that led to the other river crossing. This time, it was no steel bridge, but an interesting compilation of earth, pebbles, logs, branches, twigs, roots, and leaves.
From that point, the bee farm was three kilometers away. Thankfully, the beekeeper was on hand with his trusty Russian motorbike. Ysabelle and I became his first passengers. He would come back for Bruce and Ogno.
We roared our way into the great country, up and down gullies, passing grazing horses and bouncing horse riders, cows, goats, dogs, gers, and finally deposited in front of his ger. Ysabelle and I were ushered in, and we sat on the bed located on the left side of the ger. The beekeeper hurried back on his 'machine' to pick up our friends.
The beekeeper's daughter, who was preening in front of the mirror, applying eyeliner and lipstick, took a short break from her activity and poured milk tea into deep, white ceramic bowls. She offered these to us, accompanied by boortsog, Mongolian fried bread. Mongolians are well known for their warm hospitality, even to strangers.
When everyone was accounted for, we headed out to the bee farm, on the foot of a hill. Green boxes were laid out on the ground. There was also a covered shed, some kind of shelter, where tools were kept.
We put on our protective gear; actually just a beekeeper's veil. It was good enough for me. But not good enough for my companions; even for the beekeeper. They all got stung!
Back in the beekeeper's ger, to nurse the pain from the stings, we snacked on roasted sheep's head and bread with fragrant honey. Mmmm...
We were saved again by the beekeeper from a long walk back to our car, by hauling us, his mates, his children, practically everybody in his village, in his giant of a Russian army truck.
The rugged terrain posed no problem. The 'Russian machine' as it was called, forded surging rivers and easily navigated high riverbanks. Our little band was safely dropped in front of Terelj bar, a few meters from where our car was parked.