Lakes and Spirits

In Mongolia traditional belief systems and Buddhism live side by side. Both are mostly unconsciously present in everyday life in the provinces and in the capital alike. One belief I can really relate to is the idea that the lakes, rivers and mountains are dwelling-places for different spirits, called ejen in Mongolian. Better not to make them angry or you will have to face all sorts of misadventures. One weekend I went for a picnic with friends near a popular river side, approximately an hour from Ulaanbaatar. We were a very mixed group, foreigners and Mongolians together. One of the foreigners, without thinking, used the river as a toilet. Not a minute passed and came a furious local with a good-sized stick in his hand. If there weren’t Mongolians in our group who explained why this ignoramus did what he did and apologized straight away, I am afraid the guy would have been beaten up big time. Never ever do this or throw any trash into the water. Doing it you insult the water spirit and disrespect locals’ belief. And I would advice the same in your home country. Similar beliefs greatly contribute to environmental protection. With contaminating the water resources we undermine our foundations, our own existence.

During the week in Bulgan aimag we visited one of the magical lakes of the country. Sharga nuur is located in Bayan-agt district of Bulgan province. I can safely say that Mongolia is largely undiscovered from many respect. We are used to being inundated by information on the internet regarding tourist attractions, beautiful sites and even places that are hardly untouched by outsiders. However, if you google Mongolian sites like this you will realize how little known the country is for outlanders. Call me selfish but I don’t mind that. A snippet of information I found about Sharga lake: ‘A small shallow lake, rich in aquatic vegetation, separated by a narrow spit from the main lake. Many small pools are found along the western side of the lake. There is a high cliff along the southern shore of the lake. The north and northwestern shores of the lake have many peninsulas and inlets with good aquatic vegetation. The southern shore is sandy with fine gravel. The surrounding area is grassy steppe, where the main land use is livestock husbandry. Globally Threatened species occurring at Sharga Lake include Swan Goose Anser cygnoides, Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, Lesser Kestrel F. naumanni and Pallas’s Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus. Thousands of ducks and grebes use the site during migration, including Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis.

I will leave you now with a couple of beautiful photos of the lake and its surroundings. Would be nice to know that with my photos and descriptions I have intrigued you enough to book your flights to Mongolia.

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