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In UB we stayed at the famous Zaya Guest House. The place is well managed by an energetic successful business woman named Zaya.

We spent time learning from Zaya and from her very nice assistant Unuruu  about the Mongolian way of life, and Mongolian philosophy.

 

I would like to end this blog with Zaya's Mongolian philosophy in a nutshell -

"Mongolian society is in a transitional period;

from Buddhism we take the mutual respect for one another, from the nomads we take their respect of nature, and from the western culture we take the notion that people make changes, not time." 

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Prev. Post : Golden Pita 11 - Mongolian geological Treasures   
Home: Golden Pita 1 - About this blog
By: Dan, author of To Mongolia

The story was first published in Mongolian in the "Awakened Gobi" magazine, Autumn 2008 edition.



The Golden Pita was apparently formed by a melting eruption from deep within the earth’s crust bringing up to the surface rare  elements. As the boiling eruption cooled off the Golden Pita was formed like a pancake in a pan or like a Pita in the oven, as we have named it.

The wind has curved beautiful rock forms; some of them look like monsters or animals frozen in time.

The rare elements that came up during the eruption created a large collection of  colorful rocks from white like the shiny white quartz mountain named Tsaagan Tolgoi (=white mountain) , to turquoise copper rocks like Oyu  Tolgoi (=turquoise mountain) and red, purple, blue, green, yellow and black  basaltic  rocks. In some places we found round egg shaped rocks that when cracked open revealed colorful crystal formations.  Under the surface there huge quantities of copper and gold, yet to be excavated.

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Prev. Post : Golden Pita 10 - Mongolian Archaeological Treasures   
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By: Dan, author of To Mongolia


Unlike excavated and reconstructed archaeological sites, the Golden Pita has several sites where the archaeological treasures are scattered around on the surface.

In the 1930's many Buddhist monasteries and villages were destroyed. Within the Golden Pita we located three ruins of villages with fascinating artifacts - beautiful sculpture, tools and Buddha's.

In one of the locations we noticed a large pit full of burned artifacts and ashes. A professional dig through this pit will reveal important artifacts that can shed more light on the fascinating Buddhist culture in the Gobi, which was completely destroyed in the 1930's.

We hope the Mongolian government will preserve these treasures before careless treasure hunters clean up the area.

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Next Post: Golden Pita 11 -   Mongolian Geological Gems
Prev. Post : Golden Pita 9 - Gobi Naadam

Home: Golden Pita 1 - About this blog
By: Dan, author of To Mongolia


The highest point in the Golden Pita is Kahnbogd Mountain.  From the top of the mountain you can see you are in the middle of a very large rocky circle. As we were getting close to the mountain we noticed people on horses and a gathering of many people with colorful flags all around. 

A group of young girls approached us and invited us to join. They were happy to practice their English and told us all about this Naadam festival of the Khanbogd Soum that we happened upon. The gathering took place at the foothill of Kahnbogd Mountain which is a holy mountain and an ancient gathering place of Nomadic tribes.  
 When the festival was over a long line of jeeps and vans took off leaving a dust cloud behind them and an empty desert. The silence of the desert was the only sound we could hear in the end.

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Next Post: Golden Pita 10 - Mongolian Archaeological  Treasures
Prev. Post : Golden Pita 8 - Mongolian Gobi Food
Home: Golden Pita 1 - About this blog
By: Dan, author of To Mongolia


CynomoriumOur food supplies were running low towards the end of our trek. In one of the herders Ger's we visited we noticed a strange dark red purple plant that they collected for food. Later that day we came across camel herders and asked them about the plants.

One of the herders rushed off on his motorcycle, and came back with a couple of the red plants we asked about. He showed us how to peel them and said we could eat them raw. As we were getting ready to pitch our tents we noticed a few of the plants around. The basic dinner we planned to cook had been upgraded with these fresh plants we found in the Golden Pita.

The plant is named Cynomorium. This plant does not have any leaves and in fact it doesn’t produce any chlorophyll at all. It is a parasite, deriving its nutrition from the roots of other plants.  The thick, fleshy stems emerge from the soil for a short period, and can reach 15-30cm in length. We were lucky to come at the right time to see these interesting and rare plant.

 

Cynomorium has been known for thousands of years by ancient people who used it for food, medicine, and even for dyeing. We found this out ourselves when we finished peeling them we noticed our hands and clothes where all stained purple red.  Given the plant’s color and phallic shape, it is clear why it has been traditionally used to treat blood diseases and sexual problems.  Modern scientific studies of this strange parasitic plant are in their early stages but seem to be worth pursuing. The study of traditional plant and herbal remedies is a burgeoning field with great social and commercial promise, and further research may indeed show there is much more to this plant than a desert treat.

Next Post: Golden Pita 9 - Gobi Naadam
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By: Dan, author of To Mongolia


Demchig Hiid

At the center of the Golden Pita we located on the satellite image a large lotus shape structure with ruins around it. (image on post 3). We where told that the place was recently reconstructed, but had no idea to what extent.  It was getting late. As we were going around the mountain with a beautiful red sunset in the background we saw in between the wind carved hills the gold plated top of a monastery.  The monastery named Demchig is considered by Buddhist to be the world energy center.  I am not a Buddhist, but seeing this monastery in the center of the Golden Pita does generate strong positive energies. We entered the monastery, and a monk greeted us. He took some relics out of his bag and used them to bless each one of us. We certainly needed those blessings for the next few days.

 

 


We loaded our heavy backpacks equipped with food for 7 days, tents, stove, and just enough water to get us to the next water source we had located on our satellite map. This was risky. All our information on water supplies was based on our analysis of Google Earth satellite images. We could not be sure if these water sources were in fact viable or if our analysis was completely wrong.  

The first water source was expected to be a desert spring. The satellite image was taken in the winter, and the frozen stream in the middle of the desert hinted that this might be a spring. We found a fresh water spring with lush grass around it, along with many blue Irises in full bloom. Finding this spring gave us the confidence we needed that our analysis of the terrain and water sources was correct. The other water sources on the way were identified on the satellite image was based on livestock trails leading to one central spot in the middle of nowhere; we assumed that this  must be a well.

Other water sources were identified based on what seemed to us as a place where herds gather. Most water sources were potable and were located as expected.  Only once did we come upon a completely dry well. This was almost a disaster for us, because we almost ran out of water, and the next source was too far away.

We carried on tired and thirsty towards the nearest ger we identified hoping they did not move and knew where we could find water. Luckily we found a very nice family and they offered us tea and filled our empty water bottles from their family well nearby.

Next Post: Golden Pita 7 - World Energy Center 

Prev. Post : Golden Pita 5 - Ivanhoe Mines

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By: Dan, author of To Mongolia




Mongolian tour operators I communicated with did not offer tours in this area and most of them were unfamiliar with this part of the Golbi desert.  Luckily Ivanhoe Mines was willing to share information and offer generous assistance.

When I inquired about the Lotus shaped structure, I found out that Ivanhoe had invested in reconstructing this fascinating monastery.

This monastery along with 900 other holy Buddhist sites was destroyed during the Mongolian communist era in the 1930's.

When I asked about wells in the Golden Pita, I found out that Ivanhoe had drilled wells for local herders as well. The nearest local medical facility in case of emergency was also equipped by Ivanhoe in Khanbogd. I asked Ivanhoe if they could arrange a meeting with students from Khanbogd region and we were invited by Ivanhoe to our first breakfast in UB with 3 bright students, who are part of Ivanhoe's South Gobi Scholars program.

 

 

There is obviously controversy over some mining companies' activities in these remote areas. The recent elections in Mongolia brought up issues of sharing the future wealth between the investors and the Mongolian people.  There is no doubt that the mining activities will have a tremendous impact on the region. 

The vast resources of copper and gold in this region will make it one of the largest copper gold mines in the world. At the same time it is impossible not to notice the diversity of issues and regional needs Ivanhoe is addressing.

On the way to Khanbogd we stopped at a desert town named Dalanzadgad. We discussed the challenges of our trek with local people.  Among them was an impressive young lady who is an experienced Alpinist, named Erdenetogtokh. We later found out she was also sponsored by Ivanhoe to be the first Mongolian woman to be part of a team climbing Mount Everest from the Chinese side.   
In Dalanzadgad we bought our food supplies, including the last bottled water we would see untill the end of our trek. From there it was another 220km of dirt road in a Russian van towards the Golden Pita. Our driver, to his dismay, dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. Our Google Earth maps, however, indicated that this was exactly where we wanted to be; our starting point.

Next Post: Golden Pita 6 - Desert Water
Prev. Post : Golden Pita 4 - The "Golden Pita"
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By: Dan, author of To Mongolia 


From reading Mongolian news on the Internet I found out that a company named Ivanhoe is exploring that area, having discovered large quantities of Gold and Copper.

In keeping with their discoveries, we named this circle the "Golden Pita". Pita is traditional Mediterranean round bread resembling the shape of this round circle of rock in the Gobi. 

After a month of detailed Google Earth mapping, we had pin pointed all the springs, wells, Ger's, hills, valleys, and geographical points of interest. We planned a 100km trek across the Golden Pita touching all the interesting sites we could locate on the satellite image.

Next Post: Golden Pita 5 - Ivanhoe Mines

Prev. Post : Golden Pita 3 - Khanbogd Soum
Home: Golden Pita 1

By: Dan, author of To Mongolia

 

 




The place to search and investigate is "Google Earth" which has amazing satellite images of the whole world.  I flew over Mongolia with "Google Earth" for hours, searching for what might be adventurous and challenging areas all from the comfort of my computer chair. 

I found beautiful mountains, deep rivers, huge lakes, and an endless Gobi desert in southern Mongolia.

There was one strange spot in the Gobi that caught my eye. It looked like terrain similar to that on the moon. From the aerial images, it seemed like an almost perfect circle of rock, 35Km in diameter at the center of the great Gobi desert plains.  (top image)  A closer look revealed colorful rocks, several ruins; one of them had a Lotus shape, (second image) a few nomadic Ger's, several springs and even a frozen ice canyon. On the outskirts of this huge circle I saw a small village, with a 600Km dirt road leading to Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar.  I only later found out its name is Khanbogd, a name I will never forget. To the west there was a very strange camp with many Ger's in straight rows.  This camp did not appear on any of my maps.  My imagination went wild, "maybe this is a secret camp hidden away in the Gobi," I thought. The deserted villages and ruins had a few large structures, and it was obvious that there must be an interesting story related to them.

The colored rocks hinted that this circle may very well be a geological gem.

The Mongolian tourist websites did not mention this area. All I could find was a blog of an American Buddhist monk who visited a remote place named "Demchig hiid". On his blog he had a photo of that same Lotus shape ruins that I located on the satellite image.

We spent many hours searching and mapping the area from these satellite images.

 

Next Post: Golden Pita 4 - The "Golden Pita"

Prev. Post : Golden Pita 2 -Why Mongolia?

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By: Dan, author of To Mongolia

 



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