They are one of the last remaining true nomadic tribes of Mongolia. This English fellow decides to travel three days and over 600 miles to reach them from the capital Ulaanbataar.
It’s a hard journey on dirt tracks, across rivers, through thick forests, and the last part is on reindeer.
He says it is quite possibly the hardest-to-reach settlement in the world. Here the Tsataan reindeer herders, also called the Dukha tribe, a group of 20 nomadic families, camp year-round in the Mongolian wilderness. They have a herd of amazing reindeer that they ride like donkeys, and that their entire lives revolve around.
At the time this nameless traveler visits, it is one month away from winter kicking in. The days are around 10 degrees, and the nights drop to minus 20 degrees. There isn’t any snow yet, but it’ll be three feet high in a matter of weeks.
It is unclear why he only stays 24 hours, but my guess is he made a deal with someone to deliver him there, and return him back before winter. It could also be because there wasn’t enough room for him to stay too long, or the fact that they made him eat reindeer brains. He also didn’t seem to have a decent jacket!
Still, he’s had an epic adventure to experience the life of some amazing human beings living as humans did 10,000 years ago.
How do they live?
- Tsataan live in yurts made of birch bark that resemble the tepees of Native Americans.
- The family traditionally sleeps on a large skin on the ground, rather than a bed.
- Tsataan people practice Shamanism, a religion that is based on nature worship.
- They believe that their ancestors’ ghosts live on in the forest as animals and give them guidance.
- Tsataan raise their reindeer primarily for milk, yoghurt, and cheese—the staples of the Tsataan diet.
- Only a small number of reindeer are killed each year for meat and pelts.
- In summer the communities move high up to pastures 2,300 feet in altitude for cooler grazing as the reindeers can’t handle the heat.
- In winter, they head down to the forests, and move camp about once a month.
Check out this fun video of the Tsataan children riding reindeer in the summer months.
This video below is of another traveller’s experience with the reindeer herder nomads. It’s a little longer and more in-depth fact-wise, if you got your curiosity whetted and need more information.