I didn’t know the sun could kiss the earth a thousand different ways until I came to Mongolia.
Last year I was lucky enough to be a part of a retreat hosted in the wonderful country of Mongolia, and I am heading back into the Mongolian desert this year in July. I rarely freelance cook on retreats unless I am running them but I make an exception when it comes to Reclaim Yourself Yoga Retreats and Holidays run by the brilliant Jools Sampson. These retreats are based in the kind of weird and wonderful off-the-beaten-track places you might never think to go to otherwise – think Iceland, Zanzibar, Norway, and in this case, Mongolia.
Mongolia is one of the most remote places in the world and offers a truly immersive ancient culture that has seen little change for centuries.
Aside from introducing guests to far flung corners of our incredible world, the Reclaim Yourself Retreats exist to entice people out of their comfort zones and get as much experience as possible in an authentic with a focus on giving back to the original community. I wanted to share my experience on the retreat to give you a taste of what you can expect on a yoga retreat, and what you can look forward to if you join us this July.
Our Mongolian Experience
Activities and Excursions
First up on the itinerary was a trip on the Trans Mongolian Railway into the expansive Gobi desert with its huge skies, powerful sunsets and friendly camels. We then headed to Khan Khentii, a lush wilderness reaching all the way to the Siberian border. We explored the landscape with desert hikes and camel treks, rode horses through dense forests and rafted on the Tuul river.
We then headed by Jeep for four nights at our second yoga retreat camp in the Khan Khentii, located on the Upper Tuul River which meanders gently through the vast meadows of wildflowers and surrounded by lush forested hills. We spent our days hiking, riding horses in the wilderness with a local herder, and rafting and kayaking on the river. It is possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. It feels like you have stepped right into the pages of the Lord of the Rings.
Yoga, Mindfulness, Kirtan and Ultimate Relaxation
We spent blissful, healing time in our yurt sauna and relaxed with a massage. A particular highlight and once-in-a-lifetime experience was the meditation and kirtan evening; deep in the desert around a campfire, the Gobi location proving to be the ultimate, magical, other worldly setting for such a transcendental experience.
Along with daily Jivamukti yoga with Emma Henry – one of the best instructors in the industry, we enjoyed meditative, reflective time in the riverside yurt sauna, which really is an experienced not to be missed.
We dined on plant based, gluten free food created by me and the brilliant local Mongolian team. The challenge in catering for a retreat like this one lies in delivering amazing vegan food in an environment that can go through all four seasons in one day and communicating with a team through guides and the love and passion for cooking. Deliveries also come only three times during the week, which poses its own challenges!
This is one of the hardest retreats I have worked on but one of the most rewarding ones too. My heart was stolen by the nature of Mongolia, the people and the relationship they have with their animals, and the opportunity to experience total, utter stillness of a kind you can’t even comprehend when you live in a town or city. I found my way back to my heart by cutting out all of the noise that we are so used to living with in today’s society. I will be back in 2019 and would love for the adventurous, inquisitive and daring of you to join me!