The highest and most sacred points of a road are marked with an oboa wayside totem on which travelers will deposit small stones (one for each family member) and small offerings of alcohol for luck.
Genghis Khan's 13th-century empire stretched from Southeast Asia to Finland. Today, although dwarfed by the monoliths of China and Russia, the swathes of unfenced land and 12-to-one ratio of livestock to people ensure Mongolia's boundaries still seem endless.
The harsh Mongolian terrain and climate engender a need for mutual interdependence; local herders will help set up camps and provide travelers with local delicacies such as fish, yak cheese, and reindeer milk.
Modern-day trappings are beginning to infiltrate Mongolia's traditional nomadic lifestyle, its roots in Hun, Scythian, and Tartar cultures. Some herders now prefer to use motorbikesor "iron horses"rather than horses.
The Gobi Desert and the mountainous Mongolian steppe are the stuff of legend, but guided horseback expeditions, led by local herdsmen and supplied by yaks shouldering equipment and supplies, are coloring this myth with reality.
Forever resourceful, even the Mongolian traditional dress, the digil (a long textile gown) can serve as a tent, blanket, or cover against the cold and severe winds. Women wear ornate vests over their digil and men tie a colorful behen, or sash, around their waists.