An Adventure In Mongolia

In this installment of Weekend Edition's Summer Adventure Series, NPR's Liane Hansen speaks with Sarah McLester, of Charleston, S.C., about her trip to Mongolia.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

As part of our summer adventure series. we've been following some of you around on your vacations.

(Soundbite of music)

MS. SALLY NEIDDLE (Vacationer): I'm Sally Neiddle (ph). I'm from Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm in Iquitos, Peru. We've just returned from a 10-day stint at a remote biological station on a tributary of the Amazon River.

Mr. CRAIG SAUNDERS (Vacationer): My name is Craig Saunders (ph). I'm from Basking Ridge, New Jersey. And this summer, my 16-year-old daughter and I are going to trek the snows of Kilimanjaro.

Ms. ALICE DYKE (Vacationer): My name is Alice Dyke (ph) from Houston, Texas. My summer adventure is to go with my choir for a week-long residency in Canterbury Cathedral in England.

HANSEN: This week, we're talking to Sarah McLester of Charleston, South Carolina. She and her husband Donald are in Mongolia at the end of an 18-day trip. Welcome to the program.

Ms. SARAH MCLESTER (Vacationer): Well, Sambano. That's welcome and hello in Mongolian. It's a pleasure to speak with you.

HANSEN: Thank you. How did you decide to go to Mongolia?

Ms. MCLESTER: Well, Mongolia is one of the places I dreamed of going as a little girl. My father used to tell me when he was trying to get away from us kids that he was going to outer Mongolia so we wouldn't want to go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MCLESTER: But, of course, it captured my imagination. And then in 2005, when I heard an NPR program on President Bush's visit to Mongolia, it sounded like such an incredible place that I began planning this trip then.

HANSEN: So what have you been doing over the past couple of weeks?

Ms. MCLESTER: We have traveled from one end of the country to the other in the last several weeks. We flew in to Ulan Bator and then flew down to the Gobi Desert. We rode camels there, and then we went to the Flaming Cliffs, where the original dinosaur bones were found by Roy Chapman Andrews, who was the original Indiana Jones, and then drove through the central part of the country, all the way nearly to the Siberian border.

HANSEN: Oh, man, I hate to ask you to tell us what the most interesting thing you've seen. Given what you've told us, you've seen many.

Ms. MCLESTER: Goodness. The most interesting thing that we've seen has to have been the Gandan Monastery in Ulan Bator. It's the original and primary Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the country. And it's just such a move place. As you may know, the Communist purges here in the 1930s killed many of the monks. And so the rebirth of the monasteries has been just incredible. And the centerpiece of that is the Gandan Monastery.

HANSEN: So do you think you'll go back?

Ms. MCLESTER: I would love to come back here. One of the things that surprised me, I expected it to be a really beautiful place. But I think - I was shocked to find out just how the people are here. I didn't have any real good feel for what the people would be like, but our driver and our guide that we had on this trip, I just can't say enough about how inspiring these people are.

HANSEN: Sarah McLester of Charleston, South Carolina. She is in Moron, Mongolia with her husband, Donald. Thank you very much.

Ms. MCLESTER: Well, it's been a pleasure speaking with you, and I hope that other people will consider making this adventurous trip.

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A Sense of Summer Adventure

It's hard to imagine summer without thinking of vacation. So when host Liane Hansen asked listeners to write in about their summer plans, vacation was clearly on their minds. Some will be wrestling in Mongolia while others will be singing in England's Canterbury Cathedral. Over the summer, we'll be taking you along on some of these adventures.

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