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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Mongolia - 4 August, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Camp on the Chuluut River N4753.503' E10021.996' 1,914 meters .
Chuluut River gorge . . . .
Khorgo-Terkh National Park . . . .
Finish Ger on Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur lake N4810.997' E09948.463' 2,052 meters 80 km

Total (by train):

5,991 km

Total (Mongolia):

719 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

199 km

Total:

8,228 km

 

Weather: Mostly clear, sunny and very hot.  In the mid-afternoon highly variable, with large, scattered clouds, occasional sun, hot and windy with one heavy rain storm.  In the evening, mostly clear, sunny, hot and breezy.  Overnight it is clear and very cold.

 

 

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After packing up and having breakfast, we have our usual 10 AM departure.  It is an interesting drive out of the camp site - we have to drive up a steep slope to the flat shelf above that runs along the side of the slope that leads down to the river.  We engage low gear and four wheel drive and power our way up the slope.  We drive for almost two hours, with our first stop being to help some people who have a flat tire.  We drive our jeep up onto the tire in an effort to separate the tire from the rim.  The brute force works.

 

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Then, shortly after 11 AM we arrive at the dramatic gorge that the Chuluut River has carved out of the rock.  The sheer rock cliff face drops down to the river bed below.  It is a wonderful spot and we hang around there for a while, enjoying the view and taking pictures.

 

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We also admire the birds (hawks, we believe) that are soaring above the gorge.  Beautiful sight.  We are now driving through a valley with rocky sides and even some trees.  We come upon one of the huge ovoos that the Shaman people set up all over the countryside - often on the top of a hill or mountain pass.  This one has been set up on a tree and it is huge.  When a Shaman person passes by, he will add something to the pile as an offering.  This can be something as simple as a rock and the items that we have seen include vodka bottles, crutches, sweets, money, animal skulls, etc.  The mound or other object, in this case a tree, is also covered with blue cloth.  This represents the sky.

 

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Just before 1 PM we arrive at Khorgo-Terkh National Park, where we have to pay an entrance fee.  We enter the park and drive up rocky road.  This area has been formed by ancient volcanic eruptions and we can see the evidence of this everywhere.  Interestingly, the trees seem to grow best in the areas of lava flow.  We stop at the base of one of the craters and take a 15 minute walk up to the top of the crater.  A very easy walk and the path is well marked by the blue cloths left as offerings.  It is a small crater and the edge of the rim is at 2,200 meters elevation.

 

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We make our way back down to the jeep, along the way politely declining the offers to buy mare's milk from the many children posted there and head off to the main attraction.  We have a stunning view of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur lake as we come over the pass and begin our descent into the lake basin.  The lake spreads before us as a long deep blue patch, surrounded by mountains on all sides.  We arrive at a cluster of gers just after 2 PM and this is where we will be spending the night on the lake.  We decide to stay in a ger as the winds can get very strong and the temperature drops very low at night.

 

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First order of business is to have lunch.  There is a small covered picnic table in front of the gers and it looks like a great place to have lunch.  And it is - except for the pieces of freshly slaughtered goat hanging from the beams.  Well, what to do.  We just have to watch out and not hit any of the pieces, especially the ones of pure fat, with our heads.

 

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After lunch we decide to head down to the lake shore to do our laundry and to relax.  It is very nice and relaxing and we can leave our clothes to first soak and then dry as we do some reading and napping.  But we time things well.  We see some very dark clouds with rain streaming from them that are approaching along the length of the lake.  We make our way back up to the gers, just in time to take shelter before the heavy rain, falling at a 45 degree angle due to the wind, hits us.  They have to close the top vents in the gers to keep the water out.  But the storm is a passing one, and after a short nap, we are able to once again emerge into the sun (and warmth - the temperature drops once the sun disappears behind the clouds).

 

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We have dinner in the ger shortly after 6 PM.  The owners of the ger have prepared for us rice and fried fish.  The fish has been freshly caught from the lake and it is delicious.  We are stuffed after eating a large bowl filled with the fish.

 

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We decide that it is now time to go for a walk along the lake.  The weather looks good - no threatening clouds on the horizon.  We make our way down to the lake shore and then slowly walk over to a small spit of land that juts out into the lake.  There are some large rock outcroppings here that we decide to sit on and watch the sun set over the lake.  Another great spot to add to our list of great spots.  While we are sitting there, a large bus pulls up and a group of local tourists piles out, loud and energetic.  The local tourist trade seems to be quite busy around here - rarely saw foreigners, but saw many locals enjoying the sights.

 

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We return to the camp where we sit on a bench and read and watch the finish to the sunset.  Then as the temperature begins to drop, it is time to go to bed.  We were going to sleep in the ger set up for tourists, but it appears that another larger group has arrived and they ask us to sleep in the ger where the owners sleep, cook and eat.  Well, what can we say - we agree and transfer our stuff over.

 

Well, while we are getting the authentic thing, it has it's downsides.  First of all, the cooking smell is very strong.  And there is raw meat stored there.  And the springs on the beds have seen much better days.  Oh, well.  One night.  And we get to experience a working ger.  So we lay out our sleeping bags on the beds and get ready to sleep.

 

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Well, it turns out that we most likely could have slept in a tent this night.  It was a beautiful night.  The sky cleared completely and the stars and moon came out.  Going out for a pee around 1 AM was a wonderful experience.  It was crisp and cold.  The stars were out in all their glory.  And the nearly full moon was setting over the lake, with the moon light glittering on the ripples making their way across the water's dark, black surface.

 

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