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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Mongolia - 5 August, 2003



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Ger on Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur lake N4810.997' E09948.463' 2,052 meters .
Tsetserleg . . . .
Tsenkher Jiguur hot springs . . . .
Finish Camp on river south of Tsenkher N4719.220' E10147.549' 1,651 meters 228 km

Total (by train):

5,991 km

Total (Mongolia):

947 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

199 km


8,456 km


Weather: The morning is clear and cloudless, sunny and very hot (especially in the sun).  The afternoon has light clouds.  In the evening, it is partly cloudy with occasional sun and passing shower and warm.  Cold overnight.



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As we have a long drive ahead of us, we decide to leave a bit earlier this morning.  So we pack up our stuff and then head out to the "gazebo" to enjoy our breakfast that Jacqui prepared in the ger.  To our surprise, there are even more goat parts hanging from the beams, including a fresh head and some feet, with slabs of meat laying on the roof.  The lady of the ger begins to cook some soup with the meat before we leave.  After packing up our bags, we head off at 9:30 AM.


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We have one last look back at the lake at the top of the pass and then carry on.  We back track all the way to Tsetserleg, passing through the same country as we did on our way in.  Along the way we pass a group of camels hanging around.  We arrive in the small town of Tsetserleg at 2:30 PM after a long and tiring drive.  First things - we fill up on petrol, which is now available at a decent price.  Then off to have lunch at the same place as last time.  This time, we order one dish to share amongst the two of us.  The portions are just too large.  The final stop is at the market to pick up some supplies such as drinking water and bread.  The market is what they call a container market.  It is a series of 20 foot containers set up in an open area and people sell their wares (mostly dry goods) from them.  Very practical (and cheap).  There is also a small market in the building where meat and bread are sold.


We are back on the road at 4 PM and we still have a ways to go.  We are now heading into an area with more forests and flowers.  We make our way over some mountain passes and into adjoining valleys.  Finally, after a bit more than an hour, we arrive at the Tsenkher Jiguur hot springs.  We go and check out whether we want to have a dip in the hot pool (a swimming pool rather than a natural pool) and a shower.  But the prices they are quoting are so outrageous, that we decide to pass.  Our driver says that he will see what he can do at an adjoining "resort" that is a bit less fancy.


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He is a able to arrange a side deal, which is less than half the "published price" at that facility and about a quarter of what we would have had to pay at the other one.  It comes to about five dollars for the two of us to use the hot pool and the showers.  We do not have much time, so we rush in and change.  We are the only ones there and they pump some more hot water into the pools to heat them up.  There is a strong sulfur smell.  After about half an hour in the pool, it is time to get out and take our showers.  The showers are nice, but the only problem is that the water has a very strong smell.  But this is better than no shower at all, especially as there are no more showers for the rest of our trip until we return to Ulan Baatar.


Freshly scrubbed and glowing from the hot springs, we return to the jeep.  We ask Gerlee if he would like to use the hot springs, but he declines and says he would fall asleep while driving if he did.  He says he will wash in the (ice cold) river.  We leave the hot springs around 6:30 PM and head down a valley to look for a camp site on the river.  We reach a point where we have to cross the river, but he did not seem to want to do it too night - seems too muddy, so we spend about 20 minutes driving in some crazy spots looking for a place to set up for the night.  We drive through small streams, over boulders and around small trees, but cannot find a suitable spot.  Finally, we guess he decides he will have to try on the other side of the river.


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We make our way over to the muddy banks of the river and notice there another vehicle stuck in the mud.  We stop to check out the situation and the driver of the other vehicle comes over to chat.  A plan of action is agreed upon after a number of likely spots are checked out.  A stack of logs is dropped in the muddiest spot and we engage low gear and the four wheel drive and quickly make our way over to the other side with no troubles.  Now it is time to help out the other driver who is stuck.


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A couple of cables are tied together and then attached to the front of the stuck car and the back of our jeep.  It takes a few attempts and some spinning wheels wit mud spraying out, but we are able to pull the other vehicle out of the mud. Now it is time to go and set up camp for the night, but Gerlee still takes his time looking for a good spot on the bank of the river.  We have to weave between trees and roll over rocks, but a nice spot on the river bank with trees that provide shade is found.  Some of the trees are large and have lots of character.  Mushrooms are sprouting from the trunks of some.  Very few bugs - just a few that we are able to swat away.  We have soon set up camp and are beginning to prepare dinner.


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At this time, a local nomad rides (bareback) up to our camp and begins to chat with us (or rather, with Gerlee).  He seems like a very nice guy - a bit simple, but very friendly.  We take a Polaroid of him, and he is very excited and happy.  He carefully puts the picture away inside his jacket.  He leaves just before we have our dinner of fettuccine alfredo.  After dinner, we build a big fire and sit around enjoying the heat of the flames as the temperature begins to drop as it gets dark.  The waning moon rises over the river and its light is reflected in the water.


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As we are sitting around the fire, we hear some drunken singing coming from the bush.  After a few minutes, a horse emerges and passes right by us with a totally drunk local swaying in the saddle, belting out local songs.  It is amazing how he is able to stay in the saddle.  He is swaying from front to back and to the sides, but just as he looks like he is about to fall off, he sways back in the other direction.  He certainly is not giving the horse any directions, but the faithful animal seems to know perfectly well where to go.  With that reassuring thought, we put out the fire and head off to the tent to sleep.


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