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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Mongolia - 12 August, 2003



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Ger near Bayanzag N4410.794' E10341.456' 1,139 meters .
Camel ride at Bayanzag . . . .
Ongiin Khiid monastery ruins . . . .
Saikan Ovoo . . . .
Erdenedalai . . . .
Finish Camp near Erdenedalai N4600.026' E10457.175' 1,355 meters 281 km

Total (by train):

5,991 km

Total (Mongolia):

2,554 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

199 km


10,063 km


Weather: Mostly clear, sunny, very hot and very windy.  In the evening, partly cloudy, sunny, cool and very windy.  Wind on the steppes is very strong.



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The original plan was that we would spend another night here, but we did not think that would be that great.  Instead, we felt that it would be better to get back to Ulan Baatar a bit earlier, so that we would have some time to go and see the museums and sights there (especially as we had no time there on our day of arrival).  So, we did not quite have the long, relaxing lay-in that we could have and we were up for breakfast before 8 AM.  As we are having our breakfast, the owner of the ger comes in and we offer to share some with him.  He seems very interested in the peanut butter and nutella and helps himself to a couple of slices of bread.


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Then it is time for us to go off on our camel ride.  Mongolia has predominantly the two-humped camel, or Bactrian camel.  They were domesticated thousands of years ago and are closely related to the wild camel.  Are camels are ready and waiting for us.  They are brought to their knees and we climb up, holding onto the front hump as the camel comes to it's feet in a horrible rocking manner.


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But there camels are much better than the ones we rode in Uzbekistan last year.  These are relatively clean, do not smell too bad, do not have shit hanging from their hair and they do not sneeze and fart very much.  We head out on a walk of about two hours, led by one of the locals.  we make our way across the desert to some of the rock formations surrounding the cliffs.


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Once there, the guide scrabbles around in the rocks and tries to find us some fossils.  But he has no luck, and does not find any (just as well, we would rather leave them in place and let a scientist find them - you never know what you may disturb).  We head over to another tall rock formation and we are left to ourselves to wander around on foot.  Then it is time to head back to the gers.  We arrive back shortly after 11 AM.


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It is time to prepare lunch before we head off and make our way back to Ulan Baatar.  We had prepared some pasta last night and made up a pasta salad from it using some tomato sauce and one of our cans of tuna.  We are invited into the ger which all the locals are using to eat in and we share our lunch with them.  They appear not sure what to do with it.  No meat and, we are sure, an odd taste to them.  But many of them still try some of it.  The little girl seems to like it, at least. One of them pours in some milk tea and adds some pieces of the meat left over from last night.  We also share our chocolate and biscuits - they are a much bigger hit.


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Over lunch and after lunch we take a number of Polaroid photos and hand them out.  One of them is very keen to have his picture taken with his four horses.  Then it is time to pack up our stuff and head on.  We finally get on the road just before 1 PM.


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We have a long drive ahead of us on the desert steppe. It is flat, stony and featureless.  But we imagine that it is a bit more green that it would normally be, due to the heavy rains this year.  The winds are very strong.  Whenever we stop for a break, we are shocked by the strength of the wind.  It feels like it could just blow us over.  Interestingly, as we pass this way, we see no gers.  No one is living in this area, as far as we can see.  As we drive north, we bypass the settlement of Mandal-Ovoo.  While we do not regret passing through this harsh land, we would not really want to do it again.


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Finally, after about four hours of driving we arrive at the ruins of the monastery complex of Ongiin Khiid.  Located here are the ruins of two monasteries - Barlim Khiid and Khutagt Khiid, one on each side of a bend in the river Ongiin Gol.  Due to the level of the water, we can only view one of the ruins.  We wander over there and take a quick look at the ruins - there really is not too much left.  One does not need to spend too much time there - in any case, the river smells real bad.


Shortly after 5 PM we stop in Saikhan Ovoo, but there is not much here to offer us, so we are soon on our way.  We are starting to leave the desert steppes as the grass becomes thicker and more lush.  There are also more shrubs.  We are now starting to see herds of cattle and other animals grazing.  Just before 8 PM we arrive in Edenedalai.  First we look for petrol.  We find one station which will sell it at around Togrog 650 a liter.  They have an ancient hand pump and it takes two guys taking brief turns to fill up our tanks with petrol.


Then we see about finding a place to sleep. During our whole drive up today, we could not find one decent camp site.  The wind was so strong and there was no shelter.  Gerlee goes off and asks about rooms at the town's hotel.  We are not too excited about this - we prefer to camp, but we trust his judgment.  He comes out and does not seem to excited about the hotel.  Not sure if it is full, too expensive or not very nice.  In any case, he asks us of we would like to camp and we say that would be great.  He has been told of a place that might work, so we hop back in the jeep and drive a short way out of town to a small, shallow gully that runs near the village.


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We decide that this place would work very well.  We had tested it by squatting down behind the tall grass to see if they acted as good wind breaks.  They seem to, so we begin to set up camp and prepare dinner.  In the process, some of the local village children come by to check out what we are up to.  After they have satisfied their curiosity, they head off and we can hear them playing in the tall grass.  We have dinner just in time to watch a wonderful sunset.


After cleaning up and putting everything away, it is time to head off to sleep.  The full moon rises as we are brushing our teeth.  Then off to sleep.  This would have been a great campsite, except for the many dogs that were barking in the nearby village.  But in the end, tiredness overtook us and we fell asleep.


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