21 Days In Mongolia

Day 10:

It wasn’t too cold when we got up in the morning, which was good, although we did leave on the dot of 8am.  We were pleased to learn that it wasn’t going to be a long driving day.  Our first stop was at the home of Jagaar’s sister, although she was not home. We hit the tarmac road again later in the morning as we once again drove towards Karakorum.  This is the ancient capital built by Genghis Kahn in the 13th century.  However, hardly a single stone remains of the ancient city.  Stopping on the outskirts of the city, we visited an ovoo with horse’s skulls as offerings. There was also a phallic rock which points, apparently to the "vaginal slope”.  Legend has it that the rock was placed here in an attempt to stop frisky monks, from entering the city to fraternise with the local women.  We looked over the Erdene Zuu monastery, which was the first centre of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia.  The monastery was started in 1586 and then continued for the next three centuries.  Just outside the monastery walls were 2 turtle rocks. Four of these sculptures once marked the boundaries of ancient Karakorum.  The monastery used to home 62 temples and housed up to 1000 monks, but most of the temples were destroyed like most other monasteries throughout Mongolia, in the communist period. We visited the monastery and spent about an hour inside and got to hear the monks chanting.

Outside of the monastery on the streets of Karakorum we bought small meat pancakes and snacks to beat the hunger whilst we drove to a local man’s ger that one of the drivers knew. This local man, put on a small concert purely for us and he played different national Mongolian instruments and also gave a small rendition of throat singing, which we later decided wasn’t as good as Andy’s.

Following this visit, we went to a local restaurant where we managed to call home on our mobile phone, as we actually had reception on the phone, being in a "city”. We ate beef stew and drank apple juice of all things, but we didn’t finish lunch until 3pm so we knew it would only be a snack for dinner. We made the most of the fact that there was a western toilet in the restaurant which actually had an eclectic hand dryer on the wall (although it stopped working when we used it). The room we ate lunch in looked like a typical room you would hire out for a evening reception at a wedding or a birthday party, with the disco ball on the ceiling.

As we drove out of the city the tarmac road made the journey in the van much more pleasant, but to our dismay after about 3km out of the city it just stopped and went straight in to dirt track again. It wasn’t a long journey after this, to the campsite for the night.  The scenery changed to rolling hills and then finally we saw a row of trees, which meant that there was a river.  We drove towards the trees and ended up in an area that could have been a city park in Europe.  There were trees and a river running through it. The difference was that there wouldn’t normally have been yaks in a shallow river in Europe.  It was a lovely place to camp and most people took the opportunity to take a dip in the really cold water to wash of the dirt that was beginning to engrain itself in to our skin. I wasn’t brave enough to go in; once I get cold it takes me forever to get warm.  I did wash my hair however. Our snack tea turned in to a messy and fiddly one as we made ham, cheese, olives and pineapple on toast.

Davey took the opportunity to fish in the river and he caught 2 fish.  We tried to take photographs of the moon outlined against the trees – but things never turn out quite how you want!  One thing I had noticed over the last couple of days was that telegraph poles were now more numerous, something which showed the changes happening in this, until recently, unspoilt land.

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