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
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
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.