21 Days In Mongolia

Day 11:

In the morning we made a short one hour drive to a local town where many of us had decided to purchase blankets ready for our stay on the Siberian border in a few days time. However, before we reached the black market we visited a local museum, where we met our first tall Mongolian. The museum itself was pretty interesting as local museums go and the curator was very knowledgeable.  However, what was on most of our minds was to get to the black market and purchase those blankets. When we left the museum, we wandered down to the market and scoured the stalls for blankets, as they weren’t as plentiful as we had hoped. We finally managed to purchase enough blankets for those that wanted them, myself and Claire purchased two each. Once I had bought our blankets, we met up with Solongo who translated for me in the market’s pharmacy where I needed to buy some tablets for the chesty cough and fluid on my chest which wasn’t disappearing even after having been around almost since I had arrived in Mongolia. The Russian drugs which were purchased cost all of about £2.50 – so I knew they must be good stuff!.

As a treat, we all met back up just before lunch, bought luxuries in the local supermarket (ie chocolate) for the next couple of days and then after being stopped by the police so they could check the drivers licences we went to a local café/restaurant owned by an ex-pat.  The restaurant was called Fairfields and the dishes prepared were worth waiting for – lasagne, beef and yorkshire puddings, beef burgers and beef and beer pie. They also sold carrot cake and doughnuts. It was like being in another world.  The owner had also prepared 15 pizzas ready for our tea later in the day.

Once we left the town after our early lunch, we had a fairly long drive ahead of us. We encountered our first cloudy afternoon, which did turn in to drizzle, but it was only around for a couple of hours before it cleared.  The drive was long and bumpy and we had another van race, but this time it was a race which tested the different routes. Those of us in Jaagar’s van went our own way from the other two vans for about 30 minutes and Jaagar must have chosen the bumpiest track available. Not wanting to slow down for the massive holes and dips, we hit our heads a couple of times on the ceiling of the van and still didn’t win, as when we met up with the other two vans, Altai was just ahead of us.  Our first stop in the afternoon was "Throwing Rock” where legend has it that a young wife looked out for her husband returning from war and he never returned and she stood for so long she turned in to stone. The idea is that you have to throw a stone over this massive rock. A couple of the guys managed to do it.  If you get it over, it proves your love for the person you are thinking about. 

We carried on the drive and saw a family taking down their ger, obviously arranging to move for the winter.  Our second stop was unplanned and we had to pull over as the airag we were carrying in our van was still fermenting and the container was bulging.  We took the container out of the van and let the pressure escape, it probably didn’t help that we were also rising in elevation as we drove.  Our third stop was at "Chulwt Gorge”, about an hour later.  It almost seemed out of place after so much arid landscape and desert to see a fairly lush gorge with a flowing river at the bottom.

Once we had rested we then made our way towards the volcano we had been waiting for.  The vans drove as high as they could up the side of the volcano, over rocks and winding between tree stumps and holes, I couldn’t believe this was an actual track, but suddenly we came to a small turnaround point which was as far as the vans could go.  From here we walked up a steep incline for about 200m before reaching the rim. It was interesting to see the dip in the middle of the volcano (I am sure there is a scientific name for it) so close up.  From the rim of the volcano, which apparently is still active, we could see the "White Lake” of "Khorg”, which was going to be our destination for that evening. It was already fairly late on in the day and so we knew we had to get a move on. 

We drove back down the volcano, stopped for one last view of the whole lake before driving down to it and through a couple of creeks and around the lake for about 45 minutes via a few gers before reaching our camp spot, which was about a km up from the edge of the lake, nestled amongst some pine trees. We weren’t really sure why we camped so far away from the lake, but apparently it was because there was less mosquitoes away from the water.  Fortunately we didn’t get bombarded by midges or mosquitoes at all on the whole trip, but I think that may have been because it was getting colder.  The view of the lake from our camping spot was great and the grazing yaks and goats kept us company.

The drivers stopped at one of the gers just before we reached camp in order to buy a marmot (already dead) a rodent type animal similar in size to hare, but more the shape of a badger.  However, for our dinner we ate cold pizza followed by fruit cake bought at Fairfields, around a camp fire.  It was our first camp fire and Paul deemed it cold enough, north enough and surrounded by enough wood to warrant one.

It turned out to be much warmer than anyone thought it would be, so although I used my blanket, I was also really warm in my sleeping bag.

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