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Wild Mongolia Part 1

14th July

This morning we departed Ulaanbaatar and took a flight to Môron on Hunnu Air (the wings of Mongolia).

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The flight was only 90 minutes. Here is Môron from the air.

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Shane at the airport.

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Upon arrival we found our 4WD and driver who will take us around some of the remote parts of Mongolia. A 4WD is best suited for the road conditions here. We drove 130km to Lake Khovsgol. 100km was on tarmac but the last 30 kms was off road. On the way we saw lots of beautiful scenery.

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There was a petrol station in the middle of nowhere.

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We had a stop to see the sign posts for the lake town

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Also, there was a shaman oovo on the top of a hill. You have to pick up 3 stones and walk around it 3 times clock wise and each time throw a stone on the oovo.

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We stopped to look at some yak.

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This is the view from the bottom of the lake.

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Upon arrival we checked into our Ger camp where we were staying for the next two nights. The camp is located on the eastern shore of the lake. Located in the northernmost province, it is Mongolia's largest and deepest lake and is the largest tributary stream of Lake Baikal. Being the second largest freshwater lake in Asia at 1,645m above sea level, it freezes over from January until April or May. It is known as the ‘dark blue pearl’. Amazingly 90 rivers flow into the lake, yet only a single river flows out-the Egiin Gol, which ultimately reaches Lake Baikal in Siberia. A ferryboat operates between the two towns. We are about 200 kms away from the Russian border.

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There are squirrels all around the camp. We can see their tunnels under our ger and they are really loud. They are pretty cute though.

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15th July
After a beautiful day weather wise yesterday we awoke to a cold over cast day.
Last night we had a fire in our ger so we were lovely and warm while inside.
After breakfast we went on a 4 and a half km hike to visit a reindeer family. On the way it started to rain and continued to rain for the rest of the day. It didn’t stop us from enjoying our visit to the reindeer family though.

It was so picturesque with tall forests and lush meadows.

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When we arrived, we saw the tent they live in. As they are nomadic they don’t live in a ger only this tent.

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They invited us in.

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This is some of the reindeer meat they eat. They have no fridge. It was just hanging in the tent.

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The baby was 8 months old so I had a hold.

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Then we visited the reindeer.

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We then hiked another 4 and a half km back to camp. It poured the whole way home.
We had the fire in our ger lit so we could dry our clothes and relaxed for the afternoon listening to the rain on the ger.

We had an interesting evening. To celebrate the start of our wild Mongolia excursion Marla (our Mongolian guide) bought a bottle of Chinggis Khaan Vodka. The 3 drivers, Marla and the group drank the whole bottle. It is tradition for the first glass of vodka to be sacrificed for nature. So, the driver went outside, said a prayer and threw the vodka into the bush around us. Doing things in 3’s is good luck so we all had to drink at least 3 shots of vodka. Then the singing started. The drivers had lovely voices. We were then asked to sing something, so we started with Waltzing Matilda. It was a lovely evening and we got to know the drivers.

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16th July

We had a full day travelling to Jargal Jiguur today. It took 12 hours. We headed off at 8am and retraced our steps back to Môron. It had poured all night so the 30km of unsealed road was slippery and the creeks were much deeper than when we had arrived.

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Just before Môron we stopped to visit the Deer Stones of Uushighn Uver. These Deer Stones date back 3000 to 4000 years during the Bronze Age.

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Researchers believe that these statues were dedicated to leaders and great warriors of a tribe. There are no bodies under them, they appear to be a ceremonial funeral tribute. They are called Deer Stones as they all have deer petroglyphs on them.

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So far about 1200 deer stones have been discovered in the world and around 90% are in Mongolia. This complex has 14 deer stones.

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There are also burial mounds.

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We also had a toilet stop. This is the outback toilet. What a view, and we had goats.

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We had lunch in Môron and after a short break we continued travelling another 200km on steep and unsealed roads and had breath-taking views of the surrounding plains and glacial peaks. We had rain on and off which made the adventure even more exciting. There were tracks everywhere, no road as such.

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This is one of their winter camps. The nomads move around 4 times a year with the seasons. At winter time they return to a more substantial building for their live stock and erect their gers around the structure.

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We came across a truck carrying horses. No horse floats. They just had them in the truck.

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We stopped for afternoon tea and it began to rain. One of the nomads came to see us and invited us to have tea in their ger. Wow what hospitality.

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They gave us Mongolian tea which was tea with yak milk and salt. It had an unusual taste. They also gave us some treats to try. There were yak cheese balls and yak milk dried curd.

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The man was cleaning his gun

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When we were ready to leave it was still raining quite hard. To our surprise their goats and sheep had returned and were all around our vehicles.

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They were even sheltering under our cars. It took ages to get them out.

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We finally made it to the top of the final hill where there was a sign for the town.

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We then sighted Jargal Jiguur.

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We arrived at Jargal Jiguur, known as ‘home of the yaks’, due to many local families seen herding yaks. Tonight, was another Ger camp.
Jargal Jiguur is also well known for the Khunjil natural hot springs. They had separate his and hers springs so we didn’t bother.
This is the camp and the view we had.

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17th July

Today we travelled 120km to the serene Great White Lake (Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur). This drive took half a day, there were stunning backdrops as we drove along.

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They are hard to see but there were wild flowers everywhere.

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We even got to see some bird life. An eagle and a crane.

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We also stopped to visit a ger family who were treating their stock.

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This was their home.

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We also encountered some more water crossings and muddy crossings today.

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We stopped at a natural spring. The Mongolians stop here for some water. It is meant to be good for your gut. We drank some, it was clear and nice and cold.

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We stopped at the top of the valley for coffee. There was another oovo to walk 3 times around.

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We then got to see the lake for the first time.

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We then crossed another hill which gave us a beautiful view of the lake.

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There are lots of Toyota Prius in Mongolia and they take them everywhere. We have come across them all the way through our journey. After we crossed a water crossing in our 4wd’s the Prius went through. It was quite funny.

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The Great White Lake is a fresh water lake that is certainly the highlight of Arkhangai Province. Surrounded by extinct and craterous volcanoes (part of the Tarvagatain Nuruu Range), the lake, bird life and mountains are protected within the 73,000-hectare Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park.
Upon arrival, we checked into our Ger Camp and had lunch. The camp is located within one of the most beautiful areas of the famous Great White Lake and Khorgo Volcano. After lunch Shane went for a swim. He said it was pretty cold, he didn’t stay in very long.

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This is our camp from the hill.

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Later in the afternoon we visited the Khorgo Volcano

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We enjoyed a hike up to its cone, which took around 15 minutes to ascend.

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Everyone was so friendly. When we got to the top they were saying “Welcome to Mongolia”, they even wanted their photos taken with us.

After descending the volcano we visited a collapsed lava tube.

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Before returning to camp we went to the shoreline to see all the lava stone structures. The black lava stones over time have been made into different height towers by people.

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18th July

We headed off at 8am for our next destination. We received a blessing as we headed on our way.

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We passed the volcano again but this time we saw the other side. There is nothing growing on this side.

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There was black volcanic sand and lots of lava. There are some trees now growing in it.

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After leaving the park we eventually got back onto a tarmac road.

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Sometimes the tarmac was missing. There seems to be no specific side of the road to use in these situations.

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We have seen these town signs everywhere. It is nice to drive through them and have an introduction to the area.

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We were lucky enough to see some eagles and vultures today.

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Up on a hill we then saw a lot of vultures in one spot.

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We stopped at Chuluutiin Khartsal where we had lovely views of the river.

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We had a morning tea stop right by a creek. A lot of horses came by.

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I couldn’t resist this horse. I have no idea how he could see.

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We had to stop a few times for the animals to cross the road.

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Once again we had beautiful green scenery.

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Just before lunch we stopped at a popular Mongolian tourist attraction. This rock is called Taikhar.

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Shane had a ride on a yak.

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We then passed through the capital Tsetserleg in the province of Ar Khangai.

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We stopped to have a look through the small market.
We were just in time to see these animal heads come out of the butchers.

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They sell lots of the dried animal curd in all sorts of varieties.

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Fruit and veg stall.

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Nicola in one of the isles.

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Shane helping Marla with a water purchase.

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After lunch the last 25km was again off road.

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Another river crossing.

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We drove around 360km today and arrived at Tsenkher Jiguur Hot Springs at 15.30.
We were lucky enough to get the honeymoon suite. (just kidding but we got a nice big bed).

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We had time to relax in the hot springs and take in the surrounding alpine scenery.

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The springs are volcanic hot springs. There are several resorts here and there are lots of pipes coming from the hot spring source.

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19th July
Last night we had a terrific weather front come through. Our honeymoon suite kept us warm and dry. It poured most of the night and there was lots of thunder and lightning. When we awoke the rain had cleared. We had a chance to wander around before breakfast. This is the resort area of the springs.

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This was the view from our ger camp.

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We stopped just up the road to visit a yak family. They were milking so let us come and watch.

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Shortly after heading off from the yaks we came across the remnants of the storm. There were big hailstones everywhere. It looked like it had snowed.

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You can see how deep the hail was and in parts the rain was so torrential it washed the hail away.

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Ahead of us was also low cloud.

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We stopped to visit a nomad family who were again very welcoming.

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They had all the mod cons. This family even had a freezer and nice sized TV.

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They poured airag (fermented mares milk) for us to drink. They also gave us cured milk snacks.

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Their daughter had a 3-month-old daughter who I held and managed to get her off to sleep, they seemed surprised.

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I had some lolly pops so gave them out to the 4 children that were there.

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We then started heading through the forest. It was muddy, and we got bogged.

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Once down on the plains we saw some nomads constructing their ger so we stopped to see. They had had to move as they got flooded out.

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We then returned to the tarmac to drive to the ancient capital of Kharakhorum, situated on the Orkhon River. We had come out of the forest scenery and were now on the steppe. There were no longer any trees, just lush grassland and hills.

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Late morning, we stopped for a coffee break by this sign.

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This was a roadside store.

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The drive to Kharakhorum was 150km.

Upon arrival, we settled in to our Ger camp. After lunch we went to visit the Kharakhorum Museum which was very interesting. Kharakhorum was the capital of the Mongol Empire between 1235 and 1260, and of the Northern Yuan in the 14–15th centuries.

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We were then due to visit the monastery but it poured with rain so change of plans. We went supermarket shopping instead. By the time we had finished there it had stopped raining so we headed up to the viewpoint to see Kharakhorum.
The city from the lookout.

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At the lookout was a tribute to the Mongolian empire.

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There were 3 sides to the monument showing their conquers. The first picture shows the expanse of their empire in gold and the blue is current Mongolia.

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There was an oovo in the centre.

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When returned to the hotel the power was out due to the storm. They were told that it would take 3 days to get the power back on as 30 power poles had fallen down. They closed the toilets and showers, so we had to walk out into the field to go to the toilet. Just another adventure for us.

Posted by shaneandnicola 01:20 Archived in Mongolia

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