I woke at 06.45 but stayed in the warm sleeping bag (the one I’d borrowed from Tim) for an extra 45 minutes. It was still -9℃ (15.8℉) and no one was moving yet.
When I did emerge, the scene was magical… an absolutely cloudless sky above snow capped mountains which were reflected in the still clear waters of the lake.
And there, by the lake, was my little tent with Tim’s sleeping bag airing on top. It could stay there in the sunshine while I had breakfast… such as it was! Just watery porridge; the muesli was running out. No wonder I lost weight on this trek.
Before we headed out for the day, Tim explained something about this wonderful Tsambagarav mountain and glacial region that we were experiencing.
The Tsambagarav National Park has an area of 110,960 hectares (274,188 acres). The permanently snow-capped Tsambagarav Mountain is 4193m (13,737 ft.) high and is sacred to Mongolians. Several other peaks are also permanently snow-capped. Many glaciers and numerous glacial lakes dot the park. Deep rocky gorges and waterfalls are common. There are petroglyphs and Turkic standing stones to be seen as well.
We would need to keep our eyes peeled for the wildlife of the area. It was possible, though not at all probable, to sight elusive Snow Leopards and other endangered wildlife including Argali sheep, Ibex, Rock Ptarmigan and Altai Snowcock. We would be more likely to spot an Altai sheep, the largest wild sheep in the world. An adult male can weigh in at over 35kg (75 lbs.).
We would also probably come across more of the Kazakh and Uriankhai nomadic herders who live in the area during summer.
Time to leave. But we didn’t get very far at all. Dirty fuel again stopped one of the vehicles. So we decided to walk until the problem was fixed.
Very soon, we were up to the snow line again.
The edges of the river were frozen.
After walking for two hours of following the stream up the valley, we came to this dwelling. The people who live here are not Kazakhs but Turvans, displaced/refugees from Tuva. I’d never heard of Tuva before and that’s not surprising… it was only recognised as an independent state by two countries; Russia and Mongolia… and that only from 1921 until 1944.
We stopped to ask directions and were promptly invited in for tea. So hospitable.
This little one wondered what was going on.
The inside of the house was lined with colourful rugs, lino and plastic sacking. We shared our lunch of a delicious soup which had some extra flavour added… a little of the sheep that our crew had killed the night before!
The lady of the house…
backed by the wall rug and plastic coverings for the walls.
The man of the house.
Another member of the household.
There were some handcrafted mats, rugs, bags and clothing for sale. Margaret bought a couple of small rugs from the home owner who seemed very pleased.
An image of Genghis Khan was knotted into the pattern of this large wall rug.
Finally, it was time for us to bid these hospitable people farewell and leave them to eke out their survival existence in this harsh, inhospitable landscape. Meeting people like this in their home, in their environment, made us all so thankful for our own way of life. How very fortunate we are… and may we always be grateful for that.
Meanwhile, our drivers were testing their 4 wheel drive skills getting to us. They had to ford the ice covered stream near the herder’s dwelling. One of the locals showed the way across on his motorbike.
After all of our vehicles had crossed the stream, it was time to climb on board and head higher up in this wintry wilderness. More of that anon.
All photographs copyright © DY of jtdytravels
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