It was another cold morning, -10℃, (14℉) with frost on my tent. My toes were still frozen! The sky was almost cloudless above our picturesque camp site.
The sun began to creep over the hills and into our valley.
Breakfast was the usual scrambled eggs with bacon but with a few extras in the form of orange slices and dried apricots. Very nice.
Before we set off for the day, our driver, Pujee, posed with my travelling companion, Michael from London, alongside Pujee’s trusty Toyota HiLux.
Leaving our drivers to pack up camp, we began to walk for about half an hour to the site of four standing stones… well, two standing stones, one ‘leaning’ stone and one definitely tired, lying down stone! There’s a growing problem in the steppe areas of the standing stones being stolen and sold to museums, smashed or indeed used to help get a car out of a bogged situation. Perhaps, respect for the stones is waning.
A nearby small lake reflecting that huge blue Mongolian sky.
After our vehicles caught up with us again, we drove on to see a “Silent Village”. It looks like a village in the distance but it is in fact, a cemetery… hence ‘silent’. Tim had told us that these villages had tricked him when he was on his big trek. Can you imagine, trekking along on your own and you see what you think is habitation… people… company… and a chance to share a meal. But no! Not here.
We ventured closer to have a look. These were relatively new graves within a walled area. The ground is very hard and rocky so a mound is built over the body. At a later date a stone surround might be built.
An older grave with surround.
A much more substantial grave site.
Now there’s a grave site with a pretty spectacular view.
Pity the incumbent isn’t able to enjoy it!
There wasn’t a lot of vegetation except for a few tufts of White grass.
Wonder of wonders… here in the “Silent Village” one of our drivers managed to get phone reception! The driver was still vertical so it wasn’t a call on the “royal telephone”! The silence is broken! Modern technology.
We drove on through stark countryside under the clearest of blue skies.
The sky here really is amazingly blue.
When we came to an ovoo on a pass, of course we had to make the obligatory stop and perform the, by now, well known ritual of walking around the ovoo three times clockwise, each time adding another stone to the ever growing pile.
Oh oh! More vehicle problems. And no habitation in sight anywhere. Just as well our drivers were fairly knowledgable as mechanics… at least we hoped they were.
Up and running again, we set off back to Olgii. We stopped there for a while, long enough for me to finally get to a bank that had both power and people, both at the same time. Finally I got my hands on some more Mongolian money.
With local money in my pocket, we wandered off to the Italian coffee shop… I’m not sure whether the coffee or the free WiFi was best! Nonetheless, we partook of both.
Others managed to find some shops! We had lunch at a restaurant, climbed aboard our vehicles and set off towards the town of Khovd… but not for long.
On the very outskirts of Olgii, one of the cars dropped a con-rod, or something like that, and it wasn’t going anywhere fast. The passengers from that car were unloaded and shared around the other cars… a bit of a squash but that’s how it had to be. We drove on leaving the ailing car stuck on the side of the road looking a little ‘down in the mouth’.
It was around 19.15 before we came to a lake where we could camp for the night. As I got out and walked around our vehicle, I could hear hissing from a back tyre. A rock we’d driven too close to, just before we stopped, had sheered of the valve! This was the only problem our vehicle suffered throughout the trip due mainly to Pujee’s careful driving and the good condition of the vehicle when we’d started. The corrugated and rock strewn roads really do punish vehicles in these parts.
The light faded but it wasn’t too cold… there was a good cloud cover. So, after dinner, most of us sat around a fire while Tim read from ‘The Silent Steppe” by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, a first-hand account of the genocide of the Kazakh nomads during the 1920-1930’s under Stalin. It was 22.00 before we went to bed after what had been another eventful day in the far west of Mongolia.
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