Mongolia #16 Day 7 of the Trek (02/10/15 pm)

Before we left in the cars to travel onwards, we took time to farewell our cameleers and horsemen… and of course the camels and the horses.

DSC01964 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01964 © DY of jtdytravels

Our four cameleers rest after their busy few days trekking with us.

DSC01965 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01965 © DY of jtdytravels

On behalf of all of the group, each cameleer in turn, from oldest to youngest, was given some goodies, a tip and, most importantly, a blue silk scarf known as a Khata … also known as a Khadag or hadag.  The Khata  is a symbol of peace and well being and is the highest symbol of respect, well wishing and greeting in Mongolian culture. It’s always presented to the oldest or most distinguished person first.

The colour blue is also very important to Mongolians. It represents the eternal blue sky in this ‘Land of the Blue Sky’.  We had all certainly enjoyed those wide blue skies.

DSC01982 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01982 © DY of jtdytravels

A cameleer and his camel… ‘led by the nose’ takes on a new meaning!

DSC01980 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01980 © DY of jtdytravels

This camel seemed to shed a tear at our parting.

DSC01989 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01989 © DY of jtdytravels

But as for this one…. the smile says it all… no more packs to carry for awhile!

By the shape of those humps, a long drink of water wouldn’t go astray.

DSC01987 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01987 © DY of jtdytravels

The camels looked a little lost without our red duffle bags.

Still work to do for the lead camel.

DSC01969 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01969 © DY of jtdytravels

We also thanked the horseman in the traditional way, again with a blue Khata. 

DSC01973 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01973 © DY of jtdytravels

He seems happy enough with the tip!

DSC01991 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01991 © DY of jtdytravels

A handshake of thanks from Tim, and we went on our way again, by car not by foot.

DSC01997 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01997 © DY of jtdytravels

And just as well we weren’t walking!  We were back into the vast open landscapes so typical of Mongolia.  After a couple of hours we had reached this vantage point… and a well earned leg stretch.  Ahead, the multiple tracks that crossed the steppe were obvious.   Each driver had chosen his own way but, generally, the latest set of wheel tracks were followed.

DSC01995 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01995 © DY of jtdytravels

Looking ahead, we could see, in the distance, a lake known as Achit Nuur. 

DSC01999 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01999 © DY of jtdytravels

Achit Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the Uvs Aimag of Mongolia, in the far west of the country. It’s at an elevation of 1,435 m above sea level.  It covers an area of 290 km²; is 28 km long, 16 km wide, and 10 m deep.

DSC02003 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02003 © DY of jtdytravels

With no wind the clouds were reflected perfectly in the lake.

DSC02009 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02009 © DY of jtdytravels

Further on, we passed a nomad’s ger with the modern essential, a Russian ‘box-on-wheels’. The van’s Russian name sounds something like “oo-warz-ik” (phonetic). Although Mongolians still love their horses and camels, many have this form of transport as well. 

DSC02010 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02010 © DY of jtdytravels

Not a lot grows on these stoney plains.

DSC02011 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02011 © DY of jtdytravels

Where there’s some water, the larch trees grow, small in size but in abundance.

Location of Oglii

Our destination for the day was Olgii (Olgiy). It was near here that we were scheduled to witness the Golden Eagle Festival over the next two days; a much anticipated event.

Weather Chart for Oglii

Olgii (sometimes written Olgiy) is the capital of Bayan-Olgii Aimag (Province).  It experiences a desert climate with long, very dry and cold winters and a short warm summer.

Nestled beside the Khovd River near the Altai Mountains, Olgii is 1710m (5610 ft) above sea level. In 2008, its population was 28,496, mainly of Kazakh origin.  The area is known for the annual Golden Eagle Festival held in October, and also for embroidery and Kazakh music.

Olgii is 1600km (994mi.) by road from UB, and 1000km (620mi.) of this distance is unpaved. You can travel between the two cities by bus.  Even under ideal conditions, that journey takes 48 hours; and under not so ideal conditions, it can take 3 to 5 days. There’s no rail link but there is a small airport with one paved runway. Flights to UB are said to be ‘regular’… to other destinations they are irregular, whatever that means!

Because of this relative isolation, Oglii hasn’t developed as quickly as more eastern parts of Mongolia.  Much of the city centre was built during the 1950-1980’s and has only had a spurt of growth since 2005 when many new apartments, shops, restaurants and hotels were built.

DSC02012 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02012 © DY of jtdytravels

We had dinner at one of those restaurants; a bit of a treat and it gave our cooks a rest. It was a Turkish restaurant and dinner consisted of tasty and very tender marinated lamb cubes with grated carrot, coleslaw, potato balls and rice with a dob of tomato sauce on top.

DSC02144 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02144 © DY of jtdytravels

After dinner it was a 25 minute drive to our ger camp – not the place that we’d expected to be staying at in town; Tseren had decided that was too noisy and not suitable.  So we ended up at a temporary six ger set up much nearer to the site where all the activity of the Eagle Festival was to take place.  This was supposed to save travel time and be much safer and quieter.

However, there was no running water here. And, as Olgii offered the first chance since leaving UB of running hot water and a SHOWER, some of us decided to go back to town for just that reason.  So, at 21.00 it was back into the vehicles for most of us for the run back into town to the public bath-house.  It took a bit of a Cook’s Tour around town to find the place but, at last, our vehicles pulled up outside a low-set building.

Inside, there were two rows of back to back cubicles, ostensibly males on one side and females on the other; but, in the event, we were all mixed up.  Who cares?  Running hot water gushed from the shower head and it made no difference that the place needed a good upgrade to fix broken tiles and leaking and rusted fittings.  A wooden duck-board bridged the hole in the floor down which lots of brown water washed as the clean water from the shower head and the dust on my body mixed.  No need for a shampoo when you’ve got a No. 1 hair cut.  I just stood there luxuriating in the almost forgotten experience of hot water over body.

Olgii has a bath-house because the Russian era demanded that the collective approach be followed when it came to hot water.  Quite rightly. It’s so much cheaper to produce hot water in one place and pipe it around the city than for everybody to have smaller individual water heaters. We were therefore rubbing shoulders with the locals who use the facility all the time.  I’m not sure how often the locals strip off in the middle of winter when the temperature can be as low as -40ºC (-49ºF) even if the bath-house is steamy.

DSC02430 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02430 © DY of jtdytravels

The large Stalinist era central powerhouse still provides the town’s hot water.  

After the shower it took another 25 minutes to drive back to the gers. By then, those we had left behind at camp, were fast asleep in their grubby skins!  I, on the other hand, felt good and clean and was ready for sleep. Once again, all of the others opted to sleep en masse in the six gers.  Not me. I opted once more to sleep in my own tent. I went to sleep thinking with much anticipation of the Eagle Festival that would be our lot on the morrow. And I did sleep, and very well, in my own tent, under the Mongolian stars! 

David

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If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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Mongolia #15 Day 7 of the Trek (02/10/15 am)

 

DSC01926 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01926 © DY of jtdytravels

I woke late , but so it seemed did everyone else… the camp was all but deserted. Our breakfast table and folding chairs were there, just waiting for us. But no-one seemed to be in a hurry to get up and get going.  Perhaps we had all relaxed into Tim’s laid back ways. He’d told us on the very first morning that we should take off our watches and throw away our itineraries. ‘Just live each day as it comes’, was his sage advice. And so we had.

DSC01928 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01928 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the cameleers had kicked some life back into the camp fire and was boiling a pot of water. They say that a watched pot never boils… maybe that’s why he’s not watching.

DSC01927 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01927 © DY of jtdytravels

Even the camels looked relaxed. But eventually they were persuaded that duty called. Our stuff was loaded onto them and we left camp at 10.10 to continue our walk, further down the Yamaat River valley.

DSC01929 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01929 © DY of jtdytravels

A couple of old larch trees stand like sentinels.

DSC01930 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01930 © DY of jtdytravels

The larch at this lower level still had most of their needles.

DSC01943 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01943 © DY of jtdytravels

Sunlight through golden larch needles and cones.

DSC01931 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01931 © DY of jtdytravels

A little residual snow in shady spots of the loose scree along the river valley. 

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DSC01933 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01933 © DY of jtdytravels

The horses didn’t seem to be in any hurry.

DSC01935 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01935 © DY of jtdytravels

One of our horsemen

DSC01938 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01938 © DY of jtdytravels

After the previous days of trudging through snow, here the walking was easy.

DSC01939 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01939 © DY of jtdytravels

We took it all in our stride.

DSC01940 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01940 © DY of jtdytravels

The vegetation was sparse but it added a touch of colour.

DSC01941 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01941 © DY of jtdytravels

A nomad’s winter shelter… though not so much of the shelter apparent here.

Imagine being here in the depths of a Mongolian winter!

DSC01944 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01944 © DY of jtdytravels

After about a two hour walk, the end of our walking trek was in sight! There, ahead of us, our vehicles and drivers awaited us ….  in the designated parking zone!

DSC01949 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01949 © DY of jtdytravels

We had lunch in the shelter of a large ger.

DSC01948 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01948 © DY of jtdytravels

This time, lunch consisted of a tuna and vegetable mash and black rice.

DSC01951 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01951 © DY of jtdytravels

I needed to have a souveneir of this walking trek… and this felt bird had to fill the bill. It will grace our Christmas tree along with so many other small reminders of so many places we have explored in this amazing world of ours.

DSC01968 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01968 © DY of jtdytravels

My felt bird was really nothing like the magpies which had hopped around us in the valley. A relative of the European magpie, these Magpies sport beautiful, long iridescent blue, green & purple wings & tails.  Adult black-billed magpies mate for life and stay together year-round. They nest toward the top of deciduous or evergreen trees such as the larches in this valley.

Map of walking trek

Map of walking trek

And so we came to the end of our trek. The map shows the part of the Turgen Massif that we’d walked. Now we would head off in the cars to Achit Lake, the large blue lake on the map. More of that anon

David

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If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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Mongolia #14 Day 6 of the Trek (01/10/15 pm)

 

DSC01891 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01891 © DY of jtdytravels

After lunch we walked further along the valley.

DSC01884 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01884 © DY of jtdytravels

This camel didn’t seem at all keen to walk further with our packs.

Getting a bite to eat from the grasses was a better prospect.

DSC01889 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01889 © DY of jtdytravels

The first part of our afternoon walk… leaving the snow behind!

DSC01890 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01890 © DY of jtdytravels

One of our nomads riding his horse and leading a couple of camels

DSC01886 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01886 © DY of jtdytravels

Lichens on rocks.

DSC01892 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01892 © DY of jtdytravels

Larch trees along the banks of the Yamaat River.

DSC01895 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01895 © DY of jtdytravels

Paul and Robyn, two of our accomplished riders, follow the river.

DSC01899 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01899 © DY of jtdytravels

There were very few birds about but we did see a magpie or two…

the sheen of their feathers luminous in the sunshine.

DSC01900 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01900 © DY of jtdytravels

Our track crossed the Yamaat River a couple of times.

That’s Tim making his way across the river, rock hopping, stone by stone.

DSC01901 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01901 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s always a good idea to look back to see where you’ve come from-

it’s usually worth the effort.

DSC01903 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01903 © DY of jtdytravels

At one of the crossings, hidden behind the main river, we found a pond.

It rewarded a closer look.

DSC01904 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01904 © DY of jtdytravels

Lovely reflections in the absolutely still water.

DSC01912 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01912 © DY of jtdytravels

Just magic

DSC01915 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01915 © DY of jtdytravels

 …and again

DSC01916 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01916 © DY of jtdytravels

Fallen larch needles trapped in the rocks at the edge of the pond.

DSC01917 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01917 © DY of jtdytravels

A hillside of all but bare larch trees in the snow.

DSC01922 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01922 © DY of jtdytravels

 We were walking in a conservation area so some large larch trees survived being cut down.

DSC01918 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01918 © DY of jtdytravels

Deep in thought, watching each step, enjoying the experience.

DSC01920 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01920 © DY of jtdytravels

The richness in colour of the landscape was intensified as the sun dipped low in the sky.

DSC01919 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01919 © DY of jtdytravels

A lonely buttercup (Ranunculus sp.), having shed its petals, now sets about producing plenty of seed for next spring.

DSC01921 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01921 © DY of jtdytravels

Our track followed ever further along the river.

Our camping spot for the night was still not yet in sight.

DSC01923 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01923 © DY of jtdytravels

Eventually, we made camp in a larch forest. It was still very cold with a light spread of snow on the surrounding hills… and I thought we’d finished with snow! Fortunately there was no snow beside the river where we pitched our tents. While some of the crew collected wood for a camp fire, we enjoyed some biscuits, cheese and spreads.  Dinner followed later.

 The camp fire was most welcome.  Even so, we were in bed by 20.45 .

There was more walking to be done on the morrow!

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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Mongolia #13 Day 6 of the Trek (01/10/15 am)

DSC01854 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01854 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun was slow to creep into our valley.  The overnight snow fall was therefore slow to melt from our tents.  I awoke at 07.00 and was served hot chocolate in bed 30 minutes later.  We’d been told to stay warm as it was -3ºC (26.6ºF) outside, and this temperature didn’t take into account the breeze.

DSC01848 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01848 © DY of jtdytravels

The moon hung around, watching proceedings from a brilliant and cloud-free blue sky.

DSC01851 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01851 © DY of jtdytravels

It was a beautiful valley and so peaceful.

DSC01852 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01852 © DY of jtdytravels

Still no sun on the valley floor, our tents providing the only colour besides the white of the snow and the brown of the exposed rocks. The blue tent is the cooking/mess tent.

DSC01857 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01857 © DY of jtdytravels

At last sunshine bathed the valley and began to warm us up.

It was mid-morning before we were ready to leave camp and head down the valley. 

DSC01861 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01861 © DY of jtdytravels

The fresh snow fall provided a great surface on which to see animal tracks.  We believe we saw the foot-prints of antelope, lynx, and wolf.  We were hoping to see snow leopard tracks as the area is known to be home to many of these majestic creatures.  However, we didn’t see anything big enough to belong to these very secretive animals.  They were probably watching us from high above on the hill-sides but they are so well camouflaged, we didn’t see them.

DSC01859 DY of jtdytravels

DSC01859 DY of jtdytravels

Antelope tracks in the fresh snow.

DSC01865 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01865 © DY of jtdytravels

It didn’t take long for us to spread out along the valley floor.

DSC01866 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01866 © DY of jtdytravels

At times I almost envied those riding on horses… almost, but not quite.

DSC01867 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01867 © DY of jtdytravels

I could make my own pace and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings on my own.

DSC01869 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01869 © DY of jtdytravels

Larch trees began to appear on the hillsides.

Larches are deciduous conifers which can grow from 20 to 45 m tall. They are native to cool temperate northern hemisphere areas such as here. The needles turn yellow, as they are here, then brown and fall in the late autumn, leaving the trees leafless through the winter.

DSC01871 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01871 © DY of jtdytravels

A larch cone.

DSC01872 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01872 © DY of jtdytravels

Dried wildflowers stoically held their heads above the snow…

and we stoically trudged on.

DSC01875 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01875 © DY of jtdytravels

 A couple of hours later we were finally walking on grass and rocks again. Our Bactrian camels were as happy as we were to be on grass again. The snow was still around but a bit further up the hill-sides except for some we encountered in shady spots.

DSC01876 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01876 © DY of jtdytravels

Do I discern a bit of a smile?

DSC01879 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01879 © DY of jtdytravels

Our cream camel is still showing its characteristic aloofness.

DSC01878 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01878 © DY of jtdytravels

A Mongolian horse saddle.

The horses was able to have a rest and a feed while we had our lunch.

DSC01882 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01882 © DY of jtdytravels

A laid back Tim enjoys a rest in the sun after our morning’s walk.

Our trudging through the snow was over… we looked forward to the afternoon walk.

More of that anon.

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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Mongolia #12 Day 5 of the Trek (30/09/15)

It had been a very cold night!  Tim told us it was -19ºC (-2.2 ºF) and falling when he turned in and that it was somewhere between -8 & -12º C (17.6 & 10.4ºF) inside our tents during the night.  I could well believe him as a 1.5 litre (3.2 US pints) bottle of water lying beside me all but froze – just little bubbles bouncing around between the ice shards.

DSC01822 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01822 © DY of jtdytravels

It snowed a little during the night but the sun was shining so everything was OK!

DSC01823 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01823 © DY of jtdytravels

The camels were in their full winter coats so they seemed happy enough.

DSC01824 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01824 © DY of jtdytravels

Tell-tale tracks led away from camp… heading to our morning ablutions.

DSC01827 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01827 © DY of jtdytravels

I think we still looked cold at breakfast time.

DSC01828 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01828 © DY of jtdytravels

Tseren, our Mongolian tour company leader, definitely looked uncomfortable.

DSC01829 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01829 © DY of jtdytravels

Tim gave us a run down on the trek for the day but it was hard to get any energy into our cold bones or enthusiasm for walking in the snow again. As a result we were late departing. But we had to push on to our next camp site. The longer we left it, the later it would be before we got there and that made the evenings more difficult for everyone, particularly the crew.

DSC01830 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01830 © DY of jtdytravels

By noon, it had clouded over, which made it easy walking without too much glare.

DSC01831 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01831 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun poked its nose through slots in the clouds to give lovely vistas.

DSC01832 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01832 © DY of jtdytravels

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DSC01833 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01833 © DY of jtdytravels

There weren’t many signs of life… just us ourselves and our animals. 

I wondered where this little fellow had come from and where was he going to?

Was he looking for a mate?

DSC01836 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01836 © DY of jtdytravels

It was really hard going, and dangerous walking at times.

DSC01837 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01837 © DY of jtdytravels

Tseren looked much happier here.  She’s with our senior cook who’d heard, while we were trekking, that her ger at home had been burnt down.  An electrical fault apparently caused the fire. We took up a collection to help her through her crisis.

DSC01838 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01838 © DY of jtdytravels

It was good to have a rest part way up the slope and enjoy the view.

DSC01839 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01839 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally, we made it to the top, as designated by the rocks… the ovoo. These are at the top of passes and have spiritual significance for the locals. Even after that long climb, we still performed the ritual of walking around the ovoo, clockwise, three times, tossing a stone on the pile on each time around.

DSC01841 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01841 © DY of jtdytravels

Serene scenery. It was around 17.00, still below freezing and we had further to walk.

DSC01842 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01842 © DY of jtdytravels

Colourful lichen on an almost buried rock.

DSC01844 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01844 © DY of jtdytravels

Our pack animals carried all personal gear packed into our World Expedition supplied red duffle bags.  These bags could be tied comfortably onto the horses and camels.

DSC01843 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01843 © DY of jtdytravels

And that’s where we had to go – right down to the valley floor!

DSC01845 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01845 © DY of jtdytravels

As I made my way carefully down this slippery slope to the valley floor,

the late afternoon sun touched clouds and mountain.

DSC01846 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01846 © DY of jtdytravels

We made it!  Big smiles all around!

More anon

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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More of our travel photos are on

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Mongolia #11 Day 4 of the Trek (29/09/15 pm)

DSC01786 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01786 © DY of jtdytravels

Around mid-morning we came across a small lake that was dotted with Whooper Swans. It was also home to a couple of Shell Ducks and other unidentified water birds.

DSC01787 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01787 © DY of jtdytravels

Leaving the cars, we walked through White Grass to get a closer look at the birds.

DSC01798 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01798 © DY of jtdytravels

Whooper Swans, Cygnus cygnus, are all white with black legs and distinctive yellow on their beaks. Cygnets are grey. Pairs mate for life. First described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, these are very heavy birds and need long stretches of water to be able to take off to fly. 

DSC01788 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01788 © DY of jtdytravels

Beyond the lake rose the snow covered hills that were our destination.

DSC01792 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01792 © DY of jtdytravels

Reeds reflected in the almost still water.

DSC01799 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01799 © DY of jtdytravels

Driving further into those hills, we enjoyed more wonderful scenery.

DSC01800 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01800 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally, we came to the starting place for the walking part of this adventure. There waiting for us were the Bactrian camels and horses that would accompany us while we trekked through the Kharkhiraa and Yurgen massif area. The camels would be loaded with all of our trekking gear, camp needs, food and tents. They were to be a vital part of our trek.

DSC01802 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01802 © DY of jtdytravels

The cream coloured Bactrian was the crankiest of the camel team.

DSC01803 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01803 © DY of jtdytravels

Up close she was better looking than most camels but a bit aloof.

DSC01804 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01804 © DY of jtdytravels

Horses also waited patiently for their passengers. Two of the group had chosen to ride rather than walk for the four days of our trek and they had previously ordered these horses.  I, like the others, would walk most of the way.  Other ‘riders’ rode for part of the way, sharing a couple of horses.

Before we farewelled our drivers, we had lunch… a late lunch! It was 15.00 before everything was finally ready for our departure. As we began our walk beside a snow and ice covered stream, onwards and upwards towards that snow line, I wondered what was in store for us over the next couple of days. One thing was sure, it would be cold and we’d need to be fit!

DSC01807 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01807 © DY of jtdytravels

It wasn’t long before we were spread out ‘like Brown’s cows’

DSC01805 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01805 © DY of jtdytravels

A raptor flew overhead… what a fabulous bird.

DSC01809 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01809 © DY of jtdytravels

As we reached the snow line, I looked back down the valley.

DSC01813 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01813 © DY of jtdytravels

A little further and we were well into a complete covering of beautiful powdery snow,

DSC01816 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01816 © DY of jtdytravels

I think I look more confident than I actually felt.

DSC01817 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01817 © DY of jtdytravels

Such beautiful scenery surrounded us.

#1 from video © DY of jtdytravels

#1 from video © DY of jtdytravels

Every footstep was a challenge as it wasn’t certain whether it would be onto loose rocks that would slip out from underfoot, hold firm, or a tuft of grass that acted like skating ice.

DSC01819 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01819 © DY of jtdytravels

As the sun moved ever lower in the sky, we trudged on.

DSC01820 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01820 © DY of jtdytravels

The camels were a bit more timid and less sure-footed than the horses.

#3 from video © DY of jtdytravels

#3 from video © DY of jtdytravels

 On and on we trudged.

Finally our proposed camp site came into view but it was down a treacherous scree slope covered in snow about 15cm. (6ins.) thick. Cameras were put away.  We needed our arms and hands to hold walking poles as we negotiated this section, thankfully successfully.  Three of our six camels sat down at the top of the slope and couldn’t be coerced into moving until some of their load was removed… and that included a heavy fridge “Esky”.  Our young cook found a different way of getting it down the slope. She ‘rode’ it, slipping and sliding her way down to the bottom.  Much easier than carrying the heavy  fridge – and a good deal quicker! I arrived at the camp site at 18.45.

Oh… it was so very cold as we pitched our tents on 10 cm. (4 ins.) of snow.  I hadn’t envisaged any of this in my wildest dreams.  It was a totally new experience for me.  It was so cold that Tim told us to stay in our tents, in our warmest of gear, and get inside our sleeping bags.  I had pulled on nearly everything in my pack. Dinner would be served to us in our own tents as it was far too cold to erect the mess tent. 

Although Michael and I had paid extra for a single supplement, Tim suggested that we both share a tent for the extra warmth it would afford us.  That turned out to be a very good idea… it was -15ºC (5ºF) at 20.15 but beginning to cloud over.  That should mean the temperature shouldn’t fall much more.  But, was this a pre-cursor to rain overnight and maybe into the next day?  I didn’t mind walking in the dry snow as we had been blessed with a brilliant blue sky with just the odd wispy cloud now and then.  But, I didn’t fancy walking in rain.  My toes were already cold enough!

There was still no dinner in sight by 20.30 but some hot chocolate laced with cognac was a very welcome aperitif while we waited.  A vegetable and meat soup finally arrived. I seem to be complaining but I’m not… I do admit that I wasn’t the happiest person in the world at that time.  But spare a thought for the cooks who had to prepare this food for us out in that cold, cold, cold!  We had it easy, snug in our sleeping bags.

As it started to get dark, the cold felt like a dagger plunging between my shoulder blades. And a sneaky wind had blown up, rattling the sides of our tent. Hot water was supplied to fill our ‘bottles’… I tucked it down beside my toes and, once they started to warm up, I started to cheer up.  Tired out, probably more like exhausted, we both, in the end, slept well.

More anon

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

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Mongolia #10 Day 4 of the Trek (29/09/15 am)

DSC01746 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01746 © DY of jtdytravels

I woke early and was up by 07.00… before the sun!

The herdsman’s ger looked a bit lonely in this seemingly endless landscape.

DSC01747 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01747 © DY of jtdytravels

Goats began to gather near my lonely tent.  Not much else was stirring.

DSC01748 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01748 © DY of jtdytravels

The ger we ate in seemed to come to life when a curl of smoke rose from its chimney.

DSC01749 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01749 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of the goats waiting to be rounded up for milking. 

DSC01752 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01752 © DY of jtdytravels

When the sheep joined in, there was quite a flock. 

DSC01753 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01753 © DY of jtdytravels

It was good to have a bit of time out here with the goats on my own.  But that could not last forever… the day had begun for everyone. I was called for breakfast.

We shared our breakfast with the family in their ger.  It was the usual porridge followed by scrambled egg, bread and green tea.

DSC01755 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01755 © DY of jtdytravels

This is what it’s like inside a typical ger. In the centre, there’s a stove for cooking and heating and two central poles – one yellow, one red in this photo. They are actually the same colour – the light was playing tricks.  These main poles hold up the ‘wheel’ that forms the ger which is itself held in position by the ascending smaller poles. It looks like the spokes of a wheel. The lattice that forms the walls is also visible.

DSC01757 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01757 © DY of jtdytravels

Outside, the family’s goats were about to be milked.  Every family member was involved in some way or other.  The goats are lined up with their horns interlocking. My driver, Pujee, was in there helping too. He’d obviously done it many times before.

DSC01761 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01761 © DY of jtdytravels

And he was obviously enjoying himself.

DSC01758 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01758 © DY of jtdytravels

This method of interlocking the goat’s horns holds the goats in position. 

What a contented lot!

DSC01759 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01759 © DY of jtdytravels

 An interesting view along the rows of locked horns.

DSC01769 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01769 © DY of jtdytravels

Both lines of goats were milked at the same time.

DSC01763 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01763 © DY of jtdytravels

The head of the family watched on.

DSC01767 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01767 © DY of jtdytravels

He was never far from his trusty steed.

It’s said that a Mongol without his horse is like a bird without wings!

DSC01772 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01772 © DY of jtdytravels

Tim looked a little worried, but there was nothing to worry about… the vehicle we’d left behind in town turned up during the night.

DSC01771 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01771 © DY of jtdytravels

Pujee posed beside his vehicle before we set off to drive to the starting point for the walking part of our trek. Because there were only a couple of tents put up, we were able to get on the road relatively early, at 09.00.

DSC01777 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01777 © DY of jtdytravels

We traversed some lovely country coming to a river with many larch trees dressed in their autumn gold.

DSC01778 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01778 © DY of jtdytravels

What a delightful view … an oasis in a brown, dusty landscape.

DSC01780 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01780 © DY of jtdytravels

But there was still plenty of dust as we climbed up out of the valley.

DSC01781 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01781 © DY of jtdytravels

This fascinating rock formation bordered the valley we drove up.

DSC01782 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01782 © DY of jtdytravels

And then finally, we saw them for the first time, beyond a lake and beneath that huge blue sky, there they were, the snow covered mountains that we were heading for… the place where our cars could take us no further and we would have to walk!

More of that anon

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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More of our travel photos are on

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Mongolia #9 Day 3 of the Trek (28/09/15 pm)

DSC01710 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01710 © DY of jtdytravels

When we hit a tarred road, we knew we must be somewhere near a small town.  Wrong!  Many sections of really good quality roads were built as part of Millennium Projects – from nowhere to nowhere.  Eventually they will be joined up

DSC01711 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01711 © DY of jtdytravels

This is the neat but dusty town of Naranbulag.

Note the many traditional gers in the ‘backyards’.

(GPS co-ordinates 49º 22’ N, 92º 33’ E).

DSC01712 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01712 © DY of jtdytravels

This ger is in a front yard.  The only door always faces south.

Timber planks and mud bricks are the main building materials in this town. In the building closest to the camera, interlaced squared-off logs were used.  Mud had been squeezed in between the logs to stop draughts and to retain warmth during the severe winters.

DSC01726 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01726 © DY of jtdytravels

The facing cut from the squared-off logs was used in this instance to create a neat fence.  The building is made from mud bricks while the roof is waterproofed with a layer of mud.

DSC01713 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01713 © DY of jtdytravels

Traditional symbolism was neatly applied to many surfaces.

DSC01719 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01719 © DY of jtdytravels

There were solar panels on many buildings and even the odd satellite dish.

DSC01718 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01718 © DY of jtdytravels

Obviously a lot of pride is taken in the appearance of this little town.

DSC01721 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01721 © DY of jtdytravels

A couple of young girls came to check us out… a very happy reaction.

DSC01722 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01722 © DY of jtdytravels

This one… a little perplexed!

DSC01723 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01723 © DY of jtdytravels

And this one… quite mystified.

DSC01725 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01725 © DY of jtdytravels

Even though there was electricity, there was no running water in the town.  Water came from a subterranean source.  The young boys of the town seemed to have the chore of collecting water for each home. They used these improvised carts to take water home from the well.

DSC01727 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01727 © DY of jtdytravels

A couple of the larger town buildings… again all very neat and tidy.

DSC01724 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01724 © DY of jtdytravels

Tidy though the town was, there was dust everywhere, so it was decided that we would head out of town for a picnic style lunch. But we couldn’t venture too far because our troublesome vehicle was being checked out. It still had a fuel problem.

DSC01730 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01730 © DY of jtdytravels

So we had our lunch on the steppe just a short walk out of the town.

DSC01728 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01728 © DY of jtdytravels

The cooks, having stocked up on supplies, produced our interestingly coloured lunch made up of green lentils, diced beetroot and black rice.  It was tasty.

DSC01731 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01731 © DY of jtdytravels

After lunch there was plenty of time to take a panorama of our ‘dining room’.

It was now almost 16.00. Fixing the car was taking much longer than expected, so we decided to push on, sharing the broken vehicle’s passengers between the rest.  We gained Trevor. 

DSC01732 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01732 © DY of jtdytravels

 We drove through some quite amazing country… almost mirage like with a couple of Bactrian camels adding to the scene.  They must have been thirsty; humps beginning to fall over.

DSC01736 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01736 © DY of jtdytravels

Again, a panorama captures the vastness of the scene.

DSC01737 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01737 © DY of jtdytravels

The late afternoon light touched the far hills and mountains as we finally arrived at our camping spot. It was a round 17.00.  Another late arrival, particularly for the cooks and drivers who, not only had they driven most of the day, but now had to set up camp.

DSC01738 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01738 © DY of jtdytravels

The view from our camp site; scattered scrubby growth, sand dunes and a sinister sky.

DSC01741 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01741 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun was starting to sink but was still strong enough to highlight the dunes.

In the end, we shared our dinner of a chunky soup, pastry and shortbread type of biscuit with a family who lived in a nearby ger.  Then, the rest of the group split up and slept in various gers. But I decided that I would rather have my own space in my tent… so the ever obliging Pujee put my tent up for me.  It was quite late, about 21.30, when I finally crawled into my warm sleeping bag for a good night’s sleep. 

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel photos are on

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Mongolia #8 Day 3 of the Trek (28/09/15 am)

The sleeping bag I’d hired in UB, to go with the rather inadequate one I brought from Oz, made me feel somewhat like a chrysalis. I know how a caterpillar must feel when wrapped up inside its cocoon.  I couldn’t roll around inside the blessed thing… it was so tight.  Tim to the rescue! He had a spare sleeping bag with him… one that he leaves in Mongolia but brings along as a spare when he’s trekking.  It was a bespoke bag made especially for him by an Australian company.  Now, Tim is a bit taller than I am, so this sounded good, and when he added that it was rectangular and not tapered AND was rated to be adequate to -30 degrees AND, he said, that I could have it if I wanted… yes please!  BIG thank you. I gave my two bags to others who indicated they would also like something extra. Everybody was happy, including Tim who didn’t have to carry his spare bag anymore.

My night’s sleep in Tim’s bag was very good.  I awoke at 06.30 with light creeping into the sky. The sun broke through drifts of cloud around 30 minutes later.

The usual porridge, muesli and scrambled egg followed for breakfast.  Fresh bread won’t last long in those very dry conditions, so the cooks made us some flat bread.  A nice change and so much better than the alternative.  

DSC01686 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01686 © DY of jtdytravels

We walked back to the rocks on the edge of this part of Khyargas Nuur and saw them in the morning light… so very different from the evening light.

DSC01689 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01689 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun was yet to brighten these rocks.

DSC01691 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01691 © DY of jtdytravels

We walked, carefully, all over the rocks.

DSC01692 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01692 © DY of jtdytravels

Back in the vehicles, it was a long flat drive across the vast steppes.

DSC01693 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01693 © DY of jtdytravels

The driver’s view!

DSC01698 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01698 © DY of jtdytravels

We kept coming back to the edge of the lake. And the fuel problem also kept coming back to haunt us, so a stop was made where we could climb over some interesting wind and rain-eroded landscape while the problem was fixed.

DSC01694 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01694 © DY of jtdytravels

A very strange looking plant.

DSC01697 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01697 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s amazing how some plants manage to survive such conditions.

DSC01696 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01696 © DY of jtdytravels

These woody plants showed signs of heavy grazing; probably by sheep and goats. The growing conditions are harsh enough, let alone being nibbled at all the time.

DSC01699 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01699 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look at these incredibly hardy plants.

DSC01707 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01707 © DY of jtdytravels

Perhaps this thorny plant had the answer to the nibbling of animals!

DSC01705 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01705 © DY of jtdytravels

Panzerina lanata (in seed) growing in a wash-away.

DSC01701 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01701 © DY of jtdytravels

The area was like a moonscape.

DSC01703 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01703 © DY of jtdytravels

Strange indeed!

By the time we got back into the cars, we were starting to get a little peckish… lunch would be very late. Pujee, our driver, produced some hard cheese from the centre console and offered each of us a piece or two.  It was white in colour and about 3mm (1/8 in.) thick and had been made by spreading out a curd onto a flat surface and then dried.  It was so hard that when Pujee snapped off our pieces, one sharp edge cut his finger quite badly.  A piece around half the size of a small postage stamp would last in your mouth for at least an hour.  It doesn’t taste of much but it’s said that it can keep a herdsman going for many days without much else.  It’s light in weight and can be kept in a pocket for ever.  A very handy snack for a Mongolian.

It would have to do us until lunchtime. More about that anon.

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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More of our travel photos are on

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Mongolia #7 Day 2 of the Trek (27/09/15 pm)

 

DSC01654 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01654 © DY of jtdytravels

Our lunch stop was at Khyargas Nuur which is a large salt lake that has different statistics depending on which reference is used. (Lat. 49º 02’ N, Long. 93º 28’ E) It’s located in the western aimag (province) of Uvs at an elevation of 1035m (3396 ft.) and has no outlet.  Evaporation takes care of its inflow and results in its salinity.

DSC01656 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01656 © DY of jtdytravels

We explored the area and lake shores while lunch was prepared and while one of the vehicles was repaired.  It’s problems appeared to be due to a tank full of dirty fuel.

DSC01657 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01657 © DY of jtdytravels

It was quite a spectacular view over the lake from the cliff top.

DSC01662 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01662 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of the rocks look like white marble… but it’s not marble. It’s guano. This area attracts not only seagulls but also migratory cormorant birds. The cormorants arrive in April from southern China and hatch their young in large nests built on a large rock in the lake. The noise of the chicks is said to be deafening. But not many people come here to disturb them… or be disturbed by them.

DSC01669 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01669 © DY of jtdytravels

I explored the area behind the great boulders.

DSC01668 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01668 © DY of jtdytravels

There weren’t many flowers to find… it was the end of September; autumn.

The spikes on this plant may deter animals from eating it.

DSC01671 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01671 © DY of jtdytravels

The ground was littered with colourful rocks.

DSC01672 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01672 © DY of jtdytravels

This plant found a root hold even in such an inhospitable environment. 

DSC01655 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01655 © DY of jtdytravels

Back to the cars and our crew for our lunch which consisted of rice and buckwheat with some raisins and cranberries added for flavour.  Some boiled cabbage was served on the side, no doubt to ward of a potential bout of scurvy!

We left after lunch to head for our intended camping place for the night. But we’d only travelled a couple of kilometres before one of our vehicles gave up the ghost…  the fuel blockage had not been properly fixed.  So it was decided that we should return to our lunch spot as there were some gers and cabins there that we could camp in. 

DSC01673 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01673 © DY of jtdytravels

These were the gers and cabins where we spent the night.

DSC01677 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01677 © DY of jtdytravels

“Twas a pretty good place to camp… especially when the sun began to set!

DSC01676 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01676 © DY of jtdytravels

I couldn’t help taking photos of this brilliant sunset from various vantage points.

DSC01683 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01683 © DY of jtdytravels

Later, from this position, the full moon could be seen through broken cloud.  The cairn of rocks in the foreground is called an Ovoo. It’s adorned with some blue khata scarves.

This happened to be the night of the full eclipse of the moon – a Blood Moon, but it was not visible from our camp position.

Now this is an explanation of a Blood Moon… are you ready for this?

The total eclipse of the moon on the night of September 27-28, 2015 happens to be the closest super-moon of 2015.  In the northern hemisphere it’s call the harvest moon. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the first full moon of spring. This particular full moon is also called a Blood Moon because it’s “the fourth and final eclipse of a lunar tetrad”. That means that it’s the final of four straight total eclipses of the moon that are spaced six lunar months apart. Phew!

DSC01684 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01684 © DY of jtdytravels

The last of the day’s light fades on a beautiful day.

Dinner was not as spectacular as the view… but not to worry. It consisted of a bowl of clear soup with chunky pieces of spud and carrots floating around in it. Not really too special!

However, I went to bed a happy, contented man. I’d enjoyed the day and I didn’t even have to sleep in my tent. I shared one of the cabins with Tim and Michael and slept on a platform bed with a layer of carpet under me for added comfort. What more could I ask?

More anon

David

All photographs copyright ©  DY of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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