Mongolia #25 Day 13 of the Trek (08/10/15)

DSC02405 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02405 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

DSC02404 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02404 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun began to creep over the hills and into our valley.

DSC02407 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02407 © DY of jtdytravels

Breakfast was the usual scrambled eggs with bacon but with a few extras in the form of orange slices and dried apricots.  Very nice.

DSC02408 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02408 © DY of jtdytravels

Before we set off for the day, our driver, Pujee, posed with my travelling companion, Michael from London, alongside Pujee’s trusty Toyota HiLux.

DSC02410 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02410 © DY of jtdytravels

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. 

DSC02411 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02411 © DY of jtdytravels

A nearby small lake reflecting that huge blue Mongolian sky.

DSC02417 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02417 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

DSC02415 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02415 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

DSC02414 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02414 © DY of jtdytravels

 An older grave with surround.

DSC02413 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02413 © DY of jtdytravels

A much more substantial grave site.

DSC02420 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02420 © DY of jtdytravels

Now there’s a grave site with a pretty spectacular view.

Pity the incumbent isn’t able to enjoy it!

DSC02419 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02419 © DY of jtdytravels

There wasn’t a lot of vegetation except for a few tufts of White grass.

DSC02421 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02421 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

DSC02422 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02422 © DY of jtdytravels

We drove on through stark countryside under the clearest of blue skies.

The sky here really is amazingly blue.

DSC02423 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02423 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

DSC02424 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02424 © DY of jtdytravels

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. 

DSC02433 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02433 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

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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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

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

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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