Mongolia #27 Day 15 of the Trek (10/10/15)

 

DSC02478 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02478 © DY of jtdytravels

We woke to a cloudless and cold morning but no frost in our peaceful campsite. But it wasn’t peaceful for long.

Everything had to be packed up, the camp and our personal items.  We were all reminded that we couldn’t take more than 15kg (33.1lbs.)… and that included carry-on bags… unless we were prepared to pay an excess baggage fee.  

Meanwhile, gifts and tips for the crew were being worked out.  ‘This and that’ went into this bag while ‘that and this’ went into another bag, and so on. At last everything was worked out and the presentations took place.  I think everybody was happy.

DSC02481 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02481 © DY of jtdytravels

Our full crew of drivers and cooks

DSC02479 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02479 © DY of jtdytravels

Our drivers got ready to take us on one last drive together… into Khovd town for a little extra time to look around and perhaps do some last minute shopping. 

DSC02482 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02482 © DY of jtdytravels

There was only room in my pack for something very, very small…

a ‘Mongolian boot’ keyring for our Christmas tree!

DSC02487 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02487 © DY of jtdytravels

For a town so far from UB, Khovd punches above its weight.

DSC02488 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02488 © DY of jtdytravels

It even had a “Pizza Hut”… but we didn’t eat there.

DSC02491 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02491 © DY of jtdytravels

We had lunch at a restaurant before heading to the airport on the edge of town, there to await our flight which was scheduled to take off at 14.30.

It was weigh in time… the moment of truth! I think we all went over the limit but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the limit was in fact 20kg.  The sting in the tail came when we were told that the airline going back to Ulaanbaatar charged a higher rate per kg than the airline that flew us from Ulaanbaatar.  My excess cost AUD6.90 – but that’s not a fortune in anybody’s language!

Tim told us not to get our hopes up about the flight being on time. He said that the flight was more often than not delayed, sometimes for up to 12 hours or more!  We were most thankful when we received our boarding passes which showed some faith on the airlines part that the flight was ‘on time’.  And so it was – we left only about 20 minutes late.  

DSC02493 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02493 © DY of jtdytravels

The wind sock hung limply on its mast.  The wind was not going to help our 13 year old Fokker 50 get off the ground! 

DSC02494 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02494 © DY of jtdytravels

I’ve never seen the wheel-bay flaps used for advertising before.

It was a 3 hour flight to UB plus we lost an hour.

DSC02501 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02501 © DY of jtdytravels

Mongolia is a big brown country.

DSC02509 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02509 © DY of jtdytravels

Surprisingly, there are many lakes scattered across the country.

DSC02516 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02516 © DY of jtdytravels

But there are also many sand dunes.

DSC02519 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02519 © DY of jtdytravels

The last light of the day cast long shadows.

On arrival in UB, we went straight from the airport to a restaurant for our farewell dinner.  We ate at ‘BD’s Mongolian Barbeque’, a place I’d eaten at when I was last in UB in 2008.  The place hadn’t changed much… except for the fact that photos and videoing was not allowed any more at the bbq area.  But, it was still a good feed.  There was a huge range of types of food to select from.  You took what you wanted to a large circular hot plate where the chefs cooked your selection as one mixed up meal.  A repeat visit to collect more goodies and have them cooked was a tempting option. But I resisted.

DSC02521 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02521 © DY of jtdytravels

Tim had written a short summary about each of us.  He read these out, often to our amusement! It was around 23.00 by the time we got back to the Tuushin Hotel to check in and collect anything we’d left in storage whilst away on the trek.  It was after 01.00 before I was ready to have a much needed shower and feel the comfort of a proper bed.  Oh… but it was good!

And the next day, it was time to say farewell to Tim and to my trek companions. It was time to think about heading back home.

Members of the group started leaving UB during the early hours of the morning heading for all sorts of places to continue on either straight home or via some other exotic destination.  I didn’t have a flight until 17h55 so had all the morning to wander around.  Michael wasn’t leaving until the next day so we decided to walk to the Government Department Store to have a look around. Eventually we found out that the top floor was the place to be to find all things Mongolian.  A few tee shirts and a couple of Christmas tree dingle dangles later we left.  Michael had all day so he went his way and I headed back to the hotel.

I got a little lost on the way back to the hotel but this was no problem at all as it took me along some streets I hadn’t been on before.  Eventually I arrived in Chinggis Khan Square at noon.  I was so pleased I’d got ‘lost’ as I arrived in time for “The Changing of the Guard” with all the pomp and ceremony of such an event.

DSC02529 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02529 © DY of jtdytravels

An impressive ritual took place.

DSC02530 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02530 © DY of jtdytravels

Very smart, colourful uniform.

DSC02531 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02531 © DY of jtdytravels

He was watching me!

Formation marching; from video

Formation marching; from video

The guard goose-stepped off duty,

no doubt part of a drill left over from the “Russian” days.

 

DSC02535 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02535 © DY of jtdytravels

Very colourful, very precise, very impressive.

After that little interlude it was back to my room for some last minute packing.

DY ; from video

DY; from video

And so that really is the end of the saga of my Mongolian trek with Tim Cope.

Well almost. There’s just one thing left to do…

DY shaving; from video

DY shaving; from video

I just needed to shave off that seventeen day beard!

Especially since it was all white!!!!!

DY from video

DY from video

And as I finish this task, there’s just more one thing to say…

Thank you for joining me for the journey

on this trek through the vast landscapes of far western Mongolia.

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 #26 Day 14 of the Trek (09/10/15)

DSC02437 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02437 © DY of jtdytravels

It was a warmer night – with no frost.  For the first time, I slept under the sleeping bag rather than in it.  Mind you, it was still only a few degrees above freezing.

DSC02438 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02438 © DY of jtdytravels

Soft pre-sunrise hues over the bay beside our campsite.

DSC02440 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02440 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally the sun hit the far side of the lake.

DSC02444 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02444 © DY of jtdytravels

 …then it was our turn to receive some warmth from the sun

DSC02447 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02447 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun highlighted these fluffy seed heads.

There was an option this morning to go for a walk and be picked up along the way… or to stay in camp.  This came about because we had to wait for two of our vehicles to return from Olgii where the con-rod in one and a broken leaf in the other car’s suspension were being fixed. Some of us decided to stay in camp and have some time-out.  We kicked the remains of the camp fire into life and sat around it, chatting and relaxing until midday. The vehicles reunited, we drove on until we found the walking group. Our destination for the day was Khovd where there’s an airport. This would be our point of departure from far west Mongolia; the end of our trek.

DSC02451 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02451 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way, we came across a rather impressive, very Russian styled memorial.  As with many things with a Russian influence, there appeared to be plenty of money for building, but nothing ever set aside for maintenance.  Built and then forgotten.

DSC02452 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02452 © DY of jtdytravels

Yaks grazed contentedly on the wide open steppe.

DSC02454 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02454 © DY of jtdytravels

Our cars left a dust trail as we drove down into the town of Khovd.

(Elevation 1405m, 48.02N, 91.57E)

Khovd is the capital of Khovd Province, approximately 1580km (982mi.) from UB. The town’s population of  81,479 (in 2015) is made up of more than 17 nationalities and ethnicities all of which have their own traditional dwellings, dress and cultural differences.

The climate is harsh with the summer temperature regularly reaching 40°C (104°F) and falling to as low as -30°C (-22°F) in winter.  The weather is dry with an annual rainfall of only 122.8mm (4.8in.) per annum. Despite this harsh climate, over two million livestock are herded here and, quite amazingly, the area around Khovd is famous for its watermelon production.

At present Khovd is connected to the Russian electricity grid and its prone to blackouts if the town falls behind in its payments! So generation of hydro-electricity from the abundant snow melt is becoming more important.  It’s hoped that new projects will generate enough electricity not only for Khovd’s needs but also for the power needs of the adjacent aimags (Provinces) of Uvs and Bayan-Olgii.

DSC02458 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02458 © DY of jtdytravels

We drove a short way out of town to find a camp site beside a swiftly flowing stream. This was our last camp site for this Mongolian trek with Tim Cope.

Dinner tonight was a bowl of soup followed by a lamb dinner with potatoes and carrots. It was cooked in a pot with hot stones.  Really delicious.

DSC02465 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02465 © DY of jtdytravels

After dinner we were entertained by three Kazakh performers in national costumes.  

DSC02463 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02463 © DY of jtdytravels

The instrument played was the traditional morin khuur. I say traditional, but under the Stalinist regime, musical instruments had to be standardised and ‘modernised’ using different materials and construction methods. The top and bottom of the traditional morin khuur was made of skins. The sides had ‘sound holes’. Today, the instrument has a wooden soundbox, f shaped holes and a soundpost. Bows were traditionally made of horse hair. Todays strings are made of nylon.

DSC02467 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02467 © DY of jtdytravels

The firelight flickered over the face of the throat singer.

DSC02470 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02470 © DY of jtdytravels

These performers brought to an end the final night of a memorable trip.

DSC02472 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02472 © DY of jtdytravels

Before I turned in, I repacked my bag. And now, I have to let this biscuit have the final say in this diary of our trek.  I bought it in a pack of biscuits way back on my first day in China on 6th September.  That biscuit pack lived in my backpack, all day every day, one or two biscuits being nibbled at from time to time. They were not overly hard, nor overly sweet, yet at the same time rather nice in flavour.  I wasn’t hungry between meals during the Walk on the Wall, nor between meals in Mongolia. So now, after all of that time, there was still one biscuit left in my pack. And it was not broken! There must be something very special about those biscuits!!!

And there had certainly been many things special about our trek. I was able to muse over them as I fell asleep in my tent on my last night under the Mongolian stars.

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 #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 #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. 

.

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

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

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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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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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 #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

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 #2 Beijing to Ulaanbaatar (23/09/’15)

I left my Beijing hotel at 07.00 and was at the gate by 08.15 ready to board my flight from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar on Mongolian Airlines (MIAT) Flight OM 224. The plane arrived about 5 minutes later so all was looking good for an on-time take-off. And so it was.

Actually the flight left nearly 10 minutes early.  Everybody must’ve been in a hurry to get to Mongolia!  Then there was a 30 minute taxi and wait before we actually took off.

DSC01397 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01397 © DY of jtdytravels

Leaving Beijing.

DSC01399 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01399 © DY of jtdytravels

Green farms on the outskirts of Beijing.

DSC01406 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01406 © DY of jtdytravels

How quickly the scenery can change! Mongolia is a dry and brown country at this time of the year; there’s not much rain in those small fluffy clouds.

As the plane approached Ulaanbaatar, I spotted some ‘green house tunnels’ on the out-skirts of the city.  These turned out to be protecting an important crop for this dry climate city -locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables.

Even though it can be -30°C (-22°F) during the winter, ‘tropical’ fruits are being grown year-round here.  According to a Ulaanbaatar paper, ‘The Mongol Messenger’ of Friday, 24 July, 2015, “Over 30 greenhouses of the Nogoon Sor company create a favourable climate for growing fruit and vegetables year-round.  Crops are grown organically and watered by drip irrigation, the water coming from two artesian bores.  Sheep manure is the main manure used and there is a beehive in each greenhouse.  The greenhouses are kept at +30°C (86°F) during the winter even though the temperature outside can be as low as -30°C (-22°F).  Between 20 and 40 people are employed, the number depending on the season.”

Last year the company produced 62.6 tons of strawberries, 1.6 tons of grapes, 36.5 tons of cucumbers, 27 tons of tomatoes, 1.2 tons of watermelon and 11.5 tons of nine different types of vegetables.  The company earned a profit of Tugrit 280 million. (280mT =191,000AUD or 141,500 USD). Impressive!

DSC01411 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01411 © DY of jtdytravels

We arrived at Chinggis Khaan Airport in Ulaanbaatar (UB) on time…. there was an hours difference in time.  Not sure whether that put me nearer OZ time or further away.  Did it matter? The pre-landing info told me to expect a temperature of 9ºC when I hit the fresh air… a bit different from the mid-twenties I’d experienced over the previous two+ weeks. In the Arrivals Hall, my name was prominently displayed on a lolly-pop sign… my driver was there to take me to my hotel; the system of pre-arranging a transfer worked.

DSC01430 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01430 © DY of jtdytravels

My room at the Tuushin Hotel, a Best Western Premier 5-Star joint lived up to that rating.  The usual ploy of travel companies is to start and finish a tour on a high note… and yes, we were to return here at the end of our adventure. I doubted whether any accommodation for the rest of the trip would match this place! And neither it should. This was a trek!

I was told when I checked in that Tim had checked in only minutes earlier.  I was given his room number so rang it in the hope that I would catch him before he hit the shower.  I did. Although he wanted a shower, he didn’t have clean clothes … his bag hadn’t arrived with him!  ‘Maybe tomorrow’ was his comment.  He knows Mongolia better than most!  Tim told me that there were to be 16 in our group and six had arrived on his flight.  I guessed the rest would straggle in sometime … our first get-together wasn’t until 14.00 next day.

DSC01428 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01428 © DY of jtdytravels

The view of UB from my hotel room on arrival.

I’d tried to get onto the net all afternoon without success.  What was wrong? Just silly, silly me!  The TP_LINK modem power point hadn’t been turned on!  Boy, it was fast when it was working!  And, unlike in China, no problem with using Google in Mongolia!  

DSC01436 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01436 © DY of jtdytravels

The view from my room a few yours later – storm clouds brewing.

DSC01431 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01431 © DY of jtdytravels

After watching the Pope apparently bless me and the trek, I emptied everything out of my distinctive old, red World Expeditions duffle bag. I’d used it when I travelled in Bhutan with WE in 2004.  I needed to get some idea of just what I could take with me on the trek.  I’d needed some ‘glad rags’ in Beijing to satisfy the dress code for the UoN reception in Beijing at the end of the Great Wall Walk.  These at least I would be able to leave behind in UB until my return at the end of the trek.  (Oh… and just for the record… I won’t be repeating that Great Wall Walk again… not until at least during the ‘after-life’ … and even then I’d think twice.)

Four o’clock rolled around and I thought I must have been in Singapore as rain thundered down.  Hail and all.  Dark clouds had been building on the surrounding hills all afternoon and, sure enough, they couldn’t hold their moisture-laden contents any longer.  Short and brief … the storm cleared as quickly as it came.

I knew that I’d need to change some of my USD into Mongolian Tugrik, (Togrog colloquially). So I asked the Concierge for directions to the nearest bank.  He not only pointed me in the right direction but decided that, the best way to achieve a 100% success rate, was to take me there.  Admittedly it was only a block and a half away.  But as it was still raining lightly, that offer was even more impressive.  I also asked him where the nearest supermarket was and that was pointed out also … it was just a slight detour on my way back to the hotel from the bank.  The bank process was painless, except the exchange rate, and who has any control over that?  I stopped off at the supermarket and found a carton of 3.2% fat full-cream milk – much better than the “CoffeeMate” in my room.  Cost me T2,420 for a litre (a little under AUD2). I’d have to get used to the big numbers.  Not quite like the ‘shoe-box’ territory one enters when visiting places like Laos and Vietnam where USD100 can render you a millionaire for a day.  ‘Real’ Monopoly money becomes a distinct possibility in those places.

Waiting for the lift, milk in hand, who should walk out of the lift but Tim.  He was heading off to do some preliminary organising for the trek.  I was heading back to my room to write up my diary notes… and have that cuppa with real milk. 

DSC01442 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01442 © DY of jtdytravels

The rain and clouds cleared as the sun set over the town.

DSC01443 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01443 © DY of jtdytravels

It was time to venture back to the supermarket to grab a bucket of noodles and a bottle of beer for tea.  I’d managed to finish the whisky I bought for the Chinese portion of my time away, and, in all fairness to myself, I couldn’t start the next lot of whisky until the Mongolian trek began… and that was likely to begin a day later than planned due to changes in aircraft schedules. It looked as though the contingency day built into the programme for later on in the trek might already be used up.  Would there be further delays?  Ah; why worry? Time to take life as it came… just relax, go with the flow and enjoy!  More anon.

David

All photographs copyright © JT  and 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