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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Mongolia - 2 August, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Camp on steppes just east of Dashchilen N4751.187' E10430.642' 960 meters .
Dashchilen . . . .
Kher Bukhiin Balgas ruins . . . .
Ogii Nuur lake . . . .
Ogii Nuur town . . . .
Finish Camp on steppes just southwest of Ogii Nuur town N4737.707' E10228.782' 1,357 meters 178 km

Total (by train):

5,991 km

Total (Mongolia):

418 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

199 km

Total:

7,927 km

 

Weather: Light clouds, sunny and very hot with a cool breeze.  In the evening there are some threatening clouds.  Cold overnight.

 

 

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We soon find out that in Mongolia it seems people are not morning people.  Our driver suggests that we leave at 10 AM, and this becomes our regular start time.  So we are able to have a bit of a lay in and only emerge from our tent around 8:30 AM to pack up our stuff and get breakfast ready.

 

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We leave shortly before 10 AM and carry on along the dirt track.  We have been driving parallel to a new major road that is under construction, but it is not quite ready for us.  It should be very nice when done and speed up travel along this stretch.

 

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We have a brief stop to check out two cranes that are hanging out next to the many small ponds that dot the area.  We have another quick stop in the small, dusty town of Dashchilen to top up the petrol.  They do their best to make sure the tank is full - the jeep is rocked back and forth to get every last drop in.  We also find out that we will have to change our route somewhat as their is no petrol to be had (or it is very expensive) along our planned route.

 

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At 11:30 AM we stop at the ruins of Kher Bukhiin Balgas, a 9-10 century city.  Not much is left, other than the lower part of the city wall and sections of various buildings.  We have a quick tour of the museum (nothing much, especially as no real explanations in English) and wander over to the ruins themselves.  At least they have fenced off the area and hopefully will stop jeeps from driving over the walls and into the ruins of the city (we can still see the tire tracks).  While there is not too much to see (and we have no qualified guide to explain it to us), given the many different ancient cities we have seen in Africa and South America, it is interesting to see the stone construction used in the building of the structures.  The walls are very thick and it is not fine workmanship like the Incas, but they have a very interesting way they align the stones on the exterior of the walls.

 

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Once we leave the ruins, we have a short drive until we come to a cluster of gers which seem to be a series of guanzes.  Our driver asks us if we would like Mongolian, and we say sure.  It is much easier and saves out food.  He chats with some people and we are invited into one of the gers.  The lady then begins to prepare fresh dumplings for us (known as buuz).  They are flour based dumplings that are stuffed with chopped mutton and onions and steamed over the fire.

 

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As with all gers, in the middle of the structure is situated the wood fired stove.  This serves two main purposes - provides heat and is used to cook.  As there is virtually no wood around here, it is usually fired with dried horse dung (and that is what the lady stokes this fire with).  That is one of the major tasks of the ladies each day - to go out and collect horse dung and, if it is not already dry, to lay it out in the sun to dry.  It is fun to watch our lunch cooked on the spot.  She puts the chopping board on one of the beds (the one room of the ger serves many purposes) and pulls some meat out from under the bed and begins to chop.  Once that is done, she chops up an onion and some spices.  Next, some flour and water are mixed and the dough is soon made.  She cuts it up and small amounts of meat and onions are added to each and then closed up.  They are then put on a rack placed over water that has been boiling on the stove.

 

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While our lunch is cooking, our driver and the son of the lady show us a local game played with the bones of the animals they raise, namely cattle and yak, sheep, horse, goats and camels (known as the five snouts).  We cannot really tell the difference between the bones, but them seem to sort them out.  The buuz are surprisingly good.  We had expected the meat to be a bit chewy, but it was not too bad.  We ate all our portion (and our driver was very happy to get his meat for lunch).

 

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In the afternoon, the vegetation, but not the terrain, slowly begins to change.  The grass becomes sparser and their are lots of purple thistle-like flowers.  The drive along the steppes is wonderful and it amazing looking back at the road that we are traveling on.

 

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At exactly 4 PM we arrive at Ogii Nuur lake, coming over a rise, we see it spread out below us.  Big, but not a huge lake.  We have arrived at the end with a tourist camp (bunch of gers where they over charge you) and a rocky beach.  We stop for a while to sit on the beach and watch the many locals play in the water.  There are some paddle and row boats and they are having a good time splashing each other.  Gerlee goes for a swim while we just enjoy the sun.

 

After about half an hour, we decide to head on an to look for a campsite.  We stop on the edge of the lake at a point where we can drive up to the water's edge.  We begin to get ready to set up, but as the driver is washing his jeep (he takes great pride in it, we are glad to see, as this means that he takes care of it), we decide that we would rather move on.  It is still early, cows are hanging out (and doing other things) in the lake where we would get water from and the sun is bright and hot and there is no shade.  So, using hand signals and some other props (remember, we have no common language with the driver), we communicate to Gerlee that we would like to carry on.  No problems.  We load up our stuff and are off.

 

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We drive for over an hour.  There are many more wild flowers now - purple, yellow and some white.  The conditions are pretty wet this year.  We make a brief stop in Ogii Nuur town looking for petrol (none to be had at a reasonable price) and then stop for the night a few kilometers southwest of the town on the steppes.  While we set up camp and prepare dinner, Gerlee does some repair work on his jeep.  Dinner is rice with chicken curry with apples for dessert.  After dinner, we retire for the night.  We have a goods night sleep, with just a few passing grazing animals letting us know that we are in a wide open country with no fences.

 

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