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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Mongolia - 13 August, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Camp near Erdenedalai N4600.026' E10457.175' 1,355 meters .
Erdenedalai - Gimpil Darjaala Khiid monastery . . . .
Finish Ulan Baatar (Bolod Guest house) N4754.724' E10654.379' 1,291 meters 290 km

Total (by train):

5,991 km

Total (Mongolia):

2,844 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

199 km

Total:

10,373 km

 

Weather: In the morning clear (cloudless), sunny, hot and windy.  In the afternoon, partly cloudy, sunny, very hot and windy.

 

 

Today is our last of driving around the countryside of Mongolia - we will be arriving back in Ulan Baatar this evening.  We have our usual relaxed start to the morning, packing up and having breakfast around 9 AM.  During breakfast, we make sure that we finish off whatever food we have left - we will be having lunch at one of the gers along the way. While we are having breakfast, an old man is struggling to get his small herd of cattle to head down the gully.  But they do not want to seem to go that way, so he ends up having to chase one that has run back the way they have come.

 

Mongolia03_CD23_15_web.jpg (106653 bytes)

We head off shortly after 10 AM and make our way the short distance back to the town and it's Gimpil Darjaalan Khiid monastery.  The temple was built in the late 18th century to commemorate the first ever visit by a Dalai Lama to Mongolia.  At one point in time, it was used by 500 monks.  It was only one of about nine monasteries in the area to survive the communists as it was turned into a warehouse and shop.

 

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It is closed when we arrive, but as we are standing outside the gate, we see a huge contingent of children running our way across the dusty fields from the nearby homes.  There is also an older boy (or young man) more slowly making his way over to the temple.  The young children reach us first and they hold out boxes of cheap souvenirs that they try to sell us.  But there is nothing much worth getting.  Soon the other young man arrives and he opens the gate to the temple and lets us in to take a look around.

 

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It is small, but quite nice.  We take a quick look at the exterior and then he opens the doors to the temple itself. It is very well done inside and has been restored back, as far as we can tell, very near to its original state.  We understand that when the purges took place in the 1930s, many people, at great personal risk, hid or buried large parts of the religious articles from the interior of the temples.  Once Mongolia was released from the Soviet sphere, they were slowly returned to the temples that still remained.

 

Mongolia03_CD23_21_web.jpg (51934 bytes)

After our short visit, we begin our long drive north to Ulan Baatar.  It will take most of the day to get there as we drive along the flat steppe.  At one point, we see four gazelle run across the track in front of.  Only when they are at a safe distance do they stop.  Around 1 PM we enter a pass through a small set of rocky ridges.  At this point we stop at a series of guanzes for lunch.  This is local fast food.  We have tsuivan - the fried noodles - once more.  It is OK, but not the best.  The noodles have already been made and cut, so they are not as fresh.  But the meat, sitting in a box on the floor, and vegetables are freshly cut and cooked.

 

Mongolia03_CD23_26_web.jpg (96234 bytes)

After many hours of further driving, we know that we are on the outskirts of Ulan Baatar as the number of people and gers multiplies and we are at last on a paved road.  This is our first stretch of paved road in almost two weeks.  The final approach to Ulan Baatar is over a ridge and when you pass over the crest, the whole city is spread out below you in the valley between two mountain ranges.  It is quite a contrast to the open, unspoiled countryside that we have been traveling through.  It truly hits us that our trip is over.

 

We arrive back at Bolod's guesthouse just after 6 PM.  We spend the next two and a half hours having a badly needed shower and organising our stuff.  We also check our emails.  Then it is time to head out for a stroll and to get some dinner.  We find a nice cafe where we are able to get some local food. Just as we are now getting ready to leave Mongolia, we are figuring out how to order the food, even with menus in Russian.

 

We return to the guest house, hang out for a while and then head off to bed.  While it is a bit noisy (cars, buses and motorcycles and people), the window does not directly face onto a street, so it is bearable.  Also, given the absolute silence we have had out on the steppe, this may just seem noisier to us now then it would before we went out on our jeep trip.  The occasional mosquito disturbs our sleep, but we still get a good rest.

 

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