Responsible Photography in MongoliaNovember 2, 2020
Mongolia’s Naadam FestivalNovember 6, 2020
(Informal) Notes From The Mongolian Road
On each of the Mongolia experiences we offer we do all our own research, drive the distances, speak to the local communities, build the contacts, design and then run the experience. We do not source our itineraries from other agents. And sometimes we open up our research trips for international guests to join – we call them our Wild Research Trips. One such experience was when we were initially exploring the hinterland of Zavkhan and Uvs Provinces in western Mongolia. These are some quick notes that I recently found that I wrote whilst on the Mongolian road.
We’ve spent the last two nights camping at the foot of and exploring the surrounds of Otgon Tenger – considered by many as the spiritual centre of the land and Mongolia’s most sacred mountain. This is the highest mountain in the central Khangai Range – with its permanent snow-capped peak it is said to be 4021m. Mongolians consider the mountain to be the mystical abode of Ochirvan – the fierce, dark blue protective deity of the Buddhist religion (traditional Mongolian beliefs have held that wrathful deities inhabit many of Mongolia’s sacred mountains).
- Travelling on dust roads, through vast weathered landscapes – marmot hunters at the foot of the 2702m (to be precise) Senjit Davaa, manuukhai (scarecrows to keep wolves at bay) surrounding each ger we pass, mounds of argal (dung) drying for winter fuel in this treeless landscape, black-tailed gazelle glimpsed en-route. Glorious Mongolia.
- Uliastai – a terrible hotel (and I’m usually positive about local hotels). My particular favourite facilities of the hotel have to be the flushing toilet with no flush (metal bowl provided as an alternative), the shower cubicle that when you stepped into it, tipped over almost onto your head and the electric sockets pulled out of the wall. Nevertheless, the fantastic lunch we had at the Crystal Restaurant more than made up for the not quite perfect night’s sleep – filled with all the local office workers, a great recommendation from the local meat shop!
- Khar Nuur – a freshwater lake surrounded by the Bor Khyarin sand dunes in Zavkhan Aimag – although this brief description does not do this remarkable region justice. We have spent two days exploring – one by foot and one by vehicle and it is safe to say that although the finer details of our research in this area will remain a secret to us…it will be included on future itineraries where suitable.
Khar Nuur is in Zavkhan Aimag which connects the Gobi Desert in the south with the western Khangai Mountain Range and the depression of the great lake of the north-west. It is unexpectedly beautiful. And off the beaten track.
- Time spent in small-town communities such as Urgamal (where we consumed freshly made steamed dumplings and three mugs of hot tea.). Or, the night in the local hotel of Erdenekhairkhan – not marked in any guidebook and just a dot on the map. A majority of the beds had been taken to the hospital, where some of the elderly of the community were spending 10 days (the report was they are not sick, just having a little rest before winter). Ross and John got a (form of) bed each, Turuu and I slept on the floor. Nevertheless, the stove was lit to take the chill of the room and the level of care, even with such basic and limited facilities, could not have been kinder. Yet another Mongolian experience.
Turuu preparing dinner in Erdenekhairkhan
- Khyargas Nuur – a vast soda lake located deep with Uvs Aimag and part of the Great Lakes Depression. Admittedly, it was not the most ‘pretty’ of our campsites (it had the feel of a ‘gone bust’ beach resort), but it was a special moment looking at the wide-stretching horizon, listening to the haunting sounds of ‘Urtiin Duu’ (Mongolian long song) on the van radio. The sunset was stunning, the campfire warm, the mutton bones delicious and the acts of friendship priceless (a bottle of Mongolian vodka given on a cold windblown night).
Friends! Turuu and Basraa