Since leaving Ulan Bator a couple of weeks ago, we have been overlanding through Central and Northern Mongolia. This means travelling across the country in a huge purpose built 4×4 truck, staying in traditional Mongolian gers (round white tents) and wild camping.
Mongolia is a pretty amazing place for overlanding; it is huge (roughly the same size as Western Europe) and has basically no roads. Other than a few stretches of tarmac, the country is made up of dirt tracks, of varying quality. This makes for exciting driving, with ‘boggings’ a common occurrence.
As well as being huge, Mongolia is very sparsely populated (about 2 million people or so) and stunningly beautiful. The landscape is generally made up of vast green plains, rolling hills, rocky spurs, with occasional gers and herds of horses, yaks, cows and goats. There are also lots of eagles and vultures. You can usually see for miles in any direction, and the lack of features can make it very difficult to judge size and distance. Mongolia is sometimes referred to as ‘the land of endless blue sky’, which seems about right.
We have been lucky to travel with a really fantastic group of people, from a number of different countries. Since leaving UB we have visited several Buddhist monasteries and temples, wandered around museums, explored local markets, seen ‘Deer Stones’ (Bronze Age carved granite monoliths), swum in various lakes, rivers and waterfalls, ridden half wild Mongolian horses, hiked, kayaked, climbed a dormant volcano, watched incredible shooting stars, sunrises and sunsets, bathed in natural hot springs, and danced around our campfire.
We have also tried a number of local delicacies, including fermented mares milk (not good), yak yoghurt (good), and yak vodka (very good!). We have been eating mostly Mongolian food, which is usually mutton based and stodgy – mutton stew, mutton noodles (breakfast!), mutton with rice etc. Whilst it has been great to try the local food, we are both now craving veggie meals and salads!
I’m also pleased to report that I passed the test to be recognised as a real Mongolian man – the only one from our group of 25, including Mongolian guides! The test was to throw a stone over a 16m sacred rock, from a kneeling position. Not as easy as it sounds!
We have arrived this afternoon at Lake Khovsgol, which is one of the country’s main tourist attractions and is noticeably busier than anywhere else we have been. The lake is enormous – 130km long, up to 260m deep, and holds about 2% of the world’s fresh water. We have a couple of days here, before spending 4 days driving back to UB.
Will add some photos once we have better internet.
Signing out for now…