We are currently on the train, and as it is chilly I am writing this post wrapped up in a blanket! We have now completed our tour of Mongolia and are heading out on the Trans-Mongolian railway to Beijing.
In the final week, we spent a couple of days at Lake Khovsgol, fittingly described as the “blue pearl of Mongolia”. The water is crystal clear, and the colours are incredible – aquamarine around the edges and dark blue in the middle.
We decided that the best way to appreciate the lake would be to get on it. Most ger camps around the area offer canoeing, kayaking and boat trips; of these, we opted for kayaking. This was great value, some much needed exercise, and the best way to appreciate just how clear the water is. Even 50 metres out into the lake, you can still see boulders deep beneath you.
The lake is ringed with large hills, some of which have old vehicle tracks leading to the top. We spent several hours hiking up one of these, and were treated to a stunning view. Once back down at the lake we couldn’t help ourselves from taking a quick dip in the icy cold water.
Following on from Lake Khovsgol we spent 5 days and 4 nights driving south through beautiful valleys and passes, returning to UB. Most of the days were spent on the truck but we did have one final monastery to visit.
Amarbayasgalant Monastery is among the largest monasteries to have survived the Russian purges, today one of Mongolia’s central religious centres. Walking around you see many young children between 8 and 13 years old. In Mongolia, monasteries are one of the ways in which children are offered an education, all be it a religious education. On the hillside behind the monastery is a large golden Buddha, which is easy to walk up to on a flight of marble stairs.
Arriving back in UB on the 30th August, our first job was a SHOWER!!!! For most of our bush camps we have stopped by rivers, streams or lakes; unfortunately this was not possible on the return loop, so we resorted to a wet wipe showers instead.
Before leaving Mongolia we went out for a final group meal. In need of something other than mutton stew we found an Indian restaurant called ‘Namaste’ nearby, which was excellent, even if a bit pricy by local standards. The final goodbye was hard, having made some good friends during the past 3 weeks on the truck. We hope to see some of them again further into the trip.
As mentioned above, we have now started a 28 hour train journey to Beijing. We are sharing our sleeper compartment with a friendly Belgian couple who are basically a mirror image of ourselves – travelling for a similar amount of time, to similar places, and even with similar jobs (teacher and energy engineer). Looking forward to reaching China!