Pete and Jenny (in Brutus’ clone), Frederik and Charlotte (in their Landy), and me (in Brutus) had crossed the border into Mongolia! Our first encounter with Mongolians wasn’t very successful. We were stopped by someone looking somewhat like a police officer who told us that we needed to get insurance. We walked into a shabby shed, where 3 people asked for our passports and started writing our information in forms. Charlotte was not amused because they had world wide insurance so she wanted her passport back, which they refused. A bit of annoyance and pushing and shoving followed, after which I was no longer planning to take anything from their crappy company. So I demanded my passport back as well, and got it. Their last attempt was to scare us that the police would be waiting further down the road, checking for insurance, but that was obviously bullshit. Happily without insurance we continued towards Ölgi, the road directly turning into a gravel track with quite a bit of corrugation. Mongolia starts right at the border. Slightly mountainous steppe-like surroundings with some yurts scattered around. A few kilometers before Ölgi a tarmac road began. We drove right to Blue Wolf Ger Camp, where we were allowed to park the cars and sleep in them for about 5 dollars per person. That evening I warmed up some pasta and we had a couple of beers, sitting near Pete and Jenny’s car, trying to discuss what to do in the next couple of weeks. They were planning a visit to an eagle hunter and I was planning to visit a lake in the east.
But the next day I decided to go with them to the eagle hunter. They had already left but I got the position from a guy at the hostel, and drove there by myself. I arrived about 20 minutes after them and found them in the family’s yurt, eating all the traditional milk products and bread. After that we parked the cars in a half-circle to somewhat from the cold wind. The temperature had gone down quite a bit. We all supplied some ingredients for a hot noodle dish, made in Frederik and Charlotte’s kitchen. We went to bed early.
Eagle hunting day. We thought we had to drive a few kilometers out, but all the eagle action happened right next to the family’s camp. He did a few flights and we were allowed to hold the eagle. We made some sweet pictures that morning. Then they got some horses out and we went out for a little walk. It was funny because we all kind of thought we were going out by horse to do some more eagle hunting, but it was just a short stroll on a horseback :). After the morning we headed back to Ölgi where we decided to go to the lake together, and see from there where we we would go. I got a Mongolian sim card and stocked up on food, drinks and useful things. We drove east for 2 or 3 hours before setting up camp, getting a little lost sometimes. Mongolian roads take a little getting used to. The advantage is that you can simply stop anywhere and set up camp. We made another great meal and headed into the cars quite early again, because it was cold.
We arrived at the lake of interest the next day. But it was quite an uninspiring lake. I even forgot to take pictures from it :P. We continued past the lake to go look for a super old statue. On the way there, the German’s Landy got a flat tire because they drove over an old horse shoe. It ended up completely into the tire. They had 2 spares so it was no disaster. We didn’t have to search long for the statue. It was standing in the wide open, next to a river. When we drove back, I found a big stack of wood that we took with us for a camp fire. At the lake we turned left, into the mountains (Tsambagarav Uul mountain range). There was supposed to be a route through to the other side of the range. With a pretty steep slope we drove up, and were soon at about 3000 meters, gearbox overheating from time to time. The views were spectacular. We continued along a path on the map that we thought could lead us through the range, but we ended up on a dead end. Because it was getting dark, we decided to head back to a flat spot we noticed on the way up, and parked the cars. We made a camp fire and ate some dinner. It was windy and cold so we didn’t manage to stay out long again, but it was a cosy evening.
Before heading back out of the mountain range, we decided to take a look at a alpine lake, and make one more attempt in finding a way through. We headed up again, into the mountains and ended up in a beautiful valley with glaciers on the side. We drove down into it but found no way through. So as an alternative we put on our walking shoes and hike to the alpine lake, which was a few kilometers east, unreachable by car. After an hour of walking, the rest decided to go back. But I just wanted to have a last try and climb the next barrier. I was in luck! the lake was behind it and I was rewarded with a nice view of a glacier with a blue/green/gray lake under it. The way down was a bit tough, with boulders in many sizes, but I managed to get back before the rest drove off After some lunch we drove back the same way we entered the mountain range. Once back down at the lake, we formed a plan to drive around to another lake, Dörgön Nuur, with big sand dunes that were supposed to be passable. After conquering some more serious Mongolian roads, we found a spot near a stream, and made another camp. I still had the firewood on my roof and chopped it to bits while the others were heating up food. We had dinner at the campfire, and a couple of brewskis.
The next day, the Germans went ahead to Khovd, to get their tire repaired, while the British and I took it a bit more easy. On the way there, some of the wood dislodged itself on my roof so I had to find another solution to fix it. In the meantime big trucks were rushing by, making massive dust clouds. In Khovd the group joined again at a gas station. After that I went to find a mechanic because a metal piece had dislodged itself somehow behind my grill. I found a guy who welded it for $2. But he did a shitty job because the next day it was rattling again :(. Pete temporarily fixed it with a rubber mat and some tie rips. After that we took a shower at a public bath house and I refilled some supplies. Another 4 hours of brutal driving on corrugated paths and rocky trails, we found a nice sandy area to camp on, made a nice dinner, played with a drone, watched the sunset, and made a camp fire.
We slowly woke up, made breakfast and went back on the road again. We were going to sand dunes near a big lake. When we arrived, the trails thad lead to the dunes slowly dissolved into nothing. We were not able to find a way to pass through the dunes so we just hung out a bit and took some pictures. After that we kept driving towards the point where we planned to split up. My plan was to do some more off roading on unknown tracks to Taishir before heading north, and the rest wanted to take a highway to Taishir and go north from there. We passed a small town and made another U-shaped camp and made dinner again with some more beers.
The following day we split up. I went left and they went right. It was a bit strange to be alone again in huge landscapes like this for a bit, but I quickly got used to it and enjoyed it. The path I chose turned out to be quite good, and was beautiful. On the way I encountered a group of horses near a well who looked thirsty. So I crafted something to get the water from the well. Horses are sons of bitches and kick and walk over each other to get a sip or two. When I got got 50 or so liters out to them, another family came with a bigger bucket and I let them do the rest. After that, the track was just filled with beauty and diversity. Plains, hills, mountains, rocks, green, gray, brown, specks of human presence, emptiness, animals and even a monument.
When I reached Taishir in the late afternoon, I contacted the rest. They were only 10 minutes ahead so I did my best to catch up with them. We met again and camped not far from there. I owed them a meal so I made my well developed tuna pasta for 5 people. The next morning the rest drove off while I slept a bit longer to process the previous day. Mongolia is absolutely amazing. Pete and Jen, Frederik and Charlotte, thanks for experiencing this week with me!