Land of the Blue Sky - Northern Mongolia
Trip Start Mar 14, 2009
214Trip End Ongoing
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So come Friday the 16th we, Sarah from the first trip, Daniel the German guy we met in Russia, Simon a quiet Frenchmen, Ailie from Australia, Lonneke from Holland a last minute joiner and the two of us, set off to Northern Mongolia.
We were told to arrive at the bus station half an hour early and so we did. We were basically the only people on the bus at this stage but the isle was already full. Boxes, tyres, suitcases and sacks of shoes. You name it we think it was there. By the time we departed nearly 2 hours after we had arrived the bus was packed solid, every inch of space had been taken
Everything was a challenge that night even just to get off the bus for breaks. The front door was two far away over the boxes and bodies in the isle so we had to clamber over the couple of seats behind us to the back. The back door unfortunately also had its disadvantages. It was nearly 2m above the ground. No steps, just air. By the end of the night several of us had ended up on our arses trying to get up or down. Oh and a couple of things were broken as well.
On our bus were about 4 babies. Surprisingly they barely made a sound. At every stop they were passed through the bus like parcels from one pair of arms to another until they reached their owners and still not a sound.
Somehow through the lack of sleep, the bruised bodies, the seats without head rests and no leg room we managed to survived.
We rang a local guide, Sarah, and arranged a meeting point. We let her know what we had planned, 4 days of horse riding around Khovsgol Lake. Through Sarah we arranged our food (which we would have to carry and cook ourselves), our accommodation, our guides and horses.
After everything was sorted out we caught a small mini van into Khovsgol Nuur National Park.
Khovsgol Lake is known as the Blue Pearl. It is the second largest lake in Mongolia, spanning 2760 sq km and 262 meters deep. It is the worlds fourteenth largest source of fresh water
That night we spent the night with a local family in a traditional wooden hut and stocked up on some water and Vodka.
The following morning we met our guides, loaded up our horses and set off into the wilderness. Mongolian horses are half wild and slightly temperamental. Each of us had a different approach to riding. Some of us would try to train our beast. Some would agree with their horses personalities and just go along for the ride. Others, well they just couldn't agree on anything and contemplated walking. After 8 hours in the saddle everybody was in pain. Joints unable to move from the cramps, muscles tight with fatigue and some skin rubbed raw. The boys after the second day all complained about how much it hurt them.
Dino's horse never did what he wanted it to. Sarah's horse was a bit lazy and we lost sight of her several times. Daniel's, Simon's and Ailie's liked to go for a run and Shona's just like to follow everyone else. Shona would say 'NO' and the horse would just go. At one point our horses decided they wanted to run through the trees. Two of us were heading straight for one tree with the horses ignoring any advice that maybe it would be best just to run on the path.
We spent the first two days riding along the shining white lake with the golden pine trees as obstacles in our path. Our nights were spent exploring the cracking ice, dragging each other along and slipping over. We would all brave the cold darkness, with the help of a bit of Vodka, to view the stars that we knew we would not be seeing again for a while. Our last days we headed up into the mountains. All we could see was the silver and gold of the late winter forest.
We had been really lucky with the weather. It was cold, with a little wind and a lot of warm sunshine, but not one drop of snow or rain.
It was an amazing place it felt like we had the whole lake to ourselves and in all honesty I think we did.
We had one last night at the lake before heading back to Moron. We ran back into Sarah our local guide who had organised for us to see a Shaman. Something that Dino had been looking for, for a while. A Shaman is like a witch doctor, although he doesn't hand out Medicine just advice. We didn't get to see the whole show as it can last up to 7 hours.
The following morning after another 8 days on the road without a shower we had our bus ride from hell back to Ulanbator.
(per day per person, including the bus to moron and back US$16)