North and West Mongolia Tour; Day 13 of 33
Drive from River to Bayannuur Lake
Dirt roads – 322 KM
8:00 – 6:00 (10 hrs with lunch)
Despite the threat, it did not rain during the night. By 8:00 sharp, we were on the way again.
Mountains to the right. Gers speckled the hills in the distance and as always, herds of sheep, horses, goats, yak and camels grazed. This stretch had fewer yak but hundreds of camels. The forests are long behind us and treeless scrub brush surrounded us. Grasses were sparser and dryer than before. We saw plumes of dust from less than a half a dozen vans like ours or the more fancy Toyota Landcruisers we passed along the way..
We stopped for a smoke and nature break (Sereg smokes and is good about keeping his distance).at the top of a small pass with the dirt paths lining the valley ahead like spaghetti strings.Never any road signs. A family of 4 pulled up on their motorcycle, dad, mom, 5 year old, and a 2 month old baby. Their rear tire was had just gone flat and they asked us to give the three a ride back to their ger so they could be out of the hot sun while the dad repaired the tire. We were happy to oblige.
We did not see many more ger the rest of the day but did see many of the vacant wood structures with piles of dung stored and stacked drying for the harsh winter months. We see many cranes and falcons circling in search for prey. The scenery became more sandy and a long stretch of dunes appeared on our right.
We revised our goal and we now planned to drive another hours or so to get Uureg lake. Then Sereg got a call from a buddy driving another Khongor tour traveling in the opposite loop. They were going to camp at Bayannuur and would we like to join them? Uemaa asked. Our first thought was why would we come to Mongolia to visit another group of westerners? But Sereg had driven his quota and seemed to be anxious to see his friend so we shrugged and said fine. Just then the tire blew and we slowed to a stop. Now the stop seemed like a good idea, this would take awhile. But Sereg fooled us. He was as fast as a Formula 1 pit crew and within minutes he was putting the spare tire on as the other van of tourists pulled up. They told us we were lucky. They have been averaging at least one breakdown per day and sometimes have 2 or 3. We chalked our luck up to Sereg. He keeps a sharp eye on his van and fixes things before they really go wrong. Knock on wood....
After a brief chat, we left the main road and followed difficult sandy route through and over high dunes to the north. We bogged down in one spot and Sereg backed up seemingly ready to take a running start through the sand. He fooled us again and adroitly circumvented the bad spot and drove though a firmer route.
We pitched our tents and walked into the lake to soak the dust and dried sweat from our grody bodies. It was only knee deep for a hundred yards out. But we were able to float without stiring up too much mud from the bottom. There were a lot of gnats and a few mosqitos.
Michelle talked with the Australian couple. He was a med student one his way to becoming an anesthesiologist. That appeals to him because he will be more able to schedule time off. He volunteered for medical aid project in northern India and expects to do more of that kind of thing in the future. We compared notes our respective Khongor experiences. They told us which lakes they liked and which we could give a miss. Dave talked with the Italian couple. He is a photographer and she does modern dance. They would like to move to New York City to apply thier crafts. The two couples stayed pretty much seperate but had nothing but nice things to say about thier guide, who surprised them daily with out-of-this-world meals!!!