15th September – Altantsogts to Khovd

17 Sep

After leaving our camping spot we drove the short way back to Sailau’s family and he greeted us like long lost family. He is such a nice man! We went straight in for chai and watched while they all dressed up for a wedding that they were going to later. Just before we left Marjool was given a scarf and I was given a hat.

 

 

We also said goodbye to the group that we had tea with yesterday. We would like to see Andrews photos one day as he has been on expeditions to both the North and South Poles. I am sure that one day we will see Andrew and Catherine in Devon?

We were planning to take the back road as we had images of the main road to Khovd being big and busy. In Russia we enjoyed the back roads as you can stop easily wherever you like. In fact when we got to it the major roads are still pretty rough and quiet!

Sailau very kindly hopped into the car to show us where the ‘road’ started. He took us a few Km’s to a y junction and pointed left, gave us a big hug and then started walking back. He had told us to keep the mountain on our left and that is what we did. However it was 190 km to Khovd and so we would have to get more guidance or would be going in a circle!

In Mongolia a road is defined as ‘Where someone has driven before’. They continually split into for or five ways and it is difficult to tell where a fork is really a junction or a route around an obstacle or just a track to a ger. You really do need a good compass or sat nav to show direction and your position. Garmin Worldmap is handy as it shows the major roads and towns and so you can check you are heading in the right direction. Its not quite that simple as you cannot see which valley or pass you will take, and so sometimes you think that you are going wrong, when you are really just passing a natural obstacle which means heading in the wrong direction for a while. At times, you think that you must be on the wrong track as it is so small … then suddenly it joins another one and you think all is well again. At the same time you need to concentrate hard as there are sharp rocks, potholes, deep sand and boggy spots …. great fun!

The road was good and fast in some places, over rocks and boulders in other and snowy peaks surrounded us as we headed south to join the main road to Khovd.

As we got to the very remote and rough bits we were pleased to have a sturdy car. The roads are unforgiving and although you could manage most with a standard car, you have to consider what you would do if you broke down. It is very remote and some places you don’t see a soul for 30 or 40 km.

We found a nice spot by a spring for a coffee break …. no vehicles had been past in either direction for an hour or so. It was so quiet. The blue scarf tied on a stick by the spring, complete with money offerings reminded us of friends at home!

Further along the road we passed a herd of yaks, they looked just as you imagine them, at home in the mountains.

Further along we thought that we were getting lost and so Graham went to ask directions. Mongolians all seem to understand maps and are always really helpful.

As it happens we had arrived at the point where the ‘main road’ met our track. We celebrated with lunch. The wind in the valley was so cold and strong that we ate in the camper.

When we continued after lunch we met a group of men who worked for a copper and gold mine. They had driven across from UB for the eagle festival, fishing in the lakes by the Chinese border and to explore the west. They had a 75 series LC and a defender 110. Both were well equipped. We said that we would meet in UB if we got there in time for a beer in the Irish pub!

Although it is the main road in the south of Mongolia from west to east, it is still a dirt road and being well used gets corrugations and potholes and lots of rocks to avoid. Much easier to navigate though. Soon after getting on the road we got to a rickety wooden bridge that was closed.

There was a well used river crossing that at this time of the year is low. Coming here in the spring or early summer would be different for two reasons. Firstly there would be mosquitoes and flies (we have seen no mozzies and only a few flies) and secondly the rivers would be high and there would be mud. Maybe the perfect time to visit is the second half of August? Now is great but for our camper cold at night. We really need a diesel heater.

Further along the road we saw camels.

We got to Khovd at around 6.00 pm and took a quick look around before heading back towards the river to camp at a spot where a ger had recently been moved. It seems that there are different camps for each season and now people are moving to their winter site.

Tomorrow we have a website to update and things to do in town and so will not be a big post day!

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