We woke up at sunrise to get an early start. The plan for the day is to drive to Lake Khovgal, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. Its a long drive that includes about 4 hours of backtracking our path, then heading east and north again. The lake is directly east of us but there are mountains in the way hence the planned round-about.
Heading back we first came across that river that took us a while to ford on the way up. The ice had melted so we were able to cross the river the place the boy had recommended a few days prior. We kept driving back to that same 4 building town we stopped for lunch at before, and we stopped for lunch again. This time I have some pictures. I went down to the river and put some cokes in the water collection hole so cool them down for the journey. Soon Bimba and Mogi joined me and started playing a version of ice hockey on ice. Some sections were a lttle less solid and the ice would make cracking sounds as they slide over it.
Before we leaving the village another traveler came up and asked for a lift. He had come to town to buy something and his motorbike broke down. It was moving day for his family so he had to get back to his house to help. We gave him a lift since it was on the way, and since its Mongolian culture to help each other survive.. While taking him he told our driver about a short cut he knew of that went through the mountains so we wouldn’t have to completely circumnavigate them. With that our plan for the day changed.
I’ll blow the suspense and let you know that the short cut did work out, but it was a anxiety inducing taking it. As with most of Mongolia Iit was not a road, more of a collection of paths through open fields and valleys. This meant Biba would veer in different directions based of the lay of the land to avoid rocks or muddy areas, and to find the best places to ford a river.
The shortcut appeared to cut through the summer homes of the nomads, ( I’ll explain that in the next paragraph) I say this because there were no ger’s, no traffic, and no animals; however there was an endless sea of grassy poop.Grassy poop = poop that is dried out and decomposed and has grass growing on it meaning animals were here before grazing, but not in the past few months.
So we were driving through this for hours, with no signs of life. I kept thinking if our car breaks down we’ll be lucky if someone drives by. The good news about no one being around though is that when I had to go to the bathroom and there were no trees to go behind I was able to just get of the jeep, walk around and take a dump with out bothering anyone, making a contribution to help grow the grass for the herds next summer.
I will say soon after that dump we did get caught up to by some motorcycles, so we likely would have been fine had our car broke down. About an hour after they passed we started to descend the mountains and starting passing gers and herds of animals again. Eventually we found our way to the highway that went north to Khovsgol.
When we got to Hatgal, the town on the south tip of the lake, we got turned away from the hotel the tour group had booked. The owner of the hotel had decided to go to ulaanbater for something and the people left there during her absence decided they didn’t want borders. Again it is Mongolia.. you just get used to this kind of thing.
It ended up working out though because we drove down the road, heading towards the lake and ended up getting a better place. The better place was next to the river right were it connected to the lake and instead of a ger we had a little house. It was like a doll house, big enough for one bed. For those New Yorkers it was smaller then a New York studio. It had two twin beds, a small table, and a furnace inside. It had much better insulation then a ger would have had. The best part was that the owner and his wife said if we left the door unlocked they would come in through the night and add wood to the fire.
After checking in Jessy and I went on a walk around town, we were searching for a Karaoke type place we had passed earlier. We stopped at a local shop. I bought some matches that would come in handy later. We were not going to be a victim of the cold again like we were that first night. Other then that shop most of the town seemed closed. It was definitely after tourist season.