Summer Travel in Central Mongolia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter leaving this beautiful camp, our base during Naadam, we headed southwest for six days along the “Heartland Circuit.”
10557045_10152622390980746_8288162626551885544_oOne of our first stops was near the Khogno Khaan Natural Reserve, where we hiked up a sacred mountain, respectfully, and saw ruins of the Uvgun Monastery. Mongolia’s monasteries were violently destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s and many have not been fully restored.
IMG_1390Some parts of Uvgun have been rebuilt, however, and the granddaughter (celibacy was not fully implemented, apparently) now tends the site.
IMG_1401There was time before dinner to get in a quick camel ride, which was great because now I can check that off my list and not do it again.
IMG_1411But we were on the edge of the Gobi desert as the sun was going down, so the light was amazing.
Our next camp was in the Orkhon Valley, next to the river.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe river is lovely, but kayaking in the river was magical, because: horses.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKayaking with me has been likened to “Driving Miss Daisy,” but I was too excited to paddle much — we were often closer than these pictures show, because by the time the very patient husband had the camera set, they’d moved away from us. Summer is a great time for the horses and other livestock as they roam free for months, getting fat and glossy from the grass and fresh air.
We travelled in this very sturdy Soviet-era van, a UAZ, which are still plentiful in Mongolia and beloved for their ease of repair. Drivers work freelance for tour companies (we went with the fabulous Goyo Travel) and own their vehicles; the UAZ is completely mechanical, meaning it has no internal computer systems, so the driver can fix it with basic tools out in the middle of nowhere. They have high clearance and can go anywhere.
1907862_10152622394385746_1176235303637523967_oI mention this because on the next leg we came to a very dodgy looking bridge with a small but persuasive warning sign advising caution.
IMG_1421My feeling about these situations is that we all make our own decisions: we four travellers and the guide made the decision to get out of the van and walk, while the driver made the decision to drive over. We all held our breath, but it was fine and on we went, arriving at the trailhead for a hike to Tovkhon Monastery.
IMG_1434On the way back we got to see a herder family milking their horses to make airag, the alcoholic drink made from fermented horse milk. (An acquired taste, I think.)
IMG_1436Since we’d crossed in the morning, that bridge had been closed to vehicles. We walked, and the driver went downstream to drive across a shallow bit.
IMG_1459Our next stop was the Erdene Zuu Monastery, which is on the site of the ancient capital of Karakorum.
IMG_1472While Buddhist temples and monasteries have, obviously, much in common wherever they are, the wide-open emptiness of Mongolia makes these particularly stunning. Favorite race horses are honored after they die by becoming part of an ovoo cairn.
IMG_1478We ended our trip with a night at Ogii Lake. The weather had turned cold and cloudy, but we saw plenty of hardy Mongolians swimming. I was happy to get close to the lake just by having fish for dinner.
(Note: The photos of the camels crossing the road and the UAZ van were taken by our friend with the good camera.)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Summer Travel in Central Mongolia

  1. Dayna

    AMAZING – the photos, the narrative, the UAZ, the driver, that BRIDGE, your nerves. Would love to see the photo of you on a camel. Makes our summer road trip to upstate New York seem so conventional. Glad to see you are soaking up the summer sun while you can. Winter will be here before you know it, and it will be there even sooner. Sending lots of love.

  2. Joe Luttrell

    Gloriously exotic! The Mongolia Tourist Board should be retaining you.

  3. Barby Ulmer

    Delightful travels! love b&v

    our developing world 408-379-4431 or

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