On the remote road to the far west of Mongolia

Flying towards the Altai Mountains in the far West of Mongolia

Flying towards the Altai Mountains in the far West of Mongolia

Finally, after a 24 hour delay in Ulaan Baatar and then another six-hour wait in the airport, we were on our way to Olgii town in Bayan-Olgii Province. It is the furthest west province in Mongolia and the only one with a Muslim Kazakh majority. Although it was 6pm by the time we landed, we quickly nipped off to the only supermarket in town to buy some last-minute essentials for our trip – apples, oranges, and some Bulgarian wine… We then began the 175km (8 hours on poor roads)  drive to Altai Tavan Bogd National Park.

A rainbow on the road from Olgii to Tsengel

A rainbow on the road from Olgii to Tsengel

Soon it was dark and after a rather hairy river crossing we arrived in Tsengel, the most western village in Mongolia. It is a bleak place where many of the nearby nomads spend the winter when the temperature often drops to -40.  Hearing Birds Fly is an excellent book by an English teacher who spent a year living in Tsengel getting to know the Kazakh and Tuva people. After a night spent in a cozy house we awoke to blue skies and were ready for the next six hours of driving.

The yard at the house we stayed in Tsengel

The yard at the house where we stayed in Tsengel

Soon we were heading towards the narrow river valley that leads up to the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park.

IMG_2132After only five minutes of driving our poor driver managed to topple our sturdy little Russian van into a deeper than it looked river channel… For a while I though we might never make it to the Altai Mountains….

Our Russian van - stuck

Our Russian van – stuck

Luckily we were still in the village and help was at hand in the form of a Russian lorry.

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IMG_2149Finally the valley opened out as we headed towards the Altai Mountains and Khurgan Nuur (nuur means lake).

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By late afternoon we had reached our horseman to be’s ger. It was a stunningly tranquil spot just between the marshey banks of Khurgan Nuur and the beginning of the larch forests.

Dried curd at the Horseman's ger

Dried curd or cheese at the horseman’s ger

A dead magpie dangled above the cheese acting as a 'scare crow'

A dead magpie dangled above the cheese acting as a ‘scare crow’

One of the horseman's children herding the family's goats and sheep

One of the horseman’s children herding the family’s goats and sheep

That afternoon we decided to go for a walk through the meadows and larch forest to the home of a famed eagle hunter. Summer is not the season for hunting but we were still shown his beautiful Golden Eagle by his son.

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Passing small lakes and herds of horses as we headed back to our ger

Passing small lakes and herds of horses as we headed back to our ger

We also bumped into this man who had been training his shy little yearling

We also bumped into this man who had been training his shy little yearling

A herd of horses grazing on the marshy edges of Khurgan Nuur

A herd of horses grazing on the marshy edges of Khurgan Nuur

A young girl skipping around her ger in the last light of the day

A young girl skipping around her ger in the last light of the day

Young goats playing king of the rock at sunset

Young goats playing king of the rock at sunset

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