On the remote road to 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.
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.
Soon we were heading towards the narrow river valley that leads up to the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park.
After 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….
Luckily we were still in the village and help was at hand in the form of a Russian lorry.
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.
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.