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Diary Last Updated: Jun 16th, 2015 - 16:51:13


Stage 7 - Wednesday 30 April 2008 - Day 74
By Dick and Pip Smith
Apr 30, 2008, 09:53

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We visit the capital of the world and stroke the Turtle Rock

 

Last night before going to bed we wandered into the town and visited an internet café.  It was situated in the Post Office – a drab Soviet era building, but with a very friendly lady in charge.  For 50 cents we used the internet for an hour.  We were able to look up our website and we were very pleased with what we saw.  Thanks very much to Marilyn, Yolanda and Phil for all the work they are doing back in the office.
Russian style apartment block in Bayanhongor.

 

We were away at 7.45 am this morning, with an ambition to be fulfilled by the end of the day – we both wanted to see Karakorum, the capital city of the great Genghis Khan empire, which at its Zenith was larger than the Roman Empire.

 

Today the roads went from almost impossible to just possible, to (believe it or not) good bitumen – where we actually did 100 kilometres per hour for a few seconds.
Back into the desert.
More corrugations.
We passed trucks fully laden with goods.
Rocky hills.

 

On the way we stopped every now and then to take photographs and use the video camera to record our trip.  Pip took some amazing photographs out of the window when we were moving, and also when we were stopped.
A typical service station in Mongolia - we booked the Earthroamer in for an oil change!!
The road travelled into the hills.
Horses graze on the side of the hills.
Bad roads but beautiful scenery.
We met a young herder with his sheep so we stopped and gave him one of our cards with the picture of the Earthroamer.
The young herder we met.
A truck stop beside the road situated in magnificent scenery.
Gers with a wind generator.
Beautiful scenery along the way.
 

 

We didn’t go into the town of Arvaheer as we had seen plenty of these small towns.  Some of them are quite depressing and we far prefer the countryside with the gers and the really friendly people.
Driving through the Soviet style town of Arvaheer. The truck is carrying timber logs that will be exported to China.
Homes in Arvayheer.
We stopped at this road side cafe for lunch.
Mongolia has a population of 2.8 million people with 40 million stocks of horses, goats, sheep, camels and cattle.

 

Anyone who has been following us on Spider Tracks would probably want to know why we headed towards Ulaan Baatar before coming back to Karakorum.  No, it wasn’t a mapping error – although this was likely because as the Lonely Planet says, “The maps in Mongolia are useless and there are no street signs.”  Rather than travelling on the direct route to Karakorum, we decided to drive on the bitumen - even though it meant a slight return and an extra 50 kilometres or so. 

 

It was well worth it considering how bashed up our vehicle is getting on the rough “roads” (if you can call them that).  Pip is forever finding screws and bits and pieces which we put back if we can, however sometimes we can’t find where they have come from.  We now have quite a large gap between the campervan and the cab, where dust is pouring in.  We don’t quite know what has happened.  We hope that the campervan hasn’t moved back on the chassis – we can’t see how it could have.

 

At one stage Pip noticed that the mounting bracket for the extra spare tyre on the back had completely broken away. Dick was able to rope it up, which will hold it until we get to Ulaan Baatar and locate a good welder.  The vibration and huge torsion loads on the vehicle, as the 7 tonnes winds in and out of creek crossings and “washaways”, must be tremendous.

 

We arrived at the city of Karakorum at 4.45 pm.  First of all we visited the Erdene Zuu Khiid, which is a Buddhist monastery built very close to the original Karakorum – the capital city of the Mongols.  In fact, quite a few of the bricks used to build the monastery were taken from the old city.
The Buddhist Monestary built over part of the site of the original city of Karakorum.
Pip tidying Dick's hair foa photo of us holding our bronze Genghis Khan on horseback!
The outer walls of the monestary.
The Earthroamer parked beside the monestary in Karakorum.

 

It was most interesting to stand on the site of Karakorum itself.  There is basically nothing there.  We did find a carved granite turtle.  It is called the Turtle Rock and allegedly Marco Polo sighted it when he visited Karakorum, however others claim that Marco Polo never actually got to the city!  There is no doubt though that this Turtle Rock was on one of the gates of the original Karakorum.
We found the carved stone turtle sitting out in a paddock and in the background are dirt mounds which are all that remains of the original city of Karakorum.

 

Can you imagine it?  Karakorum was the original capital city of one of the greatest empires in the world and there is basically nothing there.  Have a look at the photograph.  In the background, behind the Turtle Rock, is where the city once stood.
Two young school boys in Karakorum who are probably descendants of Genghis Khan.
 

 

German archeologists are doing a bit of digging and they have actually found some of the foundations.  However it should be remembered that the Mongols were a mobile group. They carried just about everything on horseback and most of their city was made up of gers – easily moveable living quarters.

 

There were some permanent structures.  We understand that at one stage the Mongolian Emperor kidnapped an Italian sculptor from Europe and brought him back to Karakorum, where he built a magnificent fountain.  There is not a lot of water in the area, so the fountain used mare’s milk.

 

We wandered around the site.  It was quite inspirational.  Dick could hardly believe that this Mongol empire could have existed and operated from such an area.  It is so remote and undeveloped.  How did it so completely disappear?  The Romans left roads and buildings everywhere, but the Mongols – who came far later – left very little that you can actually see.  They had an incredibly vicious army that killed hundreds of thousands of people and ruled with incredible fear.

 

After visiting the site we drove through the town and stopped at a little ger camp where we are now parked.  Eldos is staying in one of the gers, but we are staying in our Earthroamer.  We love it and we can watch our videos.

 

Just before putting this on tape, Dick went for a long walk along the river and decided to get up early in the morning and climb one of the local mountains.  Certainly the Mongols chose a wonderful place for the headquarters of their empire.  The current Mongolian Government is considering moving the capital to this area and building a brand new city – a bit like Astana in Kazakhstan.

 

We are now on the bitumen and with a bit of luck we could be in Ulaan Baatar tomorrow night.  That will give us two days to work on the vehicle and try to get it ready for Russia.

 

Today  459kms    26,769 kms since Anchorage, Alaska

 

 

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