From the Old Capital to the Capital of Mongolia
We were amazed that there was so little left of the great Mongol Empire – just a stone carved turtle and a few mounds of earth. We spent the night parked at a Tourist Ger camp and enjoyed a delicious meal in their restaurant. Dick got up early and climbed to the top of a nearby mountain. He explored a little of the scenery while Pip got an extra hour in bed.
|The view from the hill that Dick climbed looking to the Orhon River which drains to the Arctic Ocean.|
|An old man pushing his water container along the road.|
|Another mob of horses beside the road as we leave Karakorum.|
|The sandy desert beside the bitumen road.|
We set off a little later today at 8.45 am and headed out of Karakorum back on the road we had entered in on and returned to the main road – all on bitumen. We stopped at a Buddhist mound and met a couple of Russian tourists from Moscow. Most people in Mongolia are Buddhist. Dick walked around the mound three times for good luck.
|A Buddhist mound that Dick walked around three times for good luck.|
We enjoyed travelling on the smooth bitumen roads and got up to 100kph. It was so nice to sit still in our seats and not be rocked and jolted around the place from the rough dirt tracks. The temperature this morning was a cool 40 degrees F but it did get up to 56F by lunchtime. The winds had died down and there was less dust blowing across the road.
She saw a shepherd lying beside the road resting with his horse and watching his flock of goats and sheep. Pip asked Dick to stop and we went over to say hello. Pip enjoyed getting some photos of the friendly shepherd and Dick made friends with his horse. We find the Mongolian people are extremely friendly and very curious about us and the Earthroamer. Many times when we have been parked and sitting inside the Earthroamer, our door has been opened (no knock on the door first) and a friendly person has stepped inside unannounced.
|A sheperd resting with his horse while minding his herd of goats and sheep.|
|Dick makes friends with the sheperd's horse.|
We passed a number of truck stops and at 12.30 pm, we stopped outside a new restaurant and enjoyed a very good meal of rice with braised meat and vegetables covered with an omelette. This only cost us $8 AUD for three meals with cold drinks and tea. Next door was a shop with piles of rather fresh sheepskins and a few goatskins. While Pip was taking a few photos, a car pulled up and a man and women climbed out and opened their boot. They lifted out a few hides and the shopkeeper came out and had a look at each skin, obviously working out a price to pay for them.
|A family pushing their motorbike along the bitumen road.|
|Selling their sheep skins to a local trader.|
Soon we entered the town of Lun and noticed a number of people riding their horses along the road. We then noticed a large group of people, vehicles, and horses gathered just off the road. Dick drove the Earthroamer up to join them and we climbed out and discovered that a special festival was taking place. We joined the locals, many dressed in their traditional Mongolian clothes, and we were introduced to the Deputy Prime Minister who had been the past Prime Minister of Mongolia. He was impressed with the Earthroamer and very interested to know that we were from Australia.
|A family on horseback in Lun.|
|Lun locals at the festival.|
|A Mongolian cowboy.|
|A very shy little girl who would not look at the camera. She was very cute.|
|Dick talking to the Deputy Prime Minister (the man in the hat) with Eldos (wearing glasses) looking on.|
|The Deputy Prime Minister and other dignitaries on horse back.|
We then heard cheers so we ran down to join the crowd as we looked into the distance and saw about a kilometre away, young boys nearing the end of their 25 kilometre horse race. The horses were 5 years old, we were told, and the boys appeared to be between 8 and 10 years old, many riding bareback, and no helmets. It was very exciting and we enjoyed mixing with the local people.
|A young boy crosses the finish line.|
|Some local ladies in Lun.|
We had just left Lun when sadly, the bitumen ended and we were back on rough dirt sidetracks. Apparently, the road had been bitumen, but last year this was dug up and new gravel was put down, however the road works were not finished before winter came. The affects of snow, ice, wind, rain (and probably many vehicles driving on the gravel) had made the road a nightmare – so dirt tracks had been made on both sides of the road. We were once again bouncing and twisting our way along. Dick has done a fantastic job with all the driving through Mongolia and has managed to keep the Earthroamer moving along through rocks, sand, holes and corrugations that you just cannot imagine to be so bad.
|A shepherd rode across in front of us as we drove along the dirt sidetrack. You can see the main road in the background with the vehicles using the dusty sidetracks.|
We were determined to get the Earthroamer to Ulaan Baatar so we just kept going, and finally at around 4pm we reached the outskirts – where the traffic built up and the air pollution became very noticeable. We had to pay a road tax of 50 cents as we entered the city and poor Dick had to be patient and join the traffic chaos. He did get one thrill when we were stopped at a railway crossing with red flashing lights – two steel bars came up out of the road to stop the traffic and we watched a diesel train and passenger carriages go by.
Finally, we reached the Ford dealer’s premises in Ulaan Baatar. We went inside to say hello to Baagii the Ford Service Manager, and we were introduced to Mugi, the young mechanic who had been sent out to Khovd to repair our vehicle in the middle of winter. We are leaving the vehicle with Ford for two days with a list of a number of things that need attention. Dick will go out to work with them tomorrow, and Pip will get the day off from travelling. We are staying in the Kempinski Palace Hotel here in Ulaan Baatar and Pip is enjoying the space in the room and the novelty of being able to stand under a hot shower for more than a few minutes!
|Buildings and traffic in Ulaan Baatar.|
|Dick with Mugi and Baagii at Ford in Ulaan Baatar.|
|We got the Earthroamer to the Ford service centre in Ulaan Baatar.|