Sunday, May 31: Ogii Lake, Mongolia
7:23 The door of our yurt blew open in the middle of the night. It got pretty damn cold in the yurt with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, a hole in the ceiling (so that smoke from the fire escapes), and a wood stove so inefficient that two logs burned in about 30 minutes. I stagger to the bathroom which is about 50m away from the yurt. It’s no warmer in the bathroom and there’s no hot water for a shower. This isn’t a surprise to me but others display varying levels of a crankiness.
8:30 There’s a very strong wind as we set off for the Orkhon Inscriptions Museum which houses artifacts from the 7th century when Turkic people resided in this area.
10:10 After 45 minutes at the museum we drive to Kharkhorin and stop at the Erdene Zuu Khiid Monestary. The monastery is interesting but I spend more time dealing with the souvenir vendors in the parking lot. Some of the items they’re offering are genuine antiques but the bulk of it is reproduction antiques, blatant fakes, knock-offs of western products (George Washington playing cards) or kitschy Russian and Mongolian gift items. I haggle for a while over a small brass lock in the shape of a horse but ultimately give up because the vendor won’t budge on the price and while haggling I notice the same “genuine antique” on display at two other stalls.
12:40 We stop for lunch in Kharkhorin where I have fried dumplings. So good.
1:30 One of the cook groups (not mine) shops for food in the local market which consists of one main building and many independent vendors operating out of old shipping containers. I pick up a fleece lined wool hat for about CA$5. This was worth its weight in gold a few days later.
2:00 No trip to Kharkhorin is complete without a stop at the Kharkhorin Museum which turns to be very well done. The exhibits are interesting, the guide is fluent in English, and they have the backpacker’s holy trinity: free wifi, good coffee, and Western style bathrooms.
3:30 We reach our second ger camp. This one is even nicer than the first. A boy came around to the ger just after we checked in and lit a roaring fire in our stove. It went out within 15 minutes. I decide not to complain but just deal with it myself after dinner.
7:00 It rains all evening but we are warm and dry in the central lodge, enjoying what was billed as beef stew. I’m skeptical. We’ve driven past thousands of horses over the last few days. What Mongolian nomad needs 100 horses for sport or transportation?
11:10 I re-light our fire twice before giving up. The stove isn’t drawing air and a raging fire self extinguishes within 15 minutes.
11:40 With temperatures around the freezing mark we’re getting a quick introduction into the life of the Mongolian nomads.