Monday, June 1: Kharkhorin, Mongolia
7:10 I step out of the yurt and walk about 100 meters to the outhouse. It dawns on me that it’s June 1 and it has snowed during the night. There’s not much snow on the ground at the camp but I can see it in the hills that surround the camp.
7:50 Breakfast is pretty good: hot tea, potato pancakes, fried eggs, homemade bread and jam, etc.
8:15 We set out for Kharkhorin. The views throughout the Orkhon Valley are absolutely amazing.
9:50 We stop in the town of Khujirt where we buy firewood from a man who seems to have plenty of wood and miscellaneous junk scattered around his yard. He also has a large pile of dried yak dung which makes a great fire-starter.
10:40 The weather improves and eight of us climb into the truck’s open roof seats for a better view. Most of the bridges over the Orkhon River are pretty dodgy so Neill often wades in to determine if the riverbed is solid. Sura makes it through 1/2 meter deep water without any drama whatsoever.
14:30 The views get even more spectacular by mid-afternoon when we pass large areas of volcanic rock, thousands of horses, yaks, sheep, and goats. Most of the moms are nursing very young babies. At one point I hear goats making a ruckus so I start shooting video before realizing what is happening. The mama goats have been separated from their babies while being milked and are now being reunited. The babies race towards their moms, each one calling out loudly. Within a few minutes they are all paired up again and the place goes silent as they begin nursing.
Click the above image to view a video. (Warning: Cute baby goats. Turn your speakers up.)
15:00 We arrive at the Ulaan Tsutgalan (Red River) Waterfall which is Mongolia’s highest. It’s a great natural setting but unfortunately it’s completely dry at the moment. We hike for an hour but decide to press on to the Tuvkhon Monastery for our first night of camping.
17:10 We reach the end of the road. From here there’s little more than a path up to the mountaintop monastery so we set up camp, cook dinner, get a fire going, and settle in for the night. We’ll hike up the mountain in the morning.
21:30 Not everyone in the International group is familiar with the fine art of roasting marshmallows, much less the practice of sandwiching them between two S’mores. I selflessly agree to show them how it’s done.
22:10 The sun finally sets and we climb into out tents and summer-weight sleeping bags.