Wednesday, June 10: Murun, Mongolia
7:45 We’re up and the truck is loaded. I slept in a glorified shack with Yoram, Bayaraa, and Amaraa. I suspected that 2 of the 3 might snore but was shocked by the sounds coming from the third. No names will be mentioned.
8:00 Breakfast at Bata’s Guesthouse consists of a fried egg and a thick piece of white bread slathered in red substance that could have been Kool-Aid mixed with water and a bit of gelatin. It was not jam, that’s for sure.
8:40 The local “must see” attraction is a Bronze Age ritual site known as Uushiglin Uver or the Deer Stones. There are 14 large stones scattered in a 5-acre field. Each stone has a carving or etching of deer or other symbols including hunters.
10:05 We pick up supplies at a modern supermarket in Murun. The store has about four aisles devoted to staples, two aisles full of vodka and beer and a half aisle of fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the girls suggests that I pick up a sweat-shirt emblazoned with “Fashion Man Love,” but I nix that idea.
11:10 We pass the local wrestling stadium. Archery, horse racing and wrestling are the three main sports played in Mongolia. There isn’t a horse racing track but rather a very long race through countryside that is held once a year. When he was a kid, Bayaraa wanted to be a jockey. He’s a great rider but now too heavy to be a jockey in the Western world.
12:50 I spot a group of six reindeer but am not quick enough to get a photo.
13:30 We head off road for the last 40 km stretch into Lake Khovsgol. We will stay three nights and two days at a ger camp on the shore of the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia. Lake Khovsgol holds almost 70% of Mongolia’s fresh water and 0.4% of all the freshwater in the world. There’s still ice on the southern shore when we arrive.
15:15 My cook group serves lunch and Neill conveys some information provided by the manager. Electricity is turned on from 9pm to midnight and hot showers are available in the morning and evening. The most popular activities at Lake Khovsgol (in reverse order of popularity) are ice-water swimming, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, and the consumption of vodka while sitting around a campfire.
16:00 The bathrooms are actually quite nice and the water is hot. All grey water is trucked about 100 km out of the park so it’s strongly suggested that you keep your showers to a minimum.
18:30 I fill the jerry cans from lake. There’s no need to hunt for firewood as the locker is full.
20:00 Dinner is served. We were hoping for something “Mongolian” but get German-style schnitzel and a lettuce salad with grated cheddar cheese and sliced dill pickles.
22:48 I snap a photo of the group around the campfire. It’s still not dark at 10:48 pm.
23:00 With three logs on the fire, we could bake pizza in our yurt.
8:00 A western-style breakfast is served in the main lodge. I’m not a big fan of warm wieners and cold eggs but I leave nothing on my plate.
10:30 The tourist season doesn’t start for another few weeks and it’s pretty quiet around Lake Khovsol. I wash socks and underwear in the sink and replace the shoelaces in my hiking boots. It’s going to be one of those days.
11:00 I have a nap on the stoney beach until a crow starts circling and making a lot of noise. I’m afraid for my eyeballs so I get up and move along. The crow goes silent but continues to circle. I wonder if word has spread about what Bayaraa and I did with the dead eagle a few days earlier.
13:30 I’m walking to a tourist lodge that I saw when we drove in when I come across John, Clarissa, Ally and Renee who are just returning from the Blue Pearl. It’s not yet open for the season. There goes my idea of having a mid-afternoon beer. I walk back to camp with John and the girls.
12:00 I’m editing photos on my laptop when the power goes off. The clock on my computer reads 11:59:49.