Camels, Horses and Naadam
After arriving in Mongolia we spent a few days relaxing and meeting other Overlanders whilst we waited for Gerry and Lee of Celtic Rover.
Once we met up we had 4 days to make the 700 odd miles to Khatgal.
We planned to take the northern route which has a reputation for being difficult and sometimes impassable but also with stunning scenery.
All of the above turned out to be true.
Near Achit Nuur we were unable to cross the river. Recent rains in the mountains meant part of the river had cut a fast deep channel that was not possible to cross. We now realised why we had seen no local traffic for the whole day, clearly they knew the route was closed.
As we had spent most of the day driving and about 3 hours searching for a place to cross the river we decided a new route was needed and we would go find a spot to camp and look at the maps.
The camp was reminisent of Wadi Rum in Jordan with rock formations rising out of the sandy floor like islands.
We got set up sorted a new route and enjoyed a few cold beers and wine.
Our new route next day followed round the south and east of Achit Nuur. We still had rivers to cross but a chance meeting with some locals put us on the right track and we headed North to rejoin the Northern Route.
This change of course that was forced upon came as a blessing in disguise as in the mountains close to no where we came across a local Naadam.
The first clue was dozens of Eagles swirling in the sky then as we got closer we saw the cars and the flags.
We stopped to enjoy the spectacle and the atmosphere. We had missed the horse racing but got to see some of the wrestling and see countless horse riders and locals enjoying their festival.
We continued further into the hills searching out the Northern Route and then on to Ulaangom.
We camped just past Ulaangom, hidden away from the road.
Next day was onwards as we tried to search out some hot springs listed on the map. Unable to find them we asked a local who said they were dried up.
We continued east and camped near Telten Nuur where a windy night we spent inside Nelson (Celtic Rover's Land Rover) chatting and drinking wine and beer.
In the morning we said our good byes to Gerry and Lee. They were heading east to Ulaanbaatar and we were going north to Moron for supplies and then on up to Khatgal to see Nadaam.
We spent 3 days at Khatgal enjoying Nadaam, cleaning out the dust and dirt from Wilson before we headed for Ulaanbaatar.
The route returned south through Moron to Bulgan where the road was surprisingly good with Tarmac most of the way. We camped up by a river just before Bulgan where we met a lovely Mongolian family who we spent the evening with cooking us a Mongolian Mutton Stew which was excellent and Dave shared out his Vodka.
The following morning we left early and continued east. After Bulgan the road took a turn for the worst and became at best mud baked but mostly deeply rutted and gravel and nightmare corrugations.
Throughout the route we came across various memorials and Wilson decided he wanted to go all "Mad Max"
Our target for today was Tsogt Taijiin Tsagaan Balgas. A 17th Century Fort that was the home of the mother of Prince Tsogt who had fought against Chinese rule and now sadly ruins.
We weren't expecting too much so were quite surprised to see how much was left but this once close up was sadly being left to deteriorate further.
We spent the night close by and the weather turned against raining all night and still raining in the morning.
We packed up and headed for Ulaanbataar hoping the river crossings would still be passable which thankfully they were although the split Raised Air Intake hose caused more issues with the air filter getting wet.
In Ulaanbataar we will hopefully get it fixed or even better replaced.