Thursday, June 14, 2007

Heading for the hills ...

Our first stop in Central Mongolia was the soviet-era sanatorium and hot springs at Hjiirt. The whole place has an spookily erie air to it, as the patients shuffle along the corridors at about the pace of your average tortoise.

First we had to for our medical examination - where we had our blood pressure taken and chests checked with a stethoscope. Finally we were given permission to take a shower in the sulphurous waters - but no more than 7 minutes mind you, because apparently the effects could be powerful.

In reality it was exactly the same kind of hot sulphurous shower you get in most hotels in Reykjavik - only with less water and in slightly slimy 1950's shower block. I suspect the medical examination was little more than a placebo to work alongside the supposedly healing nature of the springs ... however after the previous 10 days without access to showers it was extremely welcome all the same.

That evening we camped at Tovkhon Khiid Monastery, just below the 2100m summit of a mountain in the nearby National Park. After a very cold night we awoke to a strange swooshing noise outside our tent - on closer investigation we discovered the reason, it was covered in 2 inches of snow which had started sliding off.

After the tricky 4WD descent back down the now slippery dirt track, our next stop was Kharkorin - site of the ancient capital of the Mongol empire Kharakoum and home to one of the architectural highlights of Mongolia, Erdene Zuu Monastery.

We stayed the night in the Ger district of the city, and the pleasure of being entertained by a local musician. I use the term loosely, as he was bloody awful, we later found out his main occupation is as air traffic controller at the airport - unsuprisingly this was just a hobby and "a little business" for him as he put it.

Our final stop in Central Mongolia was 2 nights at Terkhi Great White Lake - and an opportunity for the first horse riding of our trip. Our preparation had been a series of strictly regimented 30 minute lessons, this was more like getting your hands on Dad's car keys after passing your driving test.

After the 2 hour trek out to the rim of a nearby volcano on our "half-wild" horses, our local guide stopped to chat with one of his mates & just waved us off in the general direction of our camp. At the call of "Choo, Choo" (Mongolian for giddyup) our horses knew exactly what to do, and soon we galloping along with the wind in our hair (well Mel's hair).

The only downside was losing most of our ability to walk for the next few days. Just enough time to recover for our forthcoming 3-day horse trip ... we hoped ..


sandpaper said...

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Have a good day!
Its my BLOG

choc mint girl said...

Hi! Interesting blog. Thanks for bringing us to the places you've visited. Keep posting.

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