Out in the Mongolian Steppe

Of course, when you go to Mongolia, you can’t leave without going into the wilderness. Or at least some kind of wilderness. Going to the desert Gobi was unfortunately out of the question, since our planned time in Mongolia was limited. But we were able to go out into the grass steppe near Ulaanbaatar.

Aside from the hike to Bolshiye Koty, this was our only booked tour. But the guided part was actually only the transfer to the Camp in the Gorkhi-Terelj (Горхи-Тэрэлж) National Park and back. Still in Ulaanbaatar we first headed to the Gandantegchinlen Monastery (Гандантэгчинлэн хийд). Basically a standard Tibetan monastery with a huge Buddhist statue, so look at the images to get a picture. “Highlights” of that stop were the fact that people here deliberately fed the doves (you could even buy food for them) and that we had to pay extra just to take photos inside the temple.

On the way out of the city we saw a bit more of the outer parts of the capitol (even more of the huge construction site), and gradually ventured into the steppe. But the car wasn’t quite fit for this trip. An Electro-Gasoline hybrid limousine, with a driver that avoided the smallest bumpholes. And there were a lot of bumpholes on the way.

In the steppe we stopped at a big ovoo (a shamanistic rock pile where people ask for a safe journey… being ignorant westerners, we just enjoyed the scenerey, took photos and ignored the souvenir Ger). We also stopped at the somewhat famous (or at least popular) Turtle Rock. We scrambled a big through on the rock and the surrounding area and where accompanied by a dog, who despite an injury to his front leg followed us everywhere, even the more difficult to access areas. Sadly we had neither a snack for him nor a first-aid kit with us and had to leave him there.

Afterwards we finally headed to the camp. We were greeted by the manager, who spoke very good German. Later we learned that he studied in Germany. But you could see that the camp was quite touristy. The Gers were on concrete foundations and somewhat well furnished, there was a sanitary house with running water and other facilities.

We expected to meet Fabienne here, but after seeing how many camps are in the area, we weren’t so sure anymore. But our concerns soon vanished at lunch, when she strolled into the dinning room Ger and joined us.

Later the three of us decided to hike a a rock formation further away, but had to turn around half way, because the weather got bad. Back in the camp, right before the rain started, we were approached by a young swiss lady (yes, the Swiss are everywhere) who was happy to have some company to talk with. Regina is a medical student and came to Mongolia for an internship (hands-on-experimentstraining with the local victimspatients), but apparently all went wrong. The planned internship didn’t happen, so she had to search for another one, her planned accommodation wasn’t working either, so she landed at a family she couldn’t talk with (but picture cards helped) and several other stuff. If one thing stuck to our minds, it was that we never want to go to a Mongolian hospital. Since the weather wasn’t really getting better, the four of us spent the rest of the day talking and having fun. Later we went into a Ger, got some firewood and were warming up.

When the ladies went to bed, we picked our cameras and searched for a dark place to enjoy and capture the night sky. Seeing the stars without much light or air pollution was great. Again, Steffen was well prepared and able to take some nice photographs. But when some clouds appeared, we also called it a day and hit the hay.

After breakfast on the next day, we had to bid Fabienne a final good-bye, for she headed to another camp in another part of the steppe. Soon after we also had to leave Regina behind, but she directed us to a good cafe in Ulaanbaatar, with the mission to relay her greetings to the owner.

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