Cats and birds.  Both bigger in Africa.
Cats and birds. Both bigger in Africa.
(Slightly) ahead of the tourist hordes climbing Dune 45
(Slightly) ahead of the tourist hordes climbing Dune 45

Day 7

Huge day of driving today. We rose early and had breakfast at 7:30AM so that we would have enough daylight to complete the 300+ kilometer drive to Arvaikheer (Арваихззр). During the drive north the weather became considerably cooler and Amy and I struggled to stay warm in the van during the drive. All told the drive took us an exhausting 10 hours which included a 90 minute lunch stop at some dusty canteen in the middle of nowhere.

Even though we were staying in Arvaikheer, a city which has a population of over 23,000 people, we still stayed at a small ger camp. It was located on a lot demarcated by a tall wooden fence. The lot was just big enough for four ger, a small shack, two outhouses and space to park two minivans.

Big city livin in Arvaikeer, Mongolia
Big city livin in Arvaikeer, Mongolia

After we settled in to our ger the driver took us out for a brief shopping trip. I wanted to get some gloves and we had to replenish the normal consumables: TP and wet wipes. Most Mongolia stores are quite strange. Unless it is a big supermarket, the goods are often behind the counter and you have to tell the clerk what you want. Obviously this doesn’t work out for those of us who aren’t too good with Mongolian. On a few occasions the shop owner just invited me behind the counter to grab whatever I want, at other times I’ve just been ignored and in others we’ve played charades. The latter was the case this evening.

Gesturing for gloves is quite easy, the part I messed up was the quantity. I wanted one pair but somehow the clerk got the idea of 5 stuck in her head. Maybe it was because I was using my hand to gesture for the glove? Who knows. She rang up the price on a calculator and it came to 1,250 Turgiks (US$1) which seemed quite reasonable for one pair of gloves. I paid and she put a bunch of the gloves out on the counter, I presumed she wanted me to select which ones I wanted. I grabbed a pair and left.

In the shop next door, Amy decided that she also wanted a pair so I went back to get them. It was about this time that the old lady was frantically looking for me to give me the 4 other pairs of gloves that I had purchased. Apparently they were 250 turgik each or $0.20. So new gloves were my gift to everyone else in the van.

Just as we were pulling into the ger camp I noticed a dark cloud off to the west. It looked like a rain storm but soon we found out that it was plenty cold for a bit of snow! I had the feeling it was going to be one cold night in the ger.

Minivan odometer at end of day 7: 1378km (319km today)

Day 8

Sleep was scarce last night. The cold was the problem. The owner of the camp gave us a few extra blankets but we learned the hard way that they weren’t too warm. The wind howled all through the night and I managed a few hours of sleep before waking up around 2:30AM not being able to feel my feet. Fuel for the stove had been exhausted that point so I made an attempt at warming myself with one of those mylar space blankets. That helped but it wasn’t enough for me to fall asleep.

Around 3:30AM I made a trip to the outhouse and got to enjoy the blowing snow along the way. I also spotted the old man’s wood pile which was hidden behind a short section of fence and covered with plastic. Given how uncomfortable it was in the ger I made the decision to raid the wood pile. The next problem was where to find matches (tip for Mongolia travelings: bring some matches with you!). Luckily there were a few hot embers left in the ash pile at the bottom of our stove. The business section of the NY Times and a few minutes of huffing and puffing did the trick quite nicely. Warmth!

Snacks...and matches for relighting stoves
Snacks…and matches for relighting stoves

We made the short (156km) drive from Arvaikheer to Kharkhorin (Karakorum) today. Before we left town we went on a quick shopping trip. Arvaikheer was no different from the other Mongolian towns we have visited. Basically just a big conglomeration of rundown Soviet era buildings. What is particularly strange about these towns is that it is very difficult to infer what is contained in each building. Back home it is pretty obvious whether a given building contains a supermarket or a school just based on the outside appearance. In Mongolia, that isn’t the case. If I weren’t traveling with a guide I’m not quite sure how I would find half these places.

Nice big plate of hot noodles and a refreshing Coca-Cola
Nice big plate of hot noodles and a refreshing Coca-Cola

We made Kharkhorin in time for lunch today. The restaurant was a pretty nice place and they served up some nice hotpot and stirfry dishes. Despite being what appeared to be one of the fancier restaurants in town, they still didn’t have running water. My trip to the facilities consisted of going outside, walking down the block, through a construction site and over a pile of snow before finally reaching an outhouse behind another building. After lunch I learned how the restaurant itself gets water. Here it is, Mongolian city water works:

How water is delivered to some of the business in Kharkhorin
How water is delivered to some of the business in Kharkhorin

If you are lucky, your restaurant has one of these Mongolian sinks for washing your hands after your outhouse run:

Mongolian sink (the water goes in the metal can)
Mongolian sink (the water goes in the metal can)

The big attraction in Kharkhorin is it’s monastery, Erdene Zuu Khiid, which is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. The site has some of the few Buddhist temples that survived the Red Russia purges of the 1930′s. Only a small portion of the complex has survived until today but it is still good for a look around.

Later that night we had our second showers of the trip. After five days without running water, I assure you that this was a treat that was thoroughly enjoyed! I don’t know if our donkey friend delivered my shower water but if he did, it wouldn’t be a first for me…way back in Bolivia I also enjoyed a ‘donkey powered’ shower.

Minivan odometer at end of day 8: 1534km (156km today)

Mongolia Tour Days 7-8
Our ger camp at Khongor Els
Our ger camp at Khongor Els
Big city livin in Arvaikeer, Mongolia
Big city livin in Arvaikeer, Mongolia
A great sunrise in Arvaikheer
A great sunrise in Arvaikheer
Snacks...and matches for relighting stoves
Snacks…and matches for relighting stoves
How water is delivered to some of the business in Kharkhorin
How water is delivered to some of the business in Kharkhorin
Mongolian sink (the water goes in the metal can)
Mongolian sink (the water goes in the metal can)
Nice big plate of hot noodles and a refreshing Coca-Cola
Nice big plate of hot noodles and a refreshing Coca-Cola
Our driver is also enjoying his meal
Our driver is also enjoying his meal
One of the turtle stones at the monastery
One of the turtle stones at the monastery
Ger camp in Kharkhorin
Ger camp in Kharkhorin

2 Responses to “Mongolia Tour Days 7 and 8”

  1. Hi, I especially like the photo and comment on the donkey/water works! Sounds like I might find this part of your trip a bit challenging – ?? Beth and I are in Griffin after 5daysyou in the mountains. Maybe snow tomorrow. Luv ya, Dad

  2. Like your Dad, love the donkey pic. At least in Mongolia when you see a donkey and cart setup like this the container holds water…in China a similar sight meant the donkey’s pulling contents of a local public toilet. ‘Course, that was in the 90s…not sure of today. Nice collection of pics there, nice gas station!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

© 2011-2012 RoamingRyan.com Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha