Saxaul tree
Saxaul tree

Mercifully, the fourth day of our tour involved less driving. I think we only covered about 150km today traveling from Yolyn Am to an area known to tourists as the Flaming Cliffs.

Lunch in progress at the ger cafe. Single pot cooking is the name of the game.
Lunch in progress at the ger cafe. Single pot cooking is the name of the game.

Along the way we stopped in a small village called Bulgan for lunch at a ger cafe. I am starting to gather that lunch at a ger cafe is always a lengthy process. First, placing your order (that is, Ultzi placing our order for us) takes some time. It always seems to involve a great deal of back-and-forth conversation/debate/bartering between Ultzi and the cook in completely incomprehensible Mongolian. Second, one has to wait for someone to go out and obtain the requisite ingredients. Third, the stove has to be lit. Forth, the veggies have to be chopped.  And so on.  Don’t get me wrong, freshly cooked food is the best plan in an area without refrigeration but it is amazing how long it takes. Budget at least 2 hours for lunch at a ger cafe.

During the lengthy dining process you do get to learn a little about the people who own the cafe. In Bulgan the family had a number of kids that were playing around the ger. By the end of our lunch stop one of our tour companions decided to buy the whole group of them lollipops from the store. We evacuated shortly thereafter and didn’t get to witness the sugar-fueled chaos that ensued.

The Flaming Cliffs were just a short ways beyond Bulgan and we had plenty of time to wander around before sunset. The area adjacent to our ger camp had loads of saxaul trees which grow at an amazingly slow rate into all sorts of twisted and strange shapes.

The Flaming Cliffs
The Flaming Cliffs

The next morning we visited the Flaming Cliffs. The rock formations are impressive and apparently a large number of dinosaur fossils have been found in the area. We didn’t see any dinosaurs but there were all sorts of strange plants, bugs and lizards to be found.

Minivan odometer: 902km (150km today)

Mongolia Tour Day 4 – Flaming Cliffs
Our ger camp near Yolyn Am
Our ger camp near Yolyn Am
Instead of a stone, this ger had a piece of an old radiator to hold it in place.  Discarded crankshafts are also popular.
Instead of a stone, this ger had a piece of an old radiator to hold it in place. Discarded crankshafts are also popular.
The village of Bulgan's modest temple
The village of Bulgan’s modest temple
A comorant in the middle of the Gobi.  He looks lost!
A comorant in the middle of the Gobi. He looks lost!
Lunch at a "ger cafe."  Amy, Bonnie and Miina plus some random American guy who was lost.
Lunch at a "ger cafe." Amy, Bonnie and Miina plus some random American guy who was lost.
Lunch in progress at the ger cafe. Single pot cooking is the name of the game.
Lunch in progress at the ger cafe. Single pot cooking is the name of the game.
A full belly after lunch.  I wonder if they deliver?
A full belly after lunch. I wonder if they deliver?
Miina and Bonnie bought some candy for the kids at the ger cafe.
Miina and Bonnie bought some candy for the kids at the ger cafe.
Mongolian road
Mongolian road
The Flaming Cliffs
The Flaming Cliffs
Even-toed undulate (camel) footprints
Even-toed undulate (camel) footprints
Lizard crossing
Lizard crossing
Miina, Amy and Ultzi
Miina, Amy and Ultzi
Saxaul tree
Saxaul tree
The Flaming Cliffs
The Flaming Cliffs
Sand circles
Sand circles
Busy beetle
Busy beetle
Porcupine quills
Porcupine quills
Every ger has a sky light
Every ger has a sky light

Anuradhapura was our last stop in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and by that time we were both approaching a state of temple overload. Like Polonnaruwa, the city is spread out across many kilometers of lightly forested land which is best explored by tuktuk or bicycle.

Sri Maha Bodhi (the sacred bodhi tree)
Sri Maha Bodhi (the sacred bodhi tree)

One of the most popular sights in Anuradhapura is the Sri Maha Bodhi or Sacred Bodhi Tree. This is the oldest historically verified tree on the planet and is one of the most sacred Buddhist places in Sri Lanka.

Mirisavatiya Dagoba
Mirisavatiya Dagoba

Anuradhapura also has lots of dagoba waiting to be discovered. The ones we visited had all been restored in modern times so they were much different than the ruinous ones we saw down in Polonnaruwa.

An evening bike ride along the shores of Nuwara Wewa
An evening bike ride along the shores of Nuwara Wewa

Like any good ancient city in Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura has some nice tanks that are worth exploring. One evening we took our bikes for spin around one of them and saw some water birds and a few aggressive stray dogs.

These guys are clearly bored by the temples
These guys are clearly bored by the temples

In the end, Anuradhapura wasn’t our favorite of the ancient cities but perhaps that is because it was the last one we visited. Visiting temples and ruins is great and all but eventually you’ve seen enough. I think we reached that point in Anuradhapura!

Anuradhapura
Mirisavatiya Dagoba
Mirisavatiya Dagoba
A door handle at Isurumuniya Vihara
A door handle at Isurumuniya Vihara
Isurumuniya Vihara
Isurumuniya Vihara
Sri Maha Bodhi (the sacred bodhi tree)
Sri Maha Bodhi (the sacred bodhi tree)
These guys are clearly bored by the temples
These guys are clearly bored by the temples
Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba
Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba
An evening bike ride along the shores of Nuwara Wewa
An evening bike ride along the shores of Nuwara Wewa

 

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