Sunday, 14 July 2013

Day 134 - Arvaykheer to Kharkhorin- Sun 7 Jul

Day 134 - Arvaykheer to Kharkhorin- Sun 7 Jul
Cold wind. Brief respite enjoying being back on bitumen road, then started to get undulations, gutters and potholes – apparently permafrost eats out road from underneath and sections collapse. Guy was waved down to assist Mongols whose truck was bogged from overnight rain, we went on to find the Kurjit turnoff overland. Up to 10 eagles/ hawks/ falcons standing very still on ground, close to road, don't flinch or fly away, more focused on ground animals for breakfast than on irregular passing traffic. Their stillness on ground so very different to Australian predatory birds (mind you there isn't a single tree to be found in these grasslands, hills and valleys…)

Turned off to dirt track at ger roadhouse, followed truckloads of horses probably headed off to rider training, schooling or festival events. Watched eagle soaring against hills, shadow in perfect synchronisation. Hundreds of tiny gerbil, pika, desert mice running across tracks and between burrows - much smaller than ones on Gobi. Tracks from three directions converging on single point at pass to cross into valley - opened into pretty vista of azure blue sky, skidding white clouds, green grasslands and hills in multi shades of blues and mauves. Suddenly could see deep green patch of dense forest trees in sheltered cleft in hills off to west. Pulled up on crest near an ovuu - blue ribbons/cloth predominate, gifts/offerings we have seen include animal horns, money, solar operated prayer wheels, and small religious icons.This ovuu also had wrapped boiled lollies and from the chirps, a nest of baby birds in between the rocks of the cairn! A Mongol family pulled up in a car, got out and walked around clockwise three times, sprinkled water (vodka?), and went on their way without a word. They were followed closely by some Chinese businessmen who were all over us with questions, photos and demanding to see inside (just when you think you have escaped....)

We continued into the valley with permanent water in a thin meandering stream. Grass is more plentiful and gers and herds closer together (higher stocking rate). Definitely lots of movement concerning horses. As we drove further west towards Kurjit the terrain dried and turned rocky, less gers and stock. Lunch beside road, have not had cell phone coverage since using TravelSim last night - pin works but says I have no carrier, even though I have paid four months with MobiCom. So no phone network or internet- grrrrr….. Technology is great, but only when it works for you - I am so envious that Cheryl has had personal hotspot almost continuously with Android (apparently Apple customers worldwide are experiencing hotspot issues). On the road again, temperature dropping. Bitumen ended and rutted road on to Kharkhorin. Passed dozen or so Royal Enfield motor bikes travelling together in other direction - club? Drove into town - were pleased to note signs of new industry alongside usual signs of decayed Russian infrastructure. 

Found about 20 Overlander vehicles (all Europeans from Sea Bridge group) parked outside ruins of Kharkhorin monastery, including motorhomes, 4WDs (no trailers) and a couple of MAN trucks. One giant travelling the Silk Road by himself must have cost at least $600k, had hoses to each tyre to adjust pressure as needed (wouldn’t it continually get caught up on low foliage??) 12 tonne, maybe higher than Phil’s - they also had their dog with them. Saw their vehicle with roof up later, only had turret sized windows - looked like a tank and would have made Wanderoos claustrophobic!

Explored the current monastery and ruins surrounded by long rectangular walls interspersed with white painted stupas (which could be seen from the outskirts of town), including temples, stupa, prayer wheel display/ collection, monuments. 

BoyRob always charges straight past stalls, but that didn't stop vendors from following his progress. Tourist alley had more than the usual dress ups, with their live falcons.

Went through national park gates and made camp in beautiful setting on stony banks of swift running freezing cold Orkhon River at base of rocky mountain. Got down doona and some winter clothes from top boxes. Had traditional dinner beetroot cabbage, meat patty, potato salad, sautéed shredded carrot and rice cups in ger camp (with single pack biscuit for sweets), followed by an hour of traditional music, throat singing and acrobatic presentation. Enjoyed the professional "Kharkhorin Group" so much we bought their CD. 

Walked back in fading light. MnM had done washing and hung on line between vehicles... still no trees! Light rain through night and they had to take it down. Temperatures dropped but we were toasty inside with all window coverings closed and snuggled under the doona. 

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