Day 151- Darkham to west of Bulgan - Wed 24 Jul
Wow - 5 months on road!! BoyRob finished cleaning last side of Ozzie (he uses the residual water from the morning wash, as well as the washing up water), the muddy underskirts are next. Pulled on shorts and sandals, but the morning stayed overcast and cool – can’t win! Off to the west, large areas of cropping more extensive than we've seen in Australia - wheat, barley and maybe canola. Not much evidence of harvesting infrastructure though, and the limited equipment we've seen is very dated, although a couple of sites had pivot irrigation. With such a poor economy, agriculture should create more wealth for this aimag/Mongolia than more herds on the grasslands/ steppes, but Summer is such a short season they have to get system/ cycle right.
Went through township of Nart, juxtaposition of old Soviet infrastructure on one side of road and brightly roofed new town including gers on other. Large concrete grain silos. Looks like smelter off over hill - maybe it services the open cut copper mine in Edernet which is among largest in world. Would explain why road on this stretch is in such good condition. Good info on Mongolian towns in pirated/ copied version of Lonely Planet that we bought on wharf at Phnom Penh. BoyRob heard on news that Lonely Planet is in financial difficulties, which would be an enormous loss to global travellers (guilt - pirated copies don't help as they obviously don't return royalties). Miles told us he had stopped and looked in the small abandoned concrete bunkers and saw cables from two directions but the hub/ junction piece obviously was removed with the withdrawal of the Soviets in the early 90’s.
Passed small timber yard - and very few trees on surrounding hills! Driving through valley between mountain range, saw small rocky outcrops on hills. Family pulled up alongside stream, toddler walking round in nothing except bright blue rubber boots - life can be so simple sometimes! Bushy tailed gerbils running across road, russet with darker patch down back. Scattered deep purple thistles among yellow wild flowers.
Stopped for late morning tea and internet at Edernet, home of Peace Monument, famous faces and cashmere carpet factory/shop. Beautiful thick carpets, Mongolian and standard themes, as well as fine garments, scarves and felt slippers.
Paid for guard at copper mine to take us through old gate to lookout over open cut mine. Good view from top of hill over town, smelter and thermal power station.
It was getting late as we departed town, view over soft pastel hills like the picture on the tin Derwent pencil box.
Parked next to beautiful pine forest in among dainty wildflowers, and pulled apart cold chicken for curry stir fry with noodles, whilst keeping an eye out as we had now officially entered bear country....