Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Day 152 – Darkhan to Tosontsengel - Thurs 25 July

Day 152 – Darkhan to Tosontsengel  - Thurs 25 July
Rain gone, day overcast and quite cool next to the pines. Put on stain remover and tipped all washing into barrel to agitate on today’s rough roads. Moving into Khovsgol, Mongolia's prettiest aimag today. Saw vultures at last, not far off road - so now where are the yaks?? Past Uran-Togoo Tulga Uul Nature Reserve. Pair of Demoiselle cranes at start of dirt road at Khutag village. 

With more rain hovering will we now have to pay for all the good recent bitumen, on the 260kms of dirt track to Moron? Roadworks show how deep and rich is the soil of the grasslands. Hills have become rocky, covered in lichen. Gers becoming replaced by cabins of thick logs. Slow going though, 20kph to date. Passed tourist camp with sign re extinct volcano – sadly can’t stop to explore everything. Stopped at pleasant stream for morning tea, gerbils tumbling over one another, farmer on other side taking daughter for ride on horse, his dogs came to investigate, very wary of hand feeding. 

Road graded past current roadworks, with odd detour for planned culverts – an improvement, moved up to 60kph. Toll 2000TGs at concrete bridge. Rain not only held off but blue sky appearing. Yaks!! At last, so now where are the bears?? Saw grey backed gulls amongst the pines – long way from ocean. Tried to buy tiny wild strawberries, but we couldn’t understand how much to pay. Stopped on rise for lunch, then off again. Sometimes it was better going on the "highway", sometimes not, lots of long soft boggy patches this afternoon. And weather getting steadily hotter with storms encircling mountains. 

Stopped at tributary for a stretch and watched a swift silver bird circle and dive several times unsuccessfully trying to catch a fish (which we saw jumping). 

Back onto pick-a-path, all of the choices muddy, corrugated, stony and winding through tussock-mound country. Plenty of roadworks, animal herding happening all day, steady stream of travellers, many with kids waving from back seat. Occasionally able to get onto the road in progress. Came across truck broken down, driver gestured us down, we asked what he needed and he mimed drink so we gave him our water. Long slow slog day, still driving at 6pm - don't think we’ll rinse and wring and rinse and wring into the cooling evening, the washing will surely be almost as wet in the morning. Will leave in soapy barrel for another day... Thunder booming for first half hour but gradually died down. Chicken breast and veggies for dinner in shadow of large hill on outskirts of Tosontsengel (supposed to be a river at base?? Hmm, maybe during winter thaw...) A dog from the town, with daggy winter fur still shedding, made friends; horses snorted and munched on their way home.

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