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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



July 18. DAY FOUR: TSETSERLEG/TAIKHAR ROCK The sun wasn't shining the next morning but the water power plant next to our ger camp was no longer gushing.  We decided to continue on our trip but still opted not to go to the old Uigher ruins, Khar Balgas.  Amara looked a bit tired as we were loading up.  He had been rousted out of his bed in the middle of the night to pull a wrestler, who was driving to the Tsetserleg Naadam, out of the washed away highway.  The wrestler had been driving a Toyota Landcruiser but according to Amara those just couldn't hold up to the roads in Mongolia.  His Russian Woz, for all its homeliness, was one tough vehicle. 

About a half hour out of Kharkorin we were even more glad of our decision not to look for the old ruins.  The paved road had ended and it would be dirt roads from now on.  However, the main roads were still somewhat maintained while the side roads were not.   We began to hear a rattling under the van and Amara cursed under his breath as he pulled the van over.  He quickly grabbed his rug seat cover and threw it under the van.  After a few minutes of fiddling and banging we returned with a plate cover for his starter.  Hmmm.  It wasn't very reassuring but he seemed to know his van well and told us not to worry about it.  We were off again, tearing across the muddy highway.

Amara was a good driver with quick reflexes.  He flew along the roads and somehow managed the avoid most of the potholes.  It was about a three hour drive to Tsetserleg, the capital of Arkhangai Aimag.  As we entered the "city" we picked up paved roads again.  The sun had started to peek out and along the hillside on the south end of town we saw people convening for the Naadam festivities.   We had felt lucky that we would hit another Naadam during our countryside tour but when we arrived I found myself less than enthusiastic.  Bumping around the van for hours was more tiring than you would think and after our heavy dose of Naadam the week before I didn't feel a need to see more men in tight pants.  I had a nice nap while Rob and Amara strolled around the grounds.  

When Amara and Rob returned we went to get our spare tire repaired.  Amara had noticed it was low.  From there we took a quick look at the local museum.  It was supposed to be one of Mongolia's best but that was over stated. It was nice enough but pretty small and the ticket lady was a witch.  We didn't want to pay $2 to take photos inside but when she saw me taking a photo of the courtyard she tried to get me to pay the $2 anyway.   Amara was shocked because he had recently been to the museum with other tourists and taking photos of the museum grounds hadn't cost anything.  I think she was just be especially hospitable.  

The sky was clearing nicely and Amara drove us all of the way up the hillside to put us in a good position to the horse race finish line.   He watched from the car as we looked around.  It was nice to see that most people at this festival were dressed in traditional clothing.  It added color to the event and made it seem more authentic.  Many of the people were also on horses.  It was a great opportunity to get more photos of the little jockeys and some of the local people.  Since the people on horseback had the front row seating we didn't get a great view of the race itself but in this case the spectators were more interesting.  Once the winning horse crossed the line we were engulfed in a cloud of dust as everyone started moving towards the finish line.  It felt like we were standing in the middle of a horserace and were thankful that the Mongolians were skilled riders and avoided us, if only narrowly missing us at times.

After the race we were off again and quickly ran out of paved road once we drove out of the city.  The grassland was getting slightly more hilly and about an hour out of Tsetserleg we hit Taikhar Rock, a large rock (50 feet high) in the middle of open grassland with an ovoo on top.  I am not sure how this rock came to be featured in the LP guidebook because it wasn't very impressive.  It did have a legend associated with it but if this was a noteworthy point of interest I was worried about the rest of our itinerary.  In any event, it was getting dark and the weather still looked questionable.  The ger camp next to the great rock wanted to charge us $20/night, a discounted rate.  Apparently they thought too much of their meager tourist attraction.  The camp didn't look any different than our last ger camp for about $5/night so we checked into a smaller cabin camp on the other side of the rock.  They charged Tg6000/night with a shower.  The little cabins were not really worth their Tg6000 but it was still the better option.  And, for a bonus, our cabin smelled of alcohol.      

ULAAN BAATAR July 2-3 July 4-5 July 6 July 7-8

NAADAM July 9-10 July 11 July 12 July 13

COUNTRYSIDE July 14 July 15 July 16 July 17 July 18 July 19 July 20-21


BALDAN BARAIVAN July 25-30 Intro About Baldan Baraivan Mani Buteel Buddhist Festival The Restoration Work Another Naadam & About CRTP

ULAAN BAATAR July 31-Aug 1