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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



July 19. DAY FIVE: TERKHIIN TSAGAAN NUUR (White Lake)  When we got ready to check out in the morning we were confronted with an itemized bill that charged us Tg6600 for the lodging and another Tg1000 for the shower.  We just paid them the Tg6000 they told us it would cost and left.  It had become evident that these little "mishaps" with bills in Mongolia were attempts at skimming more money out of tourists.  We had waiters and waitresses in UB neglect to give us the correct change on several occasions.  It wasn't actually the value of the money to us but in local terms it was a meaningful amount and they seemed to count on us not wanting to bother.   

From the big rock we drove for several hours until we had another van problem.  Amara cursed under his breath and pulled off of the road.  This time the problem was more critical.  The drive shaft between the two front wheels had come loose and was dragging on the ground.  Amara told us not to worry as he quickly removed the tire and reattached the drive shaft.  The two Australian women we had met at the horse park passed us and pulled over. Their guide knew Amara and offered to help but he had it under control.   We were back on the road in about 30 minutes, passing the Australian couple.

This was the fifth day of our countryside tour and it had rained every single day.  Some days had been light rain but it still was gray almost the entire time. It was becoming depressing.  It was hard to appreciate the scenery when we couldn't really enjoy being outside.  As we pulled up to the entrance of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur or White Lake, we started to re-evaluate the rest of our itinerary.  Camping in the rain was just a bummer and the park entrance fee (for foreigners) wasn't cheap.  The park official at the gate said that they hadn't had much rain but the sky told a different story.  Anyway, Amara told us that we would have to go through the park to continue on our journey so in the end we paid the fee. 

As we entered the park we could see a large crater to our left.  The black color distinguished it from the other hills but it actually was not very high.  Part of our itinerary included a horse ride up the crater but it looked like you could hike it in a couple of hours.  As we came over a small pass we could see the beautiful lake sprawled out before us.  It was calm and smooth under the gray sky.  Low hills surrounded the lake and some areas were covered in forest.  We checked out lodging at the ger camp but decided to take our chances with the rain this time.  Foreigners were relegated to a specific place in the park where we could camp.  It was a nice spot and we were the first ones there so we chose a spot up the hill a bit to avoid the expected crowds.  

The park was still inhabited with nomadic people and as soon as we started to set up camp we were visited by several groups.  One pair on a motorbike wanted to sell us goods.  Another group came by to visit with Amara on their way to marmot hunt.  We were perplexed as to why they buried their rifles in a pile of animal dung while they chatted but later learned that the ranger was making his rounds and since they were hunting in the park out of season they had to wait for him to pass before they could recover their rifles and go off to hunt.  A third group came to see if we wanted to take rent their horses.

It had been a pretty long day of driving on bumpy roads so I relaxed at the camp site while Rob and Amara went fishing.   A few other tourists arrived and spread their campsites out along the lake shore.  With no luck at fishing and actually loosing their lure Rob and Amara returned.  Just as Rob and I were setting off to visit the local store another tour van pulled up along side our campsite.  When we saw them we came back and asked if they wouldn't mind moving a bit farther away so we could all have some privacy.  They were German-speaking but spoke some English and understood our request.  They just rolled their eyes and translated to the Mongolian guide.  He instantly became belligerent and after asking confirming that we didn't understand German proceeded to yell at us in German.  The couple just watched and laughed.  Rob tried to appeal to the man but he was just brushed off.  We were getting angry ourselves at this point. We couldn't communicate with their beast of a guide and the couple, who did understand us, just tried to remove themselves from the situation.  When we tried to talk with them the guide came over and started to push Rob.  It was ridiculous.  I grabbed at the monster and he turned to swing at me.  The German-speaking woman thought this was great fun and started taking photos.  Eventually we just threw up our hands and went to move our own camp site.  We didn't come to the countryside to camp with people with didn't and, now, certainly didn't like, especially when there was acres of open space available.  A Mongolian woman who was with them tried to come over and explain that they had to camp there so they were closer to the toilet.  About 200 meters away was a herdsman's home and this was the first time we even noticed that there was an outhouse.  No other campers, including us, were concerned about using his outhouse.  I tried to explain that they could easily be farther from our campsite and still be the same radial distance from the outhouse but this was totally lost on them.  The Mongolian man came over again and tried to deliberately pick a fight with Rob and then with me.  He said he was a police officer and wanted our passports.  I looked at him and made a "you are crazy" gesture by twirling my finger at my head and pointing to him.  We then just turned our backs to him and kept undoing our campsite.  Amara didn't really see what happened and was confused by why we wanted to move but could see that this Mongolian man was out of control.  In his Mongolian del, screaming in German, he looked like some kind of Mongolian version of Hitler.  If we had thought that our simple request to move a bit farther away would have led to such a scene we would have just up and moved on our own.  It defies logic to become violent over something so trivial.  

After we had set up camp across the field, Amara went to drink with the guide and driver of the two Australian women.  He said it was his birthday and, either way, we didn't mind.  As it got later we regretted that we didn't have a lantern but as we sat in the dark, recollecting the past several days, we both concluded that the whole trip had been a real bust so far.  We were struggling to enjoy it and hoping it would get better and for all of the extra money we were spending we decided that we would rather just go back to Ulaan Baatar.


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