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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



July 20. DAY SIX: UGI LAKE  When we heard Amara return the night before Rob explained that we were just going to return to UB but he was too drunk to really understand.  When we got up in the morning and started to pack up he looked puzzled. We reiterated that we just wanted to go back to UB.  The weather was just consistent bad luck and we didn't want to travel through the Monoglian countryside with loads of tourists.  It was scenic but hadn't taken our breath away and started to become monotonous.   

In the morning the horsemen came by again to rent their horses.  We said that we were leaving but in order to be hospitable we served them up some coffee and soup.  Amara came through so often with tourists that he knew all of the local people pretty well.  Another friend of his arrived with a cooked marmot and some fresh cheese and a hard yogurt. We had hoped to get on the road early so we could get back to UB in two days but decided we should let them eat their marmot.   Actually, it was quite a sight.  We had never seen a cooked marmot before.  The animal was charred black but, with the exception of the head, was still intact.  Amara explained that the head was removed so they could insert hot rocks into the animal to cook it.  When they sliced open the belly a bunch of fairly large rocks were crammed inside.  Inserting them in through the neck seemed more plausible than the story I had read about them being inserted via the backend.   They tossed the rocks aside and began to eat the different bits of meat and drink the fatty liquid inside.  We politely declined to try the marmot because it is known to carry the black plaque.  Cooked it shouldn't a problem but it was too early for me to be so adventurous anyway.   In order not to seem appreciative we tried the fresh cheese and yogurt and made sure they knew how much we liked it.  The cheese was soft and had a nice taste.  The yogurt was interesting because it had been made into hard biscuit-like pieces.  It tasted like yogurt but more sour in its hardened state.  It wasn't bad but was different.  

Before the local men left we offered the children some candy, took some Polaroid photos for them, and offered them a bottle of vodka.  It was probably about 10am by the time we drove off.  We explained to Amara that we were tired of the heavily touristed locations so he suggested a smaller lake, Ugi Lake, about halfway back to UB.  It sounded good to us.

It was the first full day of sun that we had experienced during our countryside trip.  We knew that we were traveling in the rainy season but normal conditions are some rain every few days, not steady rains for weeks at a time.  It was unfortunate but at least we had one nice day to enjoy the scenery.   We went back via Tsetserleg and then turned off onto a road that went north of the one we had come out on.  It was our longest day of driving yet but we both found our spirits lifted by the fact that we were on our way back.

Ugi Lake was in a very desolate and peaceful location.  The grassland was flatter than the White Lake but the solitude was really nice.  We thought that we were entirely alone until we walked down to the lake shore and spotted a large tour group at the end of the lake.  There must have been about 10 matching tents.  One fellow passed us as he searched for a decent spot to fish (according to Amara there wasn't one because of the rain).  He said "Bon Jour" so it was most likely a French tour group.  Throughout our time in Mongolia the French and German tour groups had been very conspicuous.  The group was too far away for us to care but it did indicate just how touristy Mongolia was during this time of year.  Even the tour groups were stopping at this seemingly off-the-beaten-track location.

We hadn't seen many bugs when we pulled up, which had been a bonus, but they just waited to come out after dark.  These were the masses of grasshoppers that filled every square foot. Instead, we had some swarming population of little flies.   Amara went to bed before dark but we sat up in the van to watch the sun go down.  The humming of the swarming bugs got louder and louder as it got later.  Walking from the tent to the van it was hard not to take a few into your mouth.  From inside the van we could watch them land by the thousands on the windows.  They were small white flies and seemed to be shedding themselves of their larval encasings, leaving their tiny empty shells attached to the windows.  It was sort of interesting but also pretty gross. They were doing the same thing on our tent.  We considered sleeping in the van but the gas fumes were too strong and at about 11:00 (still a bit light out) a local man came rushing up to the van by horseback and tried to sell us fish.  What would we do with fish at 11:00 at night?  Anyway, we made a dash for the tent, holding our breath so we didn't eat any flies.  I had almost mistaken a large cicada bug for the tent zipper earlier so we looked closely before unzipping the door and jumping in.  The cicada bug in Mongolia is a fairly large clackety bug with gangly legs, a potato-ey body and a strange tail that curls like a scorpion (apparently harmless to people).  We heard the swarm of flies above our tent well into the night.

July 21. DAY SEVEN: BACK TO UB  The drive from Ugi Lake to UB was very long and probably the bumpiest stretch of road yet. Amara was driving very quickly and occasionally hit some big potholes that sent us flying.  There was another set of old Uigher ruins along the way but all we ended up seeing was another destroyed 17th c. monastery.  We tried to explain that we wanted to see the older ruins but Amara said that we didn't want to see those because they were made of dirt.  He just didn't understand the historical significance.  Anyway, they appears to be off of the main road and since Amara didn't really know the way we didn't have the time or the patience to pursue it.

In the afternoon we started to look for gas in the tiny towns.  Gas had been a problem during our trip because the people traveling for Naadam had used up a lot of the gas.  Many stations just didn't have any left which meant that those with gas left gouged us on the price.  But, by late afternoon, we would have paid almost anything for some gas.  We were getting dangerously low and the two towns we passed through didn't have any gas left.  From the look of them it was a surprise that they had a gas station at all.  They looked like the Mongolian version of our old western towns with dilapidated wooden homes and ancient gas pumps.  All they needed were some tumbleweeds.

After the towns we didn't pass hardly any sign of life for hours.   There wasn't even a ger in sight.  We had wanted to see some remote areas and now were were remote and without any gasoline.  We held our breath over every pass in hopes that we would see the little town of Lun, our last gas opportunity.  We finally rolled in around 5:00 with the gas needle bobbing on empty.   We were back on paved road at this point.  It was more comforting since Amara had been crank starting the van for two days now.  Since his starter had become exposed it was getting harder to start and fortunately the Russian vans came equipped with a crank.

We rolled into UB around 7:30 and were ever so happy to be back.  


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