Leaving the Russian Altai was quite a bit of a hassle with border crossing and customs. Eventually we did make it into Mongolia. The way into this wild country was actually Mongolian rough from the beginning. Ten kilometers before we even got to the border control the asphalt ended and we got a glimpse of what’s there to come. The actual border crossing began with just a tire disinfection and ended in a disaster with endless discussions with border control. Well just before closing time everyone wanted to go home and we were in after 8 hours. So right after the border we were invited by a Mongolian guy to have chai with them.
Right after sitting down at their place bagging started. The place full of tourist stuff like camp chairs, tables, Sigg bottles and so on … I just had to turn down the questions for binoculars, cell phones and just about everything else. First impression was done anyways. As the country is very big we have planned to stay here quite some time. To get our visa extended we went to the Olgi immigration office. Wanting to drive the northern, most remote route, we stocked up everything and headed of after just about 2 days. The route was absolutely fabulous and the road unbelievably bad. Fortunately the most critical part of the road was just two days in. So we were able to cross this 80cm river quite early on the route. I guess we were quite lucky, as the summer was quite hot and dry this year, so the whole country is not just as green as we had imagined. So after a few day we reached Ulangom, a small town in the northwest of the country and parked just outside of the city. The spot turned out to be not so good. A few kids came to talk to us and explain us that we would park on the cemetery… Okay… so they took us to their grannies yurt where we had a really nice time. So the second meeting with Mongolians was really nice, thanks to Nomin and her family.
From there on we took the central route along the Orkhon valley and Kharkorin all the way to Ulan Bator as there was a bunch of stuff to get done. After a few days we headed out to the great Khan Statue with some friends. Check out their blogs on Tick, Trick and Track.
So what was still missing, was the famous Gobi desert. Of course we had to go see the highest desert on the planet. It turned out to be quite busy at the Gobi attractions at this time of the year. It was the time of the very important Naadam festival. A competition where the traditional Mongolian sports archery, horse racing and wrestling was carried out. As we were not really keen to see this in Ulan Bator, we chose a very small town in the middle of the desert. The place turned out to be more like a very small village which was very cool. Getting very close to the spectators was quite a nice experience. The little boys racing on horses and the wrestlers were impressive.
As time was flying we had to get back to Ulan Bator. More about that later on...