Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ovoo, Dead volcano and the White lake under the stars

After a lot of discussions, our little group reached the conclusion that we needed a vehicle and a driver to go around in Mongolia due to lack of proper public transportation. We decided that the vehicle and driver would continue with us at least till Erdenet via Lake Khuvsgul, making the total journey worth about 1200 kms..finding a driver in Mongolia, especially out of UB is not very easy and we were particularly lucky to find one while just strolling the town...a pen, a diary, a map and a mobile phone were our means of communication with the driver...negotiations lasted for half an hour and within next 1 hour, we were ready to move on...we were now joined by a couple of German ladies who needed a ride till white lake, which is about 170 kms from the town..
Our 4WD
So, our group set off in the newly hired comfy vehicle..for next 4 hours, we came across hardly any vehicles, gers, town or any human presence...it was an empty world...only some inch-high grass on hills and ever-present blue sky...snow capped mountains were straight in front of us, giving us a company for a long time, hiding themselves sometimes with the turns and then returning again in sight...

A large gap in the earth appeared on our right side, which turned out to be a river far below...we stopped near the river by a pilgrimage tree and the sacred rock pile called Ovoo.... if you come across such a place, you need to add a rock to the pile, circle around the pile for 3 times and then go ahead...and if you are in a hurry, in a vehicle, just blow the horn thrice..
Road to the mountains


A sacred tree


Continuing on, our driver stopped abruptly at a base of a mountain, asked us to get out of the car and climb the mountain...as we started climbing, rubble started to increase and we realised that it was indeed the famous dead volcano...there are two big craters in the mountain, one at center-top and one just below it...the view from the top is stunning..bordered by a few hills and a small portion of white lake visible..soon the cold became unbearable and we had to climb down...at the base, in a small temparary structure a woman and her daughter were selling fresh hot goat milk...a little casual chat with them, warm smiles on their faces and a glass of goat milk gave us enough energy to fight off the cold..


View from the top

Goat-milk sellers with Adrian (Australian) on right

We headed onwards and passed through a small village (another seemingly deserted location) before reaching White Lake..September is end of summer and most of the Ger camps had wound up business and moved back to the nearby villages...but there were a couple of Ger camps still open for latecomers like us..and one camp offered us rate of about USD 6-7 per person per night...

We were quite enthusiastic for our first experience in the ger and were thrilled to see the inner structure...it is simple, with one single pole in the middle, surrounded by a wooden net on which animal-hide etc is wrapped..in the middle there's a small stove which kept burning by feeding wood, to keep the cold away..

As we came out of the ger and we beheld the beauty surrounding the ger camp..white lake is a great expanse of the lake...blue sky reflected its clear water and the white ger camps stood out from the green grass surrounding the lake..clear sun-light meant bright colors everywhere..but the weather changed with lapse of a moment and blue sky was converted into the shade of grey..dark clouds started gathering and storm was in the offing..soon, it started to snow..and in spite of tiredness and cold, the whole group burst with joy..we started enjoying the first snow in Mongolia..but every now and then, we went back in the ger to get some warmth from the stove, before going back in the storm again..

Nachiket, Victor and Adrian- My 3 companions

Our first Ger

Ger camp by the lake

Storm in the offing

White lake

Mongolian Supper

The storm lasted only for a while and went away leaving behind a thin snow sheet...the sky was clear again, but the sun had sunk in...soon, the snow sheet would melt away and the stars would spring back to life...to say that there were a lot of stars would be like saying there's lot of water in the ocean..the sky that night was an ocean of stars...with a crescent moon smiling proudly...it was the first time i saw the milky way with my naked eyes...it was a perfect day and it was a perfect night..and it ended perfectly with traditional hot Mongolian meal of soup and Mongolian nan-like bread..