The first leg of the Expedition ended in Hovd at midnight. But a hotel room was waiting for us and the hot shower was great. The next day Turuu, the Mongol student/artist who was participating in the first two weeks of the Expedition, and I, met with the guide and driver/cook who would take us on the next leg to Maikhan Nature Reserve and Jargalant Hairkhan Uul, a freestanding mountain which is part of the eastern tail end of the Altai Mountains. I had seen the mountain from a distance in 2006 and had done a painting of it at sunrise. I’d been curious about it and wanting to explore it ever since. Now I would get my wish, in ways I could never have envisioned. But first up was the nature reserve, about which I knew nothing except its location on a map.
We left Hovd the next morning heading south along the shore of Khar Us Nuur, stopping for photos along the way. The lake’s edge has the largest expanses of reedbeds left in Asia which are home to many species of birds and endangered wild boar.
There are very few access points to the lake. The one mentioned in the guidebooks is off the main road and has an observation tower, which is where we had lunch. What a view.
We continued on until the turn from tarmac to earth road, going southwest toward the reserve. Good thing we had a driver who knew the area because there were no signs to indicate which road to take.
Our guide had told us there was a cave we could visit. That was something I’d never encountered before in Mongolia so definitely wanted to see it.
After driving up a beautiful valley with a stream running through it and many aspen trees, we came to this place at the end of the road, our campsite for the night. Wow.
Turuu and I painted and sketched in the evening and the next morning and then it was time to move on. Back down the valley we traveled with our next destination in view….Jargalant Hairkhan Uul.
I had only seen the mountain, as I mentioned above, from a fair distance. I really had no idea of its scale until we started to get close. But I did know that we were heading into snow leopard habitat, where the World Wildlife Fund Mongolia has been doing research for some years. In a later post, I’ll be sharing what I learned about snow leopards in this part of Mongolia.
It was great having the whole next day to be in this place and have time to amble about and take pictures.
The second afternoon and evening it clouded up, so no evening light. I noted in my journal that at about 9:24pm bladder pressure reached the point where I had to go out and deal with it. It had already gotten quite windy and there had been a little rain on and off. I was back in my tent at (I checked) 9:27pm when a heavy downpour hit like someone had flipped a switch. Good timing.
As we headed back down the mountain after lunch, our guide said that the driver knew of another road that accessed the lakeshore, so of course we had to see that.
The beach was the last stop and then it was time to head back to Hovd.
Back in town, Turuu had to catch a flight back to Ulaanbaatar to register for university. I was sorry he couldn’t stay for the rest of the trip, but very glad he was along for most of it.
The next destination for the Expedition was also a place that I had been to for a very short time in 2006, Khomyn Tal, one of the three places where takhi/Przewalski’s horses have been reintroduced. The journey there and the three days I spent with the horses will be the subject of my next post.