Day 49 : UB to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

4 September 2010

High Point

Personally – actually getting out on the open road, after months of anticipation and a few days in limbo in UB while Martha was in service, this was it, the day had dawned! Bye bye city streets – the rumbling roads and big skies of Mongolia were beckoning. Yee-ha!

For all of us – finding a fantastic little ger for the night in the most brilliant setting near Terelj was a really welcome treat.  Looking out across rolling hills dotted with gers, horses & goats and towering rocky mountains to our backs, scenery so perfect it hardly seemed real.Low Point

It’s hard to find one – although Ross might say that the prospect of driving Martha over a seriously rickety creaky old wooden bridge into the National Park (with a concrete one nearby glaring mockingly at him in its half-built state) was not exactly his favourite part of the day. A few tense moments but Martha and her Billy Goats Gruff successfully avoided the abyss. And any trolls.

Author’s Comments

Steve and Ross had a slight air of dejectedness about them as we packed up the engine ready to leave the garage in UB. The layover in UB had been their longest stop on the expedition so far and just enough time for them to get used to the creature comforts of a hotel (hot running water and a comfy bed being high up on the list) and for the sense of urgency and purpose that goes with being on the road every day trucking from point to point, to wear off slightly. But as soon as we cleared the city (complete with a rubbish traffic jam just for good measure) and the wide horizon opened up before them, the smiles were back on their faces – Mongolia’s stunning vistas and the challenge of negotiating its roadless terrain quickly put paid to any desire for what the urban sprawl of UB might have had to offer. Happy campers back on the expedition once again 🙂

As Martha had been home to two rounds of boys for the past 6 weeks – and we all know how boys can be a little bit lax sometimes when it comes to keeping themselves and their surroundings clean – I was a wee bit concerned about just how stinky the inside of Martha’s cab was going to be. She was actually surprisingly fresh, no doubt helped by the fact that the old girl had had a few days in the garage to air out. The dust and dirt is another story though, but we can’t blame the boys entirely for that; it is impossible to keep clean here, everything is permanently covered in a thick layer of dust, that gets into everything and sticks everywhere. Nice. We love it though, a dirty expedition, is a proper expedition!

Day 49 Ulaanaatur to Gorkhi Terelj. Mongolia (3 of 13) En route to Terelj we took a little detour to see a monument to Mongolia’s main man, Chinggis Khaan. He would’ve been proud indeed, the thing is IMMENSE! A 40m high sculpture of a horse with Chinggis sitting atop it, golden whip in hand, all in gleaming silvery metal. Apparently it was built with $4.1 million of private money. Sadly we arrived too late to take a ride in the lift inside the horse (there’s a phrase I never imagined I’d need to write!). The consensus from ground level though was that either Chinggis was actually a giant man or he liked to ride teeny tiny horses.  

Our destination for the night was Gorkhi-Terelj National Park which is apparently where weary Ulaan Baataarites go to escape the madness of the city.  It certainly is a peaceful place; no other sound bar animal noises and the chattering of children greeted our ears for hours. We celebrated the aforementioned bridge crossing with a coffee break and cheeky nap beside the river, before winding our way further up into the mountains on the hunt for an ideal place to set up camp for the night. A small ger camp tucked away in a corner between rocky outcrops and with a commanding view of the valley below looked very appealing, so we trundled up to the gates. For reasons only known to James and the man with 4 dogs we were denied access. Boo. But a quick rethink and a chat with a local lady on the next hillside and she agreed to let us rent her spare ger. Even better! She and her family were incredibly hospitable, quickly rustling up some dinner and sorting us out with beds. The slices of yak cheese hanging on a string over the table was a bit random though and a bit smelly 🙂

Day 49 Ulaanaatur to Gorkhi Terelj. Mongolia (11 of 13) Our own little ger, Martha parked up in front to watch over us, some tasty dinner with random mini crinkle-cut chips mixed in, and all the stars you could wish upon hovering above our heads. Happy days!

 I’d just like to thank Steve and the FTFE crew for the opportunity to come and join them on board the expedition, it wasn’t something that I’d anticipated getting the chance to do. I was somewhat of a latecomer to FTFE, at first just sharing knowledge and advice from my past experience working on ‘Long Way Round’  and then becoming more and more heavily involved with the preparation and planning in any way I was needed as the months rolled on. To actually be here on the road is a real privilege and I appreciate every minute of it. To get to live out what you’ve been helping to plan is an absolute delight. I have to admit I did have my worries about being the first girl to jump on board after it having been all boys so far, to be the only newbie to join at the time and at mid-stage when everyone else is settled into their routine and knows exactly what’s what – but I needn’t have feared. Steve, Ross & James have been incredibly welcoming, teaching me what I need to know and making sure I’m doing ok. Thanks boys! That’s not to say they’re giving me an easy ride, far from it! – nobody is safe from the crazy amount of teasing that flies around in the cab but that’s what keeps the spirits high. I hope they enjoy having me on the crew as much as I enjoy being part of it, I know they at least enjoy getting my leftovers when I can only manage a girl-sized portion of dinner 🙂

Let the adventure continue!


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One Response to “Day 49 : UB to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park”

  1. Great to hear you’ve slotted in Ailsa. Happy Days indeed. Thank you boys from me & Pete.