Day 20: Ogii Nuur - Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur Travel Blog

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the road to white lake

another looooong drive on bumpy roads. The stunning surroundings made the endurance worthwhile though. We drove through green grassy hills for most of the day, and just when I started wondering if the country would be entirely devoid of trees I saw my first tree in Mongolia - and my second - and then a whole forest!!

It is unclear to me whether forests have been cleared or that trees simply don't grow on the steppes, but it was somewhat weird to see trees again for the first time in almost two week. The sight was almost unnatural.

The lunch stop today was at a 'restaurant' which was little more than a ger by the side of the road. We were ushered inside by an elderly lady, positioned on one side of the Ger, next to various pieces of raw meat hanging from the wall, and before we knew it we were treated to several Mongolian 'delecacies' to try.

'restaurant' in the middle of nowhere

- Yak cheese - not something I could recommended, really. Unlike the creamy camel cheese we'd sampled last week, this stuff is so hard you'll sooner break off a piece of your tooth than a piece of the cheese. Once you've finally managed to bite of a bit the taste isn't too bad though. A bit like goat cheese, but blander.
- Yak yoghurt on the other hand is absolutely delicious. Add a bit of sugar and you'll the have best tasting breakfast/side dish/desert in Mongolia. Strange we never had it anywhere until today, nor did we ever have after today... Weird really, because this is proof that Mongolian cuisine does exist and can have flavour, but it is hardly served anywhere.
- The cold sausage made from sheep intestines was a bit more 'acquired taste' and for both Robbel and Anita not worth trying.
Robbel picking her cut for lunch
I always adopt a more 'try anything once' approach so I braved the thought of eating intestines and clotted blood (hey, I have eaten Haggis, how bad can this be?) and was surprised by the very mild taste. This was actually pretty good! For a bite of two...

After this our hosts started cooking our lunch, which took the best part of the afternoon. Everything was made by hand and from scratch, slicing tiny pieces of mutton off the bone, cutting some carrots (not too much, carrots being a vegetable and all) and potatoes and making noodles by hand. The entire meal was cooked in a single wok over the wood-fired stove.
Of course we'd been eating these type of meals for over a week already, but by actually seeing them prepare the food we were reminded of just how primitive these people live in their gers, and how efficient they can work with the few utensils available.

local kids entertaining stupid tourists

While waiting for lunch to be prepared the four of us went outside to be entertained by some local kids who happily posed to our photos. A little too happily perhaps, as they kept on asking for photos long after we felt we'd shot enough, but we happily obliged nonetheless. Long live digital cameras!
The meal was almost a let-down after the build-up. After the interesting starters and the time spent with the kinds, it was almost disappointing to find the cooks had just spent over an hour preparing just the same bland noodles with mutton we'd been having for most of our time in Mongolia. That said, it was freshly made and most certainly tasted fresh so there wasn't any reason to complain.

Back on the road again we had more bumps and more beautiful views.

Chuluut canyon
We made a late afternoon stop at the Chuluut gorge, Mongolia's claim to a Grand Canyon. This scenic spot atop some dramatic cliffs looking down to the Chuluut river made a nice stop to stretch our legs, shot some photos and crack open the first beers.

From there onwards it was only an hour more to our final destination: Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, or the Great White Lake. This volcanic lake was created thousands of years ago by lava flows from the nearby Khorgo Uul volcano and is generally regarded as the second-most scenic lake in Mongolia (and since the most scenic, Khövsgöl, was off-limits due to our time schedule, we had to make do).
Well, second-most scenic or not, the idyllic setting admidst green enxtinct volcano cones was beautiful and perfect for our two-day stop.

ovoo overlooking White Lake

Yes, two-day stop. Unlike the previous tour where we had to move on each and every day, we would have a whole day to spend leisurely at the lake.
The ger camp we were staying was one of the most beautiful of our entire Mongolia trip too, with a beautifully decorated ger and by far the best outhouse in the whole of Mongolia. Not a simple stinking hole in the ground, no on the contrary, the hole was covered up completely, with air-vents eliminating the smell, and the best of all: it had real seats! Silly really, how you value such things after a couple of weeks on the road.

We put our bags in the Ger, and went down to the lake shore to enjoy the last rays of sunshine. We took the remainder of our beers with us to cool in the icy waters, so that we could enjoy a cold beer at least once during this trip.

our ger at Tsagaan Nuur

Robbel and Anita braved the cold waters of the lake and took a dive, but nameless travel companion nr 4 and I didn't dare touching the waters, and stayed on the shore sipping our beers while being entertained by a young dog which seemed to have taken a great liking to us (for the next two days it would follow us anywhere we went, and it would guard our ger all night long)

After sunset we went back to our ger and played some cards. So far it had been an absolutely perfect day, but it was at this point that our fourth travel companion took a turn for the worse. With the beers nearly gone and us wanting to save some for the next day, he cracked open a bottle of vodka. Less than an hour later, that bottle was empty. I looked into my glass, and noticed I hadn't even finished my first glass.

Travbuddies and guard dog
Neither Robbel nor Anita had had any vodka, so all the spirit had disappeared into our Australian/South African friend. And he looked the part...
His cardgame got continuously worse and would under normal circumstances have been funny, if it hadn't been for his extremely loud and obnoxious double tongue speak, and him laughing to his own jokes at least once every three words. So playing cards was swiftly abolished, and we opted for an early night instead. Ah, the stupid decisions one can make in such a situation... The moment he lay down in bed he immediately started snoring incredibly loud. This just wasn't funny. He was so loud, the ground thundered and the neighbours came over to warn us for earthquakes.
I am not a violent person, but at that moment I was able to muffle the guy with a pillow long enough to make him stop breathing full stop! I controlled myself though and instead I kicked him several times to make him roll over, though that didn't stop the noise at all.
Tsagaan Nuur
The only solution was to plug in my headphones and listen to music all night.

We had four more days to go on this trip, with two nights to spend in this beautiful idyllic place, yet but in one evening this guy had managed to ruin the experience for us. :-(

naj81 says:
Aaargh..feel sorry for u!
Posted on: Jan 31, 2010
vodkaphix says:
Unfortunately 4u there is always one bad apple in the cart!!! shame tho er?
Posted on: Apr 21, 2009
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the road to white lake
the road to white lake
restaurant in the middle of nowh…
'restaurant' in the middle of now…
Robbel picking her cut for lunch
Robbel picking her cut for lunch
local kids entertaining stupid tou…
local kids entertaining stupid to…
Chuluut canyon
Chuluut canyon
ovoo overlooking White Lake
ovoo overlooking White Lake
our ger at Tsagaan Nuur
our ger at Tsagaan Nuur
Travbuddies and guard dog
Travbuddies and guard dog
Tsagaan Nuur
Tsagaan Nuur
the road to white lake
the road to white lake
local Mongolian kid
local Mongolian kid
Chuluut Gorge
Chuluut Gorge
Tsagaan Nuur (Great White Lake)
Tsagaan Nuur (Great White Lake)
Tsagaan Nuur
Tsagaan Nuur
youre selling me what now?
you're selling me what now?
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur
photo by: Deats