Day 20: Ogii Nuur - Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur Travel Blog› entry 22 of 34 › view all entries
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :-(