Central Mongolia: "Terelj; Khustain; Zuunmod"

Ulan Bator

August 14, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Rather than subjecting myself to a difficult journey over less than adequate roads, I decided to follow Baaysa’s advice and take day-trips from Ulan Bator to the relatively close and accessible national parks.

There were three trips and each one provided a unique landscape.

I met Baaysa by chance in Bangkok, and with her friend Batschka and our driver, we traveled through some of the most gorgeous scenery I have ever encountered.

The first trip was a drive 55km northeast of UB to the alpine landscape of Gorkhi-Terelj National Perk (293,200 hectares - 724,500 acres).  We also made a detour to the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue at Tsonjin Boldog.  There we met a French couple who are peddling their way around the region on a motorized tandem bicycle.

Picnic lunch at the park: beef sausage, sliced cheese, sardines, brown bread, sweet pickles, apple juice, chocolate cookies.

The second trip was 100km southwest of UB to the mountain-steppe environment of Khustain National Park (50,620 hectares – 125,080 acres). Also known as Khustain Nuruu (Birch Mountain Range) we hoped to spot the takhi – the Mongolian wild horses.  On the road we met two guys from the Netherlands.  They were riding four-wheel all terrain vehicles across Mongolia.

Picnic again at Khustain. Same menu. 

I can tell you, there’s nothing better than sitting on the ground with friends beneath the “eternal blue sky” and having a picnic surrounded by the most astonishing scenery.  Better than a New Year’s Gala.  Better than a Captain’s Dinner. Better than an all-you-can-eat sushi bar!

The third trip was to Zuunmod (one hundred pine trees) 60km south of UB.  Outside the town and up on a hillside is the Mandshir Khiid Monastery.  The original temple is in ruins, but the adjacent building is partially restored and has a colorful museum. Here we met a young Australian traveler.  He was so sore. He had a 6km horseback ride.

There are ger camps at each of the parks.  If I ever return, I will stay overnight to see the dusk and the dawn at these wonderful places.

My friends, I will not subject you to my thesaurus-activated adjectival outburst.  The images of the Mongolian mountains will provide the descriptions.  Words are inadequate.  Words fail.

There is one new word, though, that comes to mind.  In the past, in such circumstances, I have felt fortunate.  And I know I am.  But this time I feel something different.  “Privileged” is the new word.  I feel privileged to encounter such a place as Mongolia.   


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