The random selection of food carried over to dinner this evening, when we went to a Mongolian cafe in Tsetserleg. As usual, the menu was only available in Mongolian, but this time we were armed with a pocket phrase book that we thought might help.
When the waitress (who is also the chef) arrived with the menu, we pointed to the words for chicken and beef, hopeful that she would let us know which of the menu items included them. Fat chance! We soon learned that every single item on the menu included mutton. The only choices were how the mutton was prepared. So we tried another tack, and pointed to the word for vegetables in the phrase book. The waitress then pointed to two of the items on the menu. Klaus chose one and I chose the other. Surprisingly, this somewhat random selection process is working, as we keep getting enjoyable food. Klaus got a meal with mutton and veggies over rice. I got a meal somewhat like a Foo Yung, with egg as well as veggies and mutton – and with rice on the side.
The meal prices were the same as the roadside lunches we’ve had – 4,500 MNT (about $2.60 per entree). We each had two Tiger beers and the total bill for two came to about $10.
Prior to dinner, I’d taken a wander around Tsetserleg and walked up the steps to the town’s monastery. Built on a hill, it provides a good overview of the town. Tsetserleg will be the largest town we encounter for the rest of our time in Mongolia
Our route for the next few days has seen some changes since we arrived in Tsetserleg. Initially, our route was to take us past Bulgan to Khovsgol Nuur (lake) which is on the northern route across Mongolia. We have now scrapped the visit to Khovsgol Nuur. We spoke this afternoon with the owner of the Fairfield Guest House to try to glean some local knowledge about the route options. As a result, we will leave Tseterleg tomorrow and head to Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake) where we will camp. The next day, we will head towards Jargalant (via Tariat) as it is said to be a beautiful route that will take us up into the tree-line (we see very few trees in Mongolia). Once we get to Jargalant, there is a concrete bridge that will allow us to cross to the northern side of the Ider River. We will then drive north-west, along the river and past Ikh-Uul, to reach Tosontsengel. We therefore have 2-3 nights of camping ahead of us, with nightly forecasts still hovering at or below zero degrees C. Glad I brought some wooly hats!
Once we get to Tosontsengel, we’ll seek local advice on the state of the roads and, in particular, the depth of the river crossings, so that we can make a determination on whether we can attempt the northern/middle routes towards the Khar Nuur (Black Lake) and Khovd, or whether we’ll have to take the southern route with its washboard corrugations via Uliastai, Altai and Khovd.