We left Ulaanbaatar on the morning of Monday 19th May, headed towards the Erdene Zuu monastery, located in the town of Kharkhorin. It was a 7-hour drive to get to Kharkhorin as some of the roads were terribly pot-holed. So much so that the locals prefer to use dirt tracks that run alongside the paved/gravel road.
It rained during the morning, which the animals loved, as they all congregated on the roads to drink from the puddles!
The skies had cleared by the time we reached Kharkhorin and we found a place to camp in a section of the Orkhon National Park, on the edge of Kharkorin. The next morning, however, a dark cloud passed overhead and dropped a combination of rain, snow and hail. The shower was short-lived, however, and the tent was soon dry enough to take down and pack away.
On Tuesday morning we went to the Erdene Zuu monastery, reportedly one of the earliest surviving monasteries in Mongolia, with building having commenced in 1585. We had a wander around the site and took a few photos.
After our visit to Erdene Zuu, we planned to visit the Tovkhon Khiid monastery, about 80km away. However, the Garmin plotted a route that included at least 60km over dirt tracks that would have taken too long. Our desire to see another monastery wasn’t that strong, so we changed course back to a paved road and headed for the town of Tsetserleg. Tsetserleg wasn’t on our original schedule, but we’ve decided to amend the route, skipping Bulgan and taking this alternate route to Khovsgol Nuur.
For the past two days, we’ve stopped at roadside cafes for lunch. Both have been very basic premises with limited menus but the food has been good and inexpensive (approximately $2.60 for a plate of noodles with mutton, or a soup with noodles, dumplings and mutton). Ordering food in these places is a challenge though, as the menu is i Mongolian and the owners don’t speak any English. Yesterday we just pointed at the noodle dish that another patron was eating and today, we took a chance and pointed to a random item on the menu (turned out to be the soup).
We’re now at Fairfield’s Guest House in Tsetserleg for the night. Tomorrow we start the leg towards Khovsgol Nuur (a big lake).