Friday 23rd May was pretty much a transit day for us, to get from Tosontsengel to Uliastai, in preparation for the next leg of our route. The distance was only 155km but, as we are learning, progress over the dirt roads in this part of Mongolia is slow. That 155km took us 7 hours to complete. The standard of the dirt road was pretty bad in most places. On some stretches, I was able to reach 50kph but on others we were slowed to the 20’s.
It was a cloudy day with intermittent rain showers for much of the journey, so we didn’t stop to take photos. Perhaps we were somewhat jaded by what we were seeing, after such stunning scenery over the previous two days. But the dashboard camera is always running, so here is a short clip from when we were descending a mountain pass, with a still-frozen river below to our left, and a forced stop so that a shepherd could get his sheep and goats across the road.
The regular rain showers and chilling wind also contributed to our decision to have a night in a hotel in Uliastai, rather than camp en-route to the next stop.
On arrival at Ulliastai, we located the Uliastai Hotel based on a report in the Lonely Planet. A ‘Luxe Twin’ with ensuite bathroom costs 60,000 MNT (less than $40) whereas a ‘Deluxe Twin’ (a suite with living area including leather couches) costs 120,000 MNT. We took the ‘Luxe Twin’. Strangely, whilst the water to the shower and wash-basin seem to work all of the time, the water to the toilet isn’t turned on until 8.00pm! However, the hotel provides a bucket that can be filled with water from the shower and then used to flush the toilet.
The hotel has free wifi, but it can only be accessed from the lobby. So the blog is being updated from one of the leather chairs in the hotel lobby.
We went to a nearby ‘Asian-fusion’ restaurant for dinner but the whole menu was in Mongolian. We were able to decipher the beef and chicken menu items, but then learned they had no beef in stock. We blindly selected the top chicken option on the menu. We got a chicken leg with rice. Asian fusion??
Tomorrow, we will depart Uliastai and try to find a large sand dune that has water flowing from it (a stream or a river). We’ve been told that it is near to Erdene-Khaikhan, so that will be our destination for Saturday.
When we leave Erdene-Khaikhan, we’ll route via Zavkhanmondal and Dorvoljin to Hom, which is on the eastern shore of Khan Nuur (Black Lake) in Khovd Aimag (there’s a smaller Khan Nuur close to Erdene-Khaikhan). I’ve seen Khan Nuur described as the most beautiful place in Mongolia, so I’m keen to see it for myself. We’ll then drive down the eastern shore of the lake, as well as the adjoining Dorgon Nur. We’ll probably then turn north, up the western side of the two lakes to reach the town of Dorgon/Durgan, at the northern end of Khan Us Nuur (Dark Lake). From there, we’ll head to the town of Khovd, as we’ll probably be in need of a good shower after a few nights of camping!
It is unlikely that we’ll find wifi again until we reach Khovd, so blog updates will likely be delayed.