After 2 nights and 1 days rest in the bustling town of Arvaikheer it was time to move north again, this time the destination was the Ulaan Tsutgalan Waterfall which I had read about before coming to Mongolia, it is also sometimes known as the Red Waterfall.
The only thing that stood in our way was a Mountain Range, how hard could it be?
After some Bike maintenance and Fuel we headed out of town and not long after left the Bitumen road behind again, this type of road we wouldn’t see again for a few days.
Almost as soon as we rode onto the dirt the Mongolian Roller Coaster returned again and we continued riding up large hills and through rocky Valleys punctuated with only a small town or two.
Gates to the small town of Uyanga, Population: Hardly Any…..
Just after Uyanga the day got interesting, it appears that the valley to the north of the town has become a giant Quarry, I’m not sure if they have started Exploratory Mining or what is happening here but it started off with a few diversionary tracks (the GPS Track was useless because all the tracks had been moved during excavation) and a couple of light Creek Crossings.
Further on the tracks went everywhere and it became difficult to figure out where we were going or if we were accidentally riding in the Quarry with all the Dump Trucks and Excavators driving everywhere. One track we followed up a sandy hill and once I got to the top I realised that they had changed the road on me and now there was a cross road with a loaded dump truck heading my way.
It was too late to stop so with hopeless optimism and the words ‘keep momentum’ ringing in my ears I tried to accelerate through, I made it to the other side then hit a soft patch of sand and the bike went down.
This was a slow one and there is nothing you can do but to step off the bike so you don’t get anything caught in it when it falls. I waved to Kinga to stop which she promptly did only to lose balance and drop her bike also, we both had a laugh and photos were taken as the Truck driver rushed back with a worried look on his face to help us lift the bikes.
Luckily it was only a few more Kilometres of Quarry and we rode up a nice stony track to the top of a tree lined ridge.
And down the other (Steep) side to yet another beautiful Valley.
With a small Creek Crossing.
Where we ran into these guys.
Always the same question “How fast does it go?”
And where we sighted our very first Mongolian Yak.
I tried to do the David Attenborough and sneak up on this little guy nearly falling into the creek in the process due to the slippery rocks, I know he is thinking “what is this idiot doing?”
Then it was more of this.
One of these that needed a half hour long detour through Marsh Land where my front wheel fell into a hole. (Sorry no photo, I was busy)
And a few of these.
Then we headed up again out of the Valley. (Arty Photo with Filter)
And it seemed back into Russia where there were trees.
Which created this for us to negotiate.
Then more Trucks and dust.
To yet another spectacular Valley.
Until we arrived exhausted at the Majestic Gates of Bat-Ulzii.
Where once again one of the local shop keepers closed his shop jumped on his Motorcycle and guided us to one of the local Cafe’s for dinner.
As it had been a long day and was now getting late the priority became finding a good camp site for the night and I just couldn’t go past this tree, if it can survive like that here then we can too.
That night there was a stampede outside our tents, I didn’t dare go out and look but I guess we had camped right in the middle of the Yak and Horse Freeway and it sounded like they were running over the top of us.
The next morning they were all back for round two.
Complete with a friendly driver.
We packed up and got back on the bikes hoping that today was going to be a short and easy run through the stunning Orkhan Valley to the Ulann Tsutgalan Waterfall. But no Mongolia had not finished with us yet we still had a few more of these to negotiate.
After a few more creek crossings, one in particular where I got stranded with my skid plate resting on the football sized rocks I stopped worrying about photos and video and just concentrated on getting the bike through without dropping it in the water.
After a few hours of ‘fun’ we finally made it.
Ulann Tsutgalan is the largest of only a few Waterfalls in Mongolia and this is only around one tenth of its usual capacity, I would love to see it covered in snow in the winter.
Unfortunately it is becoming more popular as a tourist attraction and was fenced off but we got told to ride around it, another plus for Motorcycles. I think one day too soon this will be a fenced off, pay to get in tourist attraction with a million rules and regulations to protect it. One good thing is they did have toilets, well drop toilets (If you haven’t used one its an experience and you need strong thighs).
After some lunch at a local Ger we were back on the ‘road’ through the Valley hoping to make Kharkhorin before dark. This time we went on a different track, I think Kinga was annoyed with the Creek Crossings from this morning but I was the one with the wet boots. So this track was drier but also full of sharp tyre ripping rocks and it kept disappearing, one minute it was a loosely defined track next minute you were in the centre of a river of rocks looking for where the track begins again. It did have a Bridge though.
The track continued towards Kharkorin along the Orkhan River Valley which was absolutely spectacular it is little wonder that this area is UNESCO Heritage Listed.
As we arrived in Kharkorin the rain started and so did the circus of trying to find somewhere to sleep. After trying a few Hotels we found a reasonably priced Ger at a Guesthouse, parked the bikes and unpacked, this one had its own Guard Dog.
The next morning it seemed the Guard Dog had grown a lot overnight….and also turned into a completely different breed. The bad news was I was shortly going to take my bike and he would lose his shade. The dog actually belongs to a French girl who arrived late last night. She has two horses and the Dog and is slowly travelling around Mongolia, mostly camping and occasionally staying in Hostels.
So today I part ways with my riding companion as Kinga has decided to head straight towards the Russian Border to make up for some lost time, she has also had some bad bruising on her leg she injured in the fall back at the Ice Canyon and will go to the local hospital and get it amputated….ah I mean X rayed. Me I have nearly two weeks to go before I can go back to Russia so I have plenty more exploring to do.
Starting right now with a visit to the Historic Ruins of the ancient city of Karakorum just down the road which served as the capital of the Mongolian Empire for a short time back in the days of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, all that is left is the walls, so why pay to go in when you can see it from outside.
From Karkhorin I was heading north to Lake Ugii to see what that was like and hopefully camp there for a night or two.
I punched the destination into my trusty GPS and off I went west out of town and over the bridge.
Back on the Mongolian Roller Coaster.
And back into the Orkhan Valley again, where the Eagles are massive.
Ok River on my left that must mean I follow the River north through the Valley to Lake Ugii….right…..
Wrong….. as I was sitting on this rock above having a snack I checked my Maps Me App to see how far north I had travelled….only to find I had crossed the river and was heading south. I checked the GPS to find I had mistakenly punched in the location of the waterfall instead. Lucky I checked it now with only an hour wasted heading south…but its not really wasted when you have scenery like this. So back to town.
Past the Guesthouse I started at and onto this boring mind numbing road.
Which didn’t last that long and before I knew it I was looking down on Lake Ugii.
With a maximum depth of 15 metres the water is not as cold as some of the deeper lakes and the Horses seem to be making the most of it.
I headed around the north side of the lake and set up camp. It was very quiet with no one around and I thought I had found the best camp site in the world…….but the moment I finished setting up the tent out came millions of flying insects. At first I thought they were mosquitos so I grabbed what food I could and headed for the sanctuary of the Tent.
I had read about an Insect similar to Mosquitos called Chironomidae that looked the same but did not bite, that would explain why I got to the tent before I gave away my 9 litres of blood to millions of them.
So I sat eating my dinner while Millions of these things stuck to the outside of my tent, I guess I would be eating in tonight.
As darkness came the Chironomidae went off to hell to sleep and it went quite. Then without warning the wind picked up and got stronger and stronger to the point I was worried the tent would fly away with me in it, I have never been worried about this tent. I could hear millions of grains of sand hitting the walls and roof of the tent then 3 of the pegs were blown out of the ground. I spent the next 2 hours spread eagle across the floor of the tent trying to stop it from blowing away. At the same time fine sand was pouring in from the two small mesh vents in the ceiling and ended up everywhere, In Russia it was a Snow Storm now here in Mongolia I was being pounded by a Sand Storm.
After the storm finished I slept soundly covered in sand. When I woke up the sun was burning through the tent and I could see my friends had come back from hell and were once again covering every inch of my tent. I had been smart this time as when I noticed them appear yesterday I took my riding gear and helmet into the tent, so once I tipped the sand out I got dressed in my full gear and helmet and launched myself out the door into billions of swarming Chironomidae. When I got outside I noticed I had acquired another friendly Mongolian Dog and he couldn’t care less about the swarm of bugs, no doubt he knew they didn’t bite and he thought I was just being a sook.
So I threw him a couple of Biscuits to eat and jumped on the Bike as quickly as I could and rode about 100 metres away from the Lake until I knew the bugs were not following me. Then I put my Visor down and went back into the swarm to grab the tent which I roughly rolled up, stuck it loosely on the back of my bike and rode to safety away from the Lake.
After stopping to pack the tent and gear properly well away from the Lake it was back to work in the sand heading to Tsetserleg, but at least they had a working bridge for me here.
After around 40 kilometres of sand and gravel I was back on a highway heading to Tsetserleg for a few days off work.
I had read about the Fairfield Guesthouse in Tsetserleg in a few blogs during my prep and it sounded like a place I could spend a few days and catch up on things before heading west, and it is. Its owned by an Australian couple who are great and have a lot of advice on where to travel around Mongolia in fact Murray jumped out of his chair and met me at reception when he heard the familiar Aussie Accent. Its not the cheapest place in town but is still very affordable, is very clean, the internet and showers work, the Café food is excellent and they have secure parking out back for my bike, can’t ask for anymore than that.
So as usual once the bike and gear was packed away its a walking tour of the town, this reminds me a little of Townsville Queensland with a big rock next to the town centre.
The public buildings are mostly old Soviet style.
The Monastery has prime position.
And looks directly down the main street, the park and fountain could do with a bit of work though.
Urban sprawl, one day all the hills will be covered with little boxes.
So from here I head south east to Tsenger Hot Springs then north to Lake Khovsgol for a few days camping by the lake where I hope the Chironomidae don’t find me.