We finally were on our way. There are only a few paved roads in Ulgi and outside town every road is a dirt road. The roads were not too bad but with a fresh layer of snow and ice we only travelled at about 40-50 kph (25-35 mph). As we climbed the road away from Ulgi, the mountains came up around us and were beautifully speckled in white snow.
About a 1/2 hour drive out of town we came to a quarantine check point. Inside the small booth were some policemen and some health officials who examined our border permit and asked some medical questions to make sure that we were not carrying H1N1 flu virus. After a brief stop and nature call, we were once again on our way. I took the opportunity to shoot a pic of our Scooby-Doo mobile with the light smog of Ulgi in the background valley. I noticed a tinge of smog above the city caused by the coal fires that people burned to stay warm.
Even with the heater on, my feet were cold. The knock off boots I bought were not insulating my feet well enough. Later I remedied this problem by buying some Mongolian made leather snow boots. As cold as it was inside the truck, I was amazed to see people walking to and from their flocks or farm houses. We drove for the better part of 10 or 11 hours and about every hour or so we would pass some lone soul, out walking alone in the middle of the snow.
I was very impressed with the striking colors; the contrast from the red or brown mountains, the white snow, the dried yellow grass, and grey, blue, green, and red rocks. The entire car ride was a feast of color for the eyes. As good as the photos may look, they did not come close to how beautiful the scenery looked to the naked eye. And then there were the animals; yaks, cows, camels, sheep, goats, and horses. The animals added a nice contrast to the color view and were entertaining to watch – especially the sheep as they ran for cover as we drove by:
The yellow grass made a beautiful foreground in front of the mountains, snow and blue skies. This place is so open and so few people live here that you feel a great sense of isolation. We passed so few people that I imagined that the people here must really enjoy the company of their neighbors when they meet from time to time.
Most of the streams and lakes were partially frozen adding a beautiful look to the semi-Winter landscape. Some of the mountains were red and others were brown, it seemed that the colors changed about every 10 miles. I tried to capture photos that showed the wonderful color contrasts.
About 1/2 way through our journey I saw my first Mongolian horse rider. He looked like a cowboy riding across Wyoming.
On the south side of the mountains surrounding Ulgi we were treated to a beautiful river view for 30 or 40 miles. We passed small villages that only had solar panel and hand pump wells. It is a Spartan living out here and the people seem to be very happy. Small wood bridges crossed the small rivers and we drove slowly over they creaky wood. The roads were bumpy and rough so we never went too fast, especially in the snowy & icy conditions.
As we neared closer to Altai Village, some of the rock formations turned a deep marble blue and were a beautiful color contrast to the yellowing grass in the river valley.
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Tags: Bayan Ulgi landscape, driving in the snow, H1N1 swine flu quarantine, Kazakh Mongolians, Mongolian countryside, Mongolian cowboy, Mongolian horse rider, running sheep video, western Mongolia