driving north into the snow

As my Gobi Desert tour progressed pass the half way point, we began leapfrogging north towards Ulannbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.  Driving back a new route we had a chance to stop in some new towns and at some new roadside cafes.  At one cafe, we sat with the grandfather of the house and chatted about our travels.  He was surrounded by his 4 granddaughters and 3 of his grandsons played outside.  He offered me the snuff bottle that I wrote about in a previous bottle; by tradition, I accepted the bottle, sniffed it, and then handed it back.  I suppose sharing the fragrant smell with a visitor is a way of showing that they are welcome.  The perfume in the bottle smelled much like the fragrance that is poured on guests hands in the middle east; I can only wonder if this tradition spread during the days of the silk trade a thousand years and more ago.

As we drove north I watched hour by hour as the landscape changed from brown sand to scattered patches of snow until finally the ground was completely white.  It really put into perspective how long the drive was that we could actually watch the weather change as we drove north.

After I had posted this entry I realized that I had shot a short video of the children (top photo) at this road-side rest stop.  The kids were very cute and seemed to be quite curious about the “foreigner”.

 

 


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drive to Altai Village

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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Stories, posts, reports, photos, videos and all other content on this site is copyright protected © and is the property of Scott Traveler unless otherwise indicated, all rights reserved. Content on this site may not be reproduced without permission from Scott Traveler. My contact information can be found on the home page.

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