What a great night. We camped in a very exposed Steppe and at some point in the night I thought our whole setup was going to get blown down the hill back to Russia! The temperature must have been down to about 6deg but we were toasty warm in our cocoon. Re-awakening at 8am.
After packing up we drove the 50k’s to the next town, Olgiy. Good luck with finding it on the map as one of the challenges that are going to face us in Mongolia, is that many towns have the same name! After topping up with diesel, water, supplies and powering up our wifi, we headed for the hills. Lonely Planet calls Olgiy a “frontier” town. Not too wrong with that description, but it had most of what we needed.
The fuel pump attendant pointed us in the right direction to head for Naranbulag. Up a track out of town. It has the grand title of A07 on the map! It was must have been 1pm by the time we headed out on Highway A07 after updating blogs and paying some bills back home. Within 5k’s it was clear we were in for a GREAT day. The scenery and landscape is sensational. Not the rugged mountainous grander of Tajikistan but a different magnificence.
After quick lunch stop at 2pm, with a vista to marvel at, the journey continued.
An unintelligible road sign was of little help in guiding us on the direction to our target town, as it was pointing directly ahead, north, when we needed to be heading east. The only other options were pointing west. The next 5 hours was pure magic. The road became a track. Small settlements of perhaps 5 houses were passed, until the track ended at one of these….hovels! Three grass cutters had agreed that our destination lay over that hill. We retraced our steps from their camp and circled the hovel, looking for the elusive track to take us over the bog and river, to the other side. One of the grass cutters saw we were having trouble finding a way forward and walked down the track to help us. He walked us to the river side and motioned that ‘there was the track, on the other side’. The river is not at a trickle nor is it narrow but seeing that a vehicle had made it’s way across at some point in the past, we pushed on. Low ratio 3rd engaged and in we go. With a nice bow wave created in front of us the other side was made without further incident.
Whew! When I stopped down the road a bit and had a look underneath, there was river weed hanging from every obstruction. The landscape is lunar like. Dry, barren and with amazing rock formations. Down in the distant valley, which is bright green, where lush long grass grows that the few locals harvest for feed for their stock. We see no stock. We see vertical wooden corrals close to their hovels, which indicates two things. There is stock, somewhere, and there are predators. Jen tells me from lonely Planet, that there are wolves, foxes and bears and the rare snow Leopard.
We are now camped for the night overlooking what could be our town, or it may not. We will find out in the morning. The 360deg vista is amazing. Amazingly we have wifi!! Clocks have gone forward another hour so we are now only 4 hours behind NZ. Once the sun has gone down the sky is ablaze with stars. Beautiful. No light or other solution to interrupt the show.