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Published: August 6th 2007
After a few days bouncing round Mongolia in a suspension-free minibus our legs are itching for some exercise so we take another minibus (in fact, the same one, but only for an hour and with sworn promises that the road is pothole-free) to Terlj national park for some roaming in the hills. It looks a tiny bit more touristy by Mongolian standards than other places we have visited - if you can count one bloke with an overdressed camel on the roadside and a couple of ger holiday camps as touristy - but the mountains look fab and we can't wait to get going.
After some excellent suggestions from our cheery minibus driver on a nice area to walk (random armwave covering 360º) we set off through a field of scrubby bushes which turns into a forested hillside full of small, scraggly cows. We walk for nearly 3 hours with the view becoming more and more stunning as we go higher - as the few clouds clear behind the spiky, greyish and other-worldly mountains opposite we see a further, higher range puncturing the horizon with its jagged peaks and in the valley below the white specks of the occasional ger
Nivo and la vache mongolian
(First sighting of the famed forest cow!)
dot the land like entrances to little hobbit dens. The whole thing is totally Lord of the Rings and very, very beautiful. So great to be in the mountains at last.
After a nice picnic - and a fond farewell from Nico to the last, incredibly well-travelled tin of Sainsbury's sardines - we make it to the top of our mountain and sit for a while to watch the clouds drift by and the glorious full-circle panorama. On the other side of the mountain forest stretches for as far as the eye can see. The Siberian taiga stretches south as far as Terlj and I imagine a path north from here leading a thousand miles through the trees to the shores of Lake Baikal. Next time (and with full anti-bear, anti-tick body armour and a machine gun perhaps).
On the road back to Ulanbaatar we come across a herd of yaks - YAKS!!! - munching away at the side of the road. Cue much squealing, slamming on of brakes and general hilarity from the minibus driver as I attempt to hug one of the lovely things. They are a lot smaller than I had imagined - half the
size of an Irish cow - and v v cute. After a prolonged screaming match and a bit of wrestling to get me back into the minibus and away from the animals imagine Nico and our drivers delight when not 500metres up the road we spot a man and woman with 2 lovely yaks kitted out in their Sunday best and only waiting to give me a spin round a field on their backs! Hurray! I catapult myself out of the minibus window straight onto yak no1 and brushing aside mental comparisons with donkey rides for 4 year olds on Blackpool beach head off into the Mongolian steppe on my trusty steed. V cool indeed!!
Later on we meet Daphne and Bernd for dinner (Italian of course, where do you think this is? Mongolia?!) then football match-watching (tricked into it) in the Grand Khaan Irish pub. Great nights craic, tumble into bed with rucksack packed and ready for the 7.15 to Beijing 😊
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