We had one week left in Mongolia, and two main aims: walk and wild camp. This section of the trip was going to be how we had imagined doing all of our trip- combining our own foot power with hitchhiking and wandering the countryside. As we were severely out of shape after three weeks on a bus, and we only had a limited amount of time, we chose to head to the ‘local’ national park, the famous Terelj national park. This park was Mongolia’s first national park and was the most developed ‘natural’ area we found in Mongolia.
Just an hours bus journey east of Ulaanbaatar, the valley became more and more mountainous, covered with the most trees we had seen in a month. We were dropped at the junction to the park and began walking towards the entrance. It did not take long before we were picked up by a local who drove us to the hotel his girlfriend worked at, and would have driven us further if we had not decided that that was far enough. As the treeline thinned, fields of wildflowers bloomed, taking my breath away. Especially the fields of edelweiss, so rare in Switzerland, were fascinating. Just a few kilometres from Turtle Rock, a rock formation that (not surprisingly) looks like a Turtle, we set up camp.
The sun came up to let us have a leisurely breakfast, and we strolled to turtle rock, scrambled on its back and ate lunch watching tourists arrive by bus to look at the landmark. Our next goal was to get away from ger camps and cars, so we headed up a road that was blocked to traffic with a tall gate and a herd of cows. The slope got steeper and steeper as we headed uphill to a pass we had seen from a distance, which we supposed should get us closer to Terelj town.
At the top of the hill we were greeted with stunning views across mountain ridges, pine trees and wildflowers completing the serenity of the scene. Our intended way down, however, was blocked by an unexpected pine tree forest. We quickly decided to spend the night on the hilltop, as we could not be bothered in coming up with a continuation of our route and because the view was so pretty.
This ended up being a great idea and we enjoyed the sunset and the early morning with our serene view, then continued on along a ridge and through the pines to try to find a way down. It was not until lunch that we had found the road again, and we picnicked watching cars and hikers go by. I was especially thankful that I did not notice the severed horse’s head that had been left as an offering at the oovo until we had already finished and were continuing towards town. It reminded me yet again, though, what a different attitude the Mongolians have to the animals that live with and serve them. Within minutes of setting off we were drenched by a sudden rainstorm. It only took a short while to arrive in Terelj, but by the time we did we were ready to call it a day. We decided to head back to UB and enjoy another relaxing day, and get organised before our onward journey to Beijing.
Even though it ended up shorter than planned, these casual days walking were definitely some of my favourite of the month.
Do it yourself: (July 2015)
Our trip had a brief stop at the Chengghis Khan Statue before we went to the park. As such we took the bus from Ulaanbaatar to Nalaikh (1000 Tugrik each) and then got a ‘taxi’ to the statue. The driver then waited for us and drove us to the intersection where the road heads north to Terelj. The drive plus the hours wait set us back 30000 Tugrik. We walked and hitchhiked from there, costing us nothing.