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To the home of the ancient horse – Khustain Nuruu

 Mon 24 Jun ’13 – day 44    Today I was 61, where have all the years gone?

Had to get up a few times in the night and I had only had a couple of beers.  Also heard a number of aircraft passing overhead, so we must be on the flight path into and out of UB.

The Americans were called at 06:00 hours, but they made hardly any noise as they departed.  I was up at 06:40 hours and having showered and packed, sat outside my ger in the sun while updating the blog and looking into the far distance.  Very peacefully.

An elderly gent came to replace one of the securing tapes around the outside of ger, but then waited until I had gone for breakfast.  Omelette and sausage, plus bread, butter and jam and a glass of orange juice – lovely.

We carried our bags to the mini-bus and Nes gave the tip to the young lady who had looked after us, rather than the MCP.  He was lazy, idle and a money grabber who only showed any interested in the guests when it was tipping time.  He had a face like thunder when he wasn’t given the tip and will probably take it anyway.

The cook’s daughter came to see us off and she was still clutching the notebook and pens that Nes had given her yesterday; we were told that she even took them to bed!

So off across the steppe, passed the camel herders gers and then on to the main road, turn right and head for the Khustain Nuruu National Park.  The roads were not bad today so we  kept up a decent pace, but there are still stretches full of potholes, or where no road existed.

We stopped a few times to take pictures and at one point we saw nearly 20 steppe eagles circling in a fairly tight area; quite amazing, but virtually impossible to take a decent photo of them all.

There was a herd of horses and lots of sheep with a nomad on a horse at another stop

The view in front of the mini-bus was at times like something out of the film ‘Vanishing Point”, miles of straight road and no traffic.

We then reached the road heading west from UB and along which we had travelled a week ago, so a sign that the trip is drawing towards its conclusion.  We stopped in a town so that Chris could buy some biscuits, but there were none that she liked; however the rest of us bought an ice-cream each.

When we reached the turning for the ger camp, Wednesday turned right and we went off-road and headed south until we reached the entrance of the National Park.  There were crowds of people staying here as it is just 100 km from UB, so an easy drive and convenient as the first or last stop on a tour.

Ankhaa advised that this was one of the few ger camps that stayed open all year round and because it has a research centre, it is also used to hold conservation conferences due to its accessibility.

After lunch I had a snooze before watching a film about the reintroduction of the Takhi Horse in to the wild.  It was not a bad film and showed nature in the raw, with a wolf going down a burrow and coming out with a marmot.

Then into the mini-bus and off up the track, we turned right at the old research station and it got even bumpier.  Then ahead was a group of vehicles parked at the side of the track, so they’ve obviously seen something.  Yes, a herd of Takhi – one stallion, four foals and a large group of mares coming down a slope.  Some of the tourists had walked to the far side of the slope and had got a bit too close for the stallions liking, so he had positioned himself between the people and the rest of his horses.  This was actually good for the rest of the watchers as the animals were coming closer to us.  Suddenly the stallion set off at the gallop with the rest of the herd following behind and when they got to the valley bottom, they went over the track and then disappeared into a gully.

Well that’s that we thought, but no, the mares and foals started to move down the valley with its lush grass covering, grazing as they went and down to a small stream.  The stallion was bringing up the rear so that he could keep an eye on what was happening.

It was a fantastic sight and we didn’t have to go far to see it.

Back at the camp and it was time for a shower, but it took ages for the water to get hot.  Change and then dinner.  As I walked over to the restaurant another two vehicles pulled up, so now eleven in total and the dining room was full.  The meal was salad followed by meat, veg and rice; Ankhaa had Wednesday’s salad and he had her meat.

During dinner dark clouds rolled in and there was a huge downpour.

The camp had brought in a Mongolian traditional band (3 gents’) to entertain us, again very good, with the lead male a fantastic “throat singer”.  After their performance they tried to sell CD’s, but the price was expensive, even by western standards.

It was still pouring with rain as we left the restaurant building with low cloud and mist covering the hill tops, very much like the Scottish highlands.  The temperature has also dropped quite considerably, but not enough for me to want the stove lit.  The camp authorities were trialling solar heaters in a few of the gers in order to cut down on the amount of CO2 emissions.  They are also constructing a couple of wooden buildings, but in the shape of a ger and with en-suite facilities – you may as well have stayed in a 4* hotel in UB.  However it was obviously that some people would have wanted to say that they had stayed in a ger, but without mentioning all the extras.

The new research station also has a lot of solar panels on its south facing side, but at three stories high it was a bit overpowering.

Back in my ger I climbed into bed and wrapped myself in the duvet and blanket – so snug and warm.

People were moving about and talking for some considerable time, so sleep didn’t come easily.