Returning to Ulaanbator from our homestay took another 2 day drive. The first day we bumped and rattled along dirt roads for about an hour before bumping along a super crappy potholed paved road for another four.
We stopped near a rocky mountain area beside some sand dunes, and took the afternoon for a hike up and around Ovgon Kiid. This mountain range is very different than where we stayed. It’s a huge granite upheaval and, as such, looks like a gigantic pile of boulders. Still arid, though, and really makes Bryan and I think of Joshua Tree.
There is a small buddhist lama (Tibetan) temple at the bottom of a steep valley that is almost a canyon. We walked up this canyon about 2.25 km – Bryan was using his GPS to guide us to some ruins we read about in our Lonely Planet book. They include coordinates for all sights in Mongolia thank goodness.
The kids were motivated after bouncing in the car all morning. Plus, there was a small trickle of a creek to follow. They splashed and boulder-jumped over the water. They were ever excited to find waterfalls (1 ft high) along the way. It was pretty and shady until the water petered out and the trail went up into the scrub. Then it was hot and we took water breaks in tiny shaded areas under boulders or scrubby trees.
Finally the trail flattened at a high flat valley and we could see our destination. Ruins! And old monastery from the 1600s is still standing in ruin up here after being demolished in 1600 by a rival clan. It’s so neat and huge! The walls themselves are tall and stone built, but there is also just quantity.
We explored just a small part of what we assume was the main building as it was the largest. Didn’t put a dent in the area. Zoe got a bit creeped out by the tall grasses and trees growing in the place, but Avi and I wandered deeper and got a bit trapped in courtyard after courtyard. Even we got a bit scared a a pack of wild horses whinnied in a creepy way. This place was cool and needs a proper excavation!
Hot, dry and tired we followed the kids who got a burst of energy and ran back down the trail. Our driver Sandeek took us a couple km away to a family with a guest ger and we settled in for the night. Got some boiled water for noodles, read some Harry Potter to Zoe, and Avi spent the evening covering Beautiful Puppy and himself with dirt. It was a nice relaxing evening with a great view if the mountains and sand dunes.
Zoe created these “toilet bushes” for everyone since there were no defined places to take care of business. This is the FEMALE toilet bush.
Here is the MALE toilet bush. Nice view.
Zoe utilizing the girl potty.
Avi’s activity for the evening was becoming filthy.
And playing with a desert toad.
In the morning we resumed our drive to Ulaanbator and watched the km click down one at a time along the roadside. It was about 275 and took another 5 or so hours. In the city we hit traffic and, ugh, just wanted to be Not Moving.
The kids have been amazing in the car – Zoe sleeps or stares and occasionally does her workbooks. Avi plays with his hands as airplanes or volcanoes and loves I Spy. We also sing a rhyming song Zoe knows or snack… I’m so happy our kids know how to be bored, and they did not complained once about the driving.!! Other things, but not the drive.
fresh horse milk anyone? Mongolian lemonade stand.
Finally at Golden Gobi guesthouse we finalized our transactions. Ogie, the organizer who made the big mixup on our trip was not-surprisingly absent.
First line of business was a shower!!!! Ahhhhh it never felt so good.
Once we were cleaned up we walked across the street for pizza and it was pretty good for Asia where it’s quite often horrible. It was also huge! We spent the rest of our final evening in and out of tourist souvenir shops and outdoor playgrounds.
This morning we woke early to get breakfast. an egg on toast!! No milk products!!! My belly is happy. Then taxied to the aiport to return to Seoul. It feels as though we have stepped back forward in time. Toilets, lights, Toyota priuses, and airplanes.
Normalcy. I’ve never been happier to be finishing a vacation. Not that it wasn’t fun, but exhausting and filthy which I never thought I would say I’ve had enough of.