Fly to: Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia
Internal Transfer: Ulaan Bataar - Olgii (3hrs 30mins)
Ex-Soviet 4x4 Jeeps 9hrs driving without roads across the steppe to Potaniin Glacier, Altai Mountains
Visa required: Yes if British
Time Zone:+8hrs GMT
Day 3, 22/07/09: Mongolia - Altai Mountains
Headed out from U.B to the Terelj National Park; the scenery enroute was simply breathtaking; once again it resembled an uninhabited Alpine region during summertime. We stopped off at a sacred Shamanist Earth shrine and the vast open skies with the endless rolling hills were amazing; I for one felt truly insignificant standing amongst such a great expanse.
Situated next to the shrine was two traditional gers; one of the owners brought out his bow and arrow. It was explained to us that in Mongolia there are 3 traditional sports that every Mongolian must do; horse riding, wrestling and archery. The bow was almost the same height as me, made from laminating layers of bone and collagen; apparently one of these done the traditional way takes a whooping 3 months to make. I was amazed at how much physical strength it took to draw the bow; there's obviously a knack because some of the Mongolians were shooting the arrows crazy distances.
We continued through vast open landscapes and stopped off to visit an eagle hunter whereby I was given the opportunity to hold the beast. Huge, huge bird with pretty mean looking talons; I reckon it must've weighed about 6kg's.
On reaching the park we walked up a beautiful, craggy valley to a Buddhist temple that was situated high up on the hillside. The scenery once again was immense. The temple was beautiful, I felt completely at peace there; the place had a profound yet serene feel about it; in all honesty a big part of me wanted to stay there on my own looking out across the rocky valley. In my opinion it was pure bliss, a feeling further emphasized by the fact eagles gently & effortlessly soared overhead.
As we walked our guide kept mentioning a 1,000yr old giant "turkey..." I kept saying, 'are you sure, I don't think turkeys live that long'... but Baysaa seemed adament; at which point i concluded that, 'perhaps Mongolia has a special breed of supersonic turkeys!' As we got closer we realised she was actually talking about a 1,000yr old giant 'turtle...' but again none of us were that convinced a turtle could survive a 1,000yrs. Finally we reached a huge rock formation that stood proud, smack in the middle of this National Park & guess what...the rock looked like a massive turtle...a turtle aged about a 1,000yrs old i reckon!
That afternoon we walked and walked; it seemed pretty endless and surprisingly the terrain and scenery was so very varied. Once again the almighty skies demonstrated their temperament swirling rapidly from a serene blue to a menacing shade of deep grey. Once more the heaven's opened; the torrential rainfall was illuminated by the most amazing lightening strikes, whilst the earth resonated with the roar of nature's thunder.
As we headed back to U.B the roads once again resembled fast flowing river beds; the bus that had taken a battering yesterday was now leaking from it's rooftop and windows.
When we reached our hotel it was a quick dash to pack up our trip gear; the internal flight had a luggage limit of 15kg - sounds quite a lot but actually takes some doing when you've got tents; mountain gear & most importantly vanity mirror & tweezers to pack!