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 4, 23/07/09: Mongolia - Altai Mountains
Up at 2:15am to catch our internal flight to Olgii; my gear weighed in at just shy of 15kg but some of the other guys had a bit of a faff to reduce their baggage weight - basically most of their mountain clothing had to be worn as the airport staff decided to weigh our hand luggage as well. Quite an amusing experience; it was like witnessing a 'battle of wills' - our guide was trying to convince them we were all underweight; whilst quite clearly the scales were suggesting otherwise; all the while he had his knee discreetly propping up all the bags whilst they were being weighed.
Eventually we got through and boarded the plane; really surreal, it was a relatively new twin prop plane but we were the only people on the flight. Awesome! It was like having our own private jet.
The flight to Olgii to approximately 3.5hrs and was pretty noisy due to the propellers; the view out the window was incredible. What an amazing country; the landscapes enroute were so varied and some of the lakes were an awesome shade of turquoise. The scenery ranged from vast open steppe to jagged brown peaks to snow capped mountain ranges - I've quite honestly never seen anything like it.
On arrival at Olgii airport (basically a 'field') we were met by a series of Ex-Soviet 4x4 jeeps. We jumped aboard and so began our overland adventure bombing across the Mongolian Steppe. Phenomenal experience. No roads; no rules; the drivers just let-rip, racing each other setting off giant clouds of dust.
As we were caning it cross country we saw a tiny little bird drop down; darting through small shrubs, suddenly out of nowhere swoops this massive eagle right on its tail! This little bird continued to weave, keeping itself just out of striking distance. Amazing how agile the little fella was; bit like finding Nemo with feathers! I still can't quite believe that took place right next to us whilst we were bombing it in soviet 4x4 across the Mongolian Steppe - Wow!
Eventually the drivers all pulled together for a lunch stop; we were in the middle of nowhere and Sandagash (cook lady) had set up a table with chairs, freshly made soup, yoghurts, cheese & bread, it just seemed so completely surreal. As we were eating someone said, "could you pass me the Earl Grey...oh is that camels I see". Ha and sure enough it most definitely was a group of 6 camels! This trip was getting more surreal by the moment; Earl Grey & Camels! We hopped back into the jeeps for the remainder of our bumpy ride to the Tavan Bogd NP roadhead (I think the term roadhead had been lost somewhere in translation); passing by a gorgeous turquoise lake.
Once we arrived we pitched our tents and headed into the ger for our evening meal. What a fantastic day!