Day 40: Kharkhorin to Orkhon Valley , The van tour (Day 2)

A thin slit in the toilet door provides a panoramic view of the landscape.
Slice of heaven.

I had a rough sleep last night.

When I woke at 4am, the inside of the ger was dark and claustrophobic. Somehow I found my way outside to throw up.

Yet somehow I can also face breakfast now. We cook up some nice porridge and I drink lots of water to flush away the mysterious bug. I’m staying away from the sweet bread.

Today’s itinerary is Waterfall (horse riding).

It’s really hot in the van. I wish that I was out there, actively seeking destinations on my bike, rather than stuck in here, passively being chauffeured to them. The others seem happy to sit back and enjoy the ride. I guess that life is learning what works for you.

We make an unplanned stop for lunch. It’s a most idyllic scene. Clear, still water, reflects the hills. And yaks, sheep, goats, cows and horses go about their business.

We refuel then head up the hill.

Kharkhorin Rock is, unbelievably, a stone penis. A fence keeps vandals away, but I doubt even the infamous Western c*ck and balls graffiti could match this.

Driving through a Protected Area costs us ₮ 3000 ($1.77) each.

Apart from a river, the landscape doesn’t appear to have changed much. But we dutifully get out and take pictures of ourselves and each other.

The river meanders by, springy grass carpeting the sharp edges of the rocks on its banks.

The sketchy descent down to the base of the waterfall makes me chuckle. Despite the Protected Area charge, it’s clear that Health and Safety is not a thing here yet.

The driver dares us to go for a swim. It’s cold but he is impressed. I’m impressed that I impressed a Mongol.

I have a 100% success rate of hitting my head on the way out of the long drop.

At the Ger camp, an attractive young lady comes out to greet us, followed by an older version of herself.

After showing us to our small cosy ger, with ornately painted bed frames, they invite us into theirs. There we’re served tea with cow milk and salt, and yummy (homemade?) shortbread biscuits.

We’re lucky they’re still here – the neighbours obviously have other plans. They’re at various stages of deconstructing their homes and piling them onto trailers. Winter is coming, after all.

A man in a green cloak brings 4 horses over to the camp for a 2 hour riding session.

We move at a slow pace, crossing several rivers before arriving at a medium sized waterfall.

Even out of the van here, it is hot. My new chauffeur, the horse, is doing all the work, but I’m starting to overheat in my puffer and merino vest.

Our guide, Maagi, shows us how to ride the horses. He issues commands of left, right and straight ahead in French. Often he deliberately mixes these up, then laughs and says sorree!

We take his quirky good natured humour in our stride. It’s hard to be annoyed when you’re riding a beautiful horse through a picture-perfect landscape in the hot sun.

But as the sun sets, the temperature plummets and so too does our tolerance. I’m glad of my extra layers, but even they are not enough to stave off the biting cold.

Our guide seems in no hurry, but all three of us hope that we will reach camp soon.