Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mongolia 2017 - Day 12. Hovd to The Middle of Nowhere

We are going to invest the following three days getting back, in a grueling 1,500 km trip. In theory we should be making 500 km per day, but we are going to try 600 km for the first two days, so we have an easy last leg to UB, so we get there in time to return the tent, make a few last moment purchases, and pack.

Rather than tell you about the long stretches of dirt road, which holds no entertainment value, let me tell you about camels (Bactrian camels with two humps, rather than Dromedary camels with one hump). Here and there we have seen camels, but today we crossed what would be the western extension of the Gobi desert, and we have seen lots of camels. They normally form herds of 10 to 20 individuals, 2 or 3 of which are little guys. Everyone of them is shedding its winter coats, so they look a bit scruffy, but otherwise are happy just standing around, looking at the world around them with stone faces. They must belong to someone because occasionally we see a tag in one of their ears, but it seems that they are left to their own devices until the owner comes and fetches them.

I held a high opinion of our road map, which so far has accurately told us about the paved stretches of road, but I am now convinced that it lies through its teeth. No paved road in the stretch between Hovd and Altai City! Accordingly we are making only 40 to 60 km per hour, and it took us all day to arrive to a tiny village, about half way between Altai City and Bayanhongor, where to our surprise we found a hotel. The hotel has clearly suffered from lack of attention, but it is housed in a relatively new and well constructed building, together with a little store, a seamstress workshop, and a now defunct bank. We suspect it was an investment by a charitable group to create an incubator for small businesses but, alas, it met with little success.

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