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Discovering Central Mongolia

9th June 2015

Having spent five days driving through the constantly changing, but always pretty dry desert, I was looking forward to the drive as we left Ongii Monastery – our last overnight stop in the Gobi. As we headed north the landscape gradually got greener, the hills got higher and we started driving through valley after valley. The towns we passed by with their multi-coloured roofs got slightly larger and I stopped wondering how the hundreds of grazing animals were surviving.

By the time we reached our camp for that night we were in a landscape I would describe as somewhere between Switzerland and the Peak District; we had descended a steep hill into the Orkhon Valley and our beautiful eco-camp. That afternoon we visited the nearby deer stones (ancient burial site) and saw the little canyons the river has made through the valley.

Just 37km further on, but out of reach that day due to the state of the roads, was the Orkhon Khurkhree waterfall, a beautiful area for kayaking, swimming, trekking and riding. That evening as I returned to my ger from the restaurant I had to stop and stare at the landscape all around me; every direction was stunning in the twilight.

The next day we set off further into the valleys, fording streams and driving up and down hills. The roads were not really roads, just paths, as they have been everywhere else I've visited during the last week. Parking up in a valley we walked for an hour through a shady pine forest, being so early in the season there was no one else around, just the birdsong breaking the silence. At the top of the hill was the rebuilt yet tiny Tuvkhun Khiid Monastery. The blue scarves fluttered in the breeze and we sat outside the temple taking in the view. Just one monk sat chanting inside the bright white temple as we looked out over hundreds of kilometres of valleys.

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