We are off early in the morning, leaving the Gurvan Saikhan mountain range, covered in a fresh layer of snow, behind. After many days driving off road, the perfect black asphalt road comes as surprise in this country of off-road driving. And, to be honest, I prefer the off-road journeys - they just make you feel much closer to nature. A short stop in Dalanzadgad (you got to love that name!), a detour to see the White Cliffs, and several more hours drive to make another stop at Mandalgov, where we do some more shopping for on the road. As soon as we leave town, we are back in the snow, and our driver steers our car on yet another track in a northwest direction. A Russian van with Swiss travellers speeds through the snow, hurling a continuous spray of snow into the air - just like we do. Before, we had been driving on vague tracks on the ground, but now, we have to break ground ourselves and create new tracks. With these conditions, the drive from Mandalgov to Baga Gazryn Chuluu ranks among the best ones I have done in Mongolia.
Our driver points to mountains at the horizon: our destination. The sun is already sinking when we finally get out of the car, I cannot wait to explore the area, but we are invited into a ger where we get fresh yoghurt. It turns out we still need to move to another place, where we leave our stuff and directly set off into the snow. We walk towards the mountains, as I still have a plan to climb the highest mountain the next morning. We soon walk in an area with layered rock formations, which could easily be called pancake rocks. We walk to the edge of a plateau, and realize the highest mountain tops are still quite far from here. I start to calculate how early we need to rise to be able to climb them. Clouds block the sunlight, but to our joy, it comes back with a vengeance just in time to provide a deep red sky for sunset. The pointy silhouets of the rocks are our guides to walk back to our ger where we have a very cold night after the fire in the stove dies: the temperature inside our ger drops below freezing point.
First thing we see the next morning, is that there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground. Under the bright sky, the temperature has dropped considerably, and we now find out that the toilet is even more open-air than the others we have already tried in Mongolia. We say goodbye to our friendly hosts who have even made a fire for us in the morning, and drive to the mountains of Baga Gazryn Chuluu. Everything is covered with an untouched layer of snow. We walk up to a small monastery, destroyed in the 1930s: only the walls remain. Baga Gazryn Chuluu has a religious significance, not only because it once sheltered Zanabazar in times of conflict, but its rocks are also a pilgrimage site for locals. Cautiously negotiating the snow and ice in the gully, we make our way up to a plateau where we find tens of ovoos: small, sacred pyramid-shaped piles of stones and other items. Here, the rocks are also layered granite, and the ensemble of natural and man-made rock formations covered in fresh snow under a bright sky make the experience of our visit sublime. We descend with care again, and then drive the virginal plains to a rock where the driver show us a circular stone. After lifting it, you find a perfectly round, tiny well, with frozen water inside. I break the ice, and we now use a wooden spoon lying next to it to get water out, pour it into our hands, and wash our eyes with it: it is supposed to be healthy for your eyes. On the other side of the valley, we climb a rock formation with lots of small ovoos, and find a big cave. From here, from this pristine, snowy wonderworld of rocks and ovoos, we drive straight back to Ulaanbaatar.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Baga Gazryn Chuluu (Mongolia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Baga Gazryn Chuluu. Read more about this site.