Saturday, 12 July 2008

The Four Ponymen of the Apocalypse

There’s nothing apocalyptic about this entry, or even any ponies, but the name tickled me. We’ve spent the last couple of days by Lake Hovsgul in northern Mongolia, the second deepest lake in Asia apparently (behind Baikal, which we visit shortly). After our previous exploits in Mongolia the lake came as a shock to us: there were signs in English, souvenir shops, tourist camps, our first impressions were that it was a bit like a Mongolia theme park. I think we’ve become travel snobs because we all got righteously indignant about the prospect of camping in designated zones and having other westerners around.

This faded soon enough though as in true expedition fashion we got Roxanne stuck in some mud. It was highly embarrassing given that we were only 50m from the road, but we attracted the assistance of a group of locals and learnt some interesting Mongolian methods for vehicle extraction! These guys were very friendly, and after we gave them some whisky and photos in thanks they insisted we should camp by their house and even gave us a bag of freshly caught fish in the morning.

We indulged in a little tourism by taking a horse ride beside the lake and into surrounding mountains, hence the title of the blog. The horses were definitely horses, not ponies, but were pretty small, and since we were all a bit rubbish we thought that pony was appropriate. Our young guide was definitely not rubbish though - he was an excellent horseman, and infinitely cooler than us, he then was ‘Death’. Pete on his trusty steed Timmy took the mantle of ‘Famine’ (anyone aware of Pete’s appetite will see the irony), whilst I snapped up ‘Pestilence’ for myself and my white wonder Honky, and Spike seemed quite pleased to take ‘War’ for himself and Hotter (a name actually based on the horse’s real name ridiculously). It was a fun few hours anyway, culminating in a beautiful commando roll descent from Pete as Timmy tripped on a particularly tricky bit of flat ground.

The lake itself is beautiful with stunningly clear water, and we spent many hours happily skimming stones and taking freezing cold dips on a deserted pebble beach (with the most amazing selection of skimming stones!). We were also quite keen to leave though, since we are rather fond of the road less travelled and there is just so much beautiful scenery to see in this country.

We paused on our way from the lake to watch some traditional wrestling, which was great fun and I think we all fancy giving it a crack!

Who needs a GPS?

We stopped in the town of Moron (sic) for a restock, after giving a tow to a van on the road into town (Land Rover to the rescue!). In town we noticed a hotel called 50 degrees 100 degrees reminding us where we are, and just how far we have to go. What a wonderful journey it is.

- David

Playing on the iPod: ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rogers

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