I’m here in Ulaanbaatar for the Naadam Festival and until next week when I can get my Kazakhstan visa. The one guy at the embassy who issues them is on holiday…
So I packed my raft, bivy bag, toothbrush and some food and headed out of Ulaanbaatar on my bike. Destination Terelj NP, some 60km away.
Off the main road at Gaachurt, the road soon turned to rocky dirt tracks and then little more than trails through the grass. Out of the valley, over a pass, down to a ger where I refilled my water-bottle and over the next pass. And then I looked down into the next valley of rolling hills, forested on one side with more gers in the lowland where yaks and cattle grazed and in the distance a small village of permanent homes, Terelj.
Although pretty tired from the off-road riding, I continued onto ‘Turtle Rock’ – nothing more than a big rock that looks vaguely like a turtle to the locals who want to encourage tourists to come here. So now there is a restaurant and place to stay there, as well as a small horde of locals with horses offering rides by the hour. But just beyond is a small monastery on the hillside, so I clamboured up there as the sun was going down.
I’d seen a track going up the adjacent hillside, so I pushed my bike to the top, drank a beer to celebrate the end of a long day and then crawled into my bivy bag as the stars came out.
Next day, my plan was to get my packraft out and paddle down the Terelj and Tuul rivers back to Ulaanbaatar, but sometimes plans just don’t work. The river was shallow in Terelj, so I found a spot downstream to put in and strapped the bike to the front. But round a couple of bends, there were fallen trees that I had to portage round, which is time consuming when you have to take off the bike. Then the bike got caught on a branch and nearly submerged the packraft… time to rethink. After about 3 hours of trying, I finally admitted defeat and packed up the raft, reassembled the bike and pushed out of the forest back to the road.
The main road out of the park was dusty with a strong headwind and once I got to the outskirts, I hitched a ride in a truck back to Ulaanbaatar. The driver stopped by his home to pick up a goat, and we had some tsuivan (noodles with beef), which is the standard Mongolian dish and then he dropped me off in town.
Good couple of days, even if the packrafting didn’t work out. So here’s some pics from the trip…