### JUL 15
Losing one day on departure: the flight to Moscow is late & we miss the
Lame start, but my trip had started earlier, from a Trastevere night I
was bringing along while stranded in airports.
Meeting the group
### JUL 16
Getting into Ulaan Baatar (UB). The airport is small; out of the airport
there is a small parking where people wash their cars.
We get on a jeep and on a van, and off we go towards Erdene-Zuu.
Stopping on the way for some pictures, colorful ovoo, mixture of shamanism
and buddhism. This is the region of Lun (where we have lunch) and Erdenesant.
The gher camp in Kharkhorin is organized, with restaurant, restrooms that
we are constantly moped, hot water, restroom, etc. Quite amazing. Basically,
once you get a guide, you are in an organized trip - and there is more
or less no other option, because of distances, etc
Dinner at the gher camp: lots of meat (mutton). In 10 minutes, we climb
over a hill with a great view of Kharkhorin on one side, and of some hidden
valley, painted in pink by the sunset, on the other side
### JUL 17
Walking on top of the hill again. The air is very clear and all distances
appear closer than what they are.
Bizarre monument with the maps of the world conquered by the Huns, by
Chinggis Khaan, and by Tamerlan.
Visiting Erdene-Zuu in the morning: Buddhist temples, stone turtles, the
valley where Kharkhorin was lying. The temples are nothing special: the
best part is the overall complex (square of walls with 108 stupas).
Long drive on a country road (which is what Mongolia's road system amounts
to). We get stuck in the middle of a river since our jeep hardly functions.
Seen just one bridge today, otherwise the detaul crossing method is driving
through the river
Got to Orkhon Falls, in a small canyon.
Spending the night in a gher camp in Bayan Uul, where two girls give a
nearly stylish touch to the food and the decor. The night is windy, with
an amazing starry sky
### JUL 18
Waking up early. Today we leave the Ovorkhangai aimag towards the Arkhangai.
Stopping in Tovkhon Khiid, buddhist monastry on top of a mountain (~20
mins to get to the top). A circuit at the top brings ayou around a few
caves where meditation places have been organized. "Mother's Womb": crawl
into a downhill cave, the rotate over and crawl out. The last stretch
to the top is forbidden to women.
On the way back, our guide discovers my iPod and we find out he is as
westernized as we are (as if...). Then we stop in a gher and we drink
mare's milk and other dairy products they prepare. This family breeds
horses, so there's flies everywhere.
Driving further to Tsertseleg, modern city; the main roads are paved.
The museum has some miscellaneous artifacts. Nice view from the temple
behind the museum: worth climbing the hill to get a glimps of the growing
Camping in Taikhar Camp. Close is the Taikhar Chuulu, a sacred rock which
is now full of modern graffitis.
They were paving the road in and out of Tsersteleg: a major project for
a country with little infrastructure
### JUL 19
Today we drove for a long time. The worst road ever.
We stop at Chuluut Canyon. Hiking down and hanging there. Then getting
to Badmaarag Camp (they have Bordeaux!).
Tonight I don't feel well so I don't eat.
### JUL 20
Today I feel
better but it rains. Khorgo Volcano, hiking around the cone. Impressive
In the afternoon
we go to the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur lake and then we hike back to the camp.
There is in theory a trail from the lake to Badmaarag Camp through the
hills, but the guide has no clue about it and we end up hinking in a plateau.
### JUL 21
Driving today towards UB on horrible roads and even literally in the mud.
The driver does wonders.
Some impressive pristine landscape in this sunny day. Lots of wildlife.
We stop for lunch in Tsertseleg and I get the chance to walk through the
village: some Soviet style buildings and an amazing French-style cafe
(Farfield) owned by two Brits who ended up here: they cook pastries, danishes,
cookiest, veggie burgers, etc. This place has now legendary status among
Mongolia travellers: at least 5 groups of Europeans stop here in our 1-hour
Night in Kublai Camp.
### JUL 22
Driving to Khogno Khaan and Ovgon Khiid. The road gets better again but
the landscape becomes more uniform and desertic. One can hike or climb
Khogno Khaan finding his own trail among the rocks.
At night we find other young travellers in the camp and we drink beer
under a spectacular starry sky
### JUL 23
Another long drive (300 km) brings us to UP after 6-7 hours.
Ulaan Baatar is a rapidly growing city, on its way to become another Asian
metropolis. I counted four major buildings in construction around the
main square. Everything seems to be new or being built. Lots of joint
projects with Japan and Korea.
Sukhbaatar Square: Soviet-style square with a brand new Parliament building
sporting a monument to Chingiis Khaan.
Natural History Museum: nothing special other than that the major dinosaur
skeletons are here, pretty much the one reason this museum has world relevance.
National History Muesum: more celebration of Chingiis Khaan Ganda Khiid:
major buddhist temple, the main building has a 26.5m Buddha status in
copper and gold.
Zaisan Monument: war memorial of Soviet inspiration; from here you can
see the increasing sprawl and pollution of the city.
Chinggis Khaan seems to be everywhere: apart from being in the central
square, he is a beer, a brand of cigarettes, the airport and possibly
more things are named after him. His face is sort of etched on the side
of one of the hills around Ulaan Baatar. In general, democracy here has
brought hunger fo globalization/westernization, and a renewed nationalism
embodied by the name of Chingiis Khaan
### JUL 24
Internal flight to Altai City. Checked baggage has a 12 kg limit: after
that it is 2000 tugrik per extra kilo.
Altai City: museum (schoolbook-like), market. Gher camp outside town held
by Mr Baazar.
Driving then to a canyon nearby and hiking to the end of it (~2 hours).
The landscape is sometimes barren, with warm, dry weather.
### JUL 25
the Altai. Camping along a river (Khunkher area). Hiking for a few hours
out of the river valley to some spring and rock formations. The landscape
starts to be alpine only well above 2500m
### JUL 26
Driving further north (Uujimiin Am area). We camp in a canyon and then
hike up the rim.
As expected, the only visible trails are those used by goats. Too bad
I don't know the exact name of this canyon (if it has one). In the evening
our guide goes and buy a goat from a nomadic family, and a small crowd
gathers to prepare a bodog.
They kill a goat, empty it of bones, liver, stomach and all of its meat,
then they fill it again with the meat and with stones that in the meanwhile
they made hot with a fire made of dung. Then, they cook it.
Spectacular preparation, but it does not taste anything special.
### JUL 27
We join in the morning a nomadic family where they are catching horses
and mares for milking.
We drive on then to the Ereen Nuur area. This place had apparently water
and grass lasty year, but desertification seems to be taking its toll,
since one can be seen. Extremely windy and hot.
We camp and place the tent with some difficulty. Riding camels and horses
to the lake (which is also drying year over year)
### JUL 28
In the morning I hike up a dune. You have to hike alongthe crest, with
your feet sliding back at every step. As soon as the sun rises a bit,
it gets windy and the hike gets tougher (as the sand loses and consistency)
Then we are driving back south in a parallel valley. We camp where a river
makes a couple of bends. Nice landscape which reminds of Arizona and of
the Grand Canyon. We relax in the river and then I hike up the surrounding
peaks. Very hot and very windy
### JUL 29
Waking up after a windy night. Drive of ~100 km. Stop in Tayshir, surreal
village in the middle of nowhere.
The following stop is Delger, where we bump into a mini-Naadam. We watch
the wresting tournament and go and meet the horses and the end of the
We blend in the local frenzy, and if we were reporters from some foreign
land for this event.
### JUL 30
After the last night of camping, we drive 300 km to Bayankhongor. This
is a Soviet style city with very little to see. Plenty of shops, all looking
the same. Feels like a frontier town.
In the evening, we go in a local disco bar where they play anglo-saxon
'80s pop sung in Korean (or Japanese) and where evidently we are the main
Three random dudes end up buying us an entire bottle of vodka of the top
brand: thanks guys!
### JUL 31
Very long drive from Bayankongor to Khongoriin Els (420 km including an
off road 100 km shortcut)
Going through some amazing nature as we cross the divide of the Baga Bogdin
Nuruu and we approach the sand dunes around sunset
### AUG 1
Hiking up Khongoriin Els early in the morning, and then sliding down
Driving to Bayanzag, where the dinosaurs skeletons were found. Arizona-style
landscape, quite impressive.
Some very dark clouds later on create wonderful effects against the green
of the Gobi steppa Top notch gher camp at Gobi Mirage
### AUG 2
Today we plan to go to the Yol Valley (~40 km from Gobi Mirage)
On the way, we stop for the birthday party of a 85-year old woman. A funerary
monument for her deceised husband is uncovered. There's a lama, music,
Later we finally go to the Yol Valley. One can hike through the valley
to a spectacular gorge, but the supposedly permanent glacier has melted
### AUG 3
Driving north towards UB. We stop in Eredenlai for the Songin Dalay monastry
(which seems to be undergoing some remodeling)
### AUG 4
Back to UB.
Choijin Lama Temple: best collection of tsam masks. The temple is now
turned into a museum.
There is a coffee shop in front of the temple (Millie's Espresso) which
seems to be very popular.
Walking around to feel the city.
Seoul Restaurant: ordinary buffet, nothing special
Topping it up going clubbing at the Hollywood: hot.
### AUG 5
UB - Moscow
10 hours in the Moscow airport
Moscow - Rome