This weekend we managed to leave the city on both days which was great as it is a very dusty city with a lot of pollution and Mongolian is known for its landscape more than anything, however it wasn’t plane sailing, I got quite a few injuries firstly from the Saturday when a few of us went hiking and I wore my new hiking boots for the 1st time. We set off at 8am, the earliest I have been up on a Saturday in ages, and we got our first Mongolian public bus. It was, as expected, jam-packed, a bit like the London tube at rush-hour where you have to push on and hope for the best with 300 Tugrugs in hand ready to give to the lady. We held onto our bags as we had been advised and the other hand grabbed onto whatever we could as the driving leaves a lot to be desired. We thankfully needed to get off at the last stop at the edge of the South of the city right next to the juvenile detention centre and the presidents land, I say lucky as we cannot yet understand the bus stop names being called out and we couldn’t see out of the windows for all the people. So when we reached our destination there wasn’t really a debate as to which way to go and the city was behind us and in front an up-hill climb and beyond endless land. The first part was easily the hardest as it was all up hill, unable to avoid the millions and I mean millions of grass hoppers jumping everywhere, some as big as my thumb we kept going up and then turned around to see the vast city we had left behind and the smog cloud hovering above.
We had a GPS system on us so if the worst came to the worst we had a track back to the city, but we were just on the edge of the city. We reached our 1st Ovo or Buddhist pile of prayer stones, they are so peaceful and beautiful with the scarves offered to God, we walked around 3 times clock-wise adding stones as we sent round and making a wish, there were quite a few of these on our hike, but the 1st is the one you remember I guess.
As we walked I noticed my boot beginning to rub my heel and this was just one hour in so there wasn’t really much I could do but continue climbing, and we did climb, every time we reached a peak we found another bigger, the landscape changed a lot, we crossed short grass, long grass, up rocky hills, through a forest, across mossy swampy areas, the lot, it was amazing how diverse the terrain changed in the 6 hours.
And I haven’t even mentioned yet the amount of hawks that we saw hovering about, there were quite a few and at times close enough to see the feathers, we also came across many tress covered in prayer scarves and my 1st Mongolian goats, there was a small herd in the forest on our decent, all ssssooo beautiful.
It was very exhausting but we stopped often for photos and lunch, we managed to walk across quite a few peaks and in a horse shoe shape ending up back where we started more or less, the descent was hard as it was rocky and my foot by then was pounding. We hailed down our bus back and this time as it was the beginning of the line we got well deserved seats and I slumped against the window and fell asleep, when I awoke we realised that the bus wasn’t taking the same route back, it turned off before our stop so we went up to the North into the Urban Ger area, this is where rural families have up-rooted and moved their Ger’s to the city in search of work, which doesn’t really exist, I guess it could be called a slum area but it wasn’t as bad as those I have seen in other countries, it was an experience to go into the area as we probably wouldn’t have gone there otherwise and it adds to my vision of Mongolia and emphasises why VSO are working here. The bus did eventually come to a stop and did the most unique U-turn I have ever seen, with a few cms at each end of the bus, everybody got off and it was just us 5 whiteys left of the bus hoping that the route back down would lead us somewhere familiar, but I was definitely thankful for the rest after the long hike. When we finally got back to the guesthouse I took off my new boots and saw what had been bothering me all day, a patch of very raw bleeding flesh on my heel, which 4 days later now is still stinging and raw. Oh well it was worth it.