I woke up early the next morning as Mongolia is 4 hours behind Manila. To early though that no one was awake. So I still had to wait before I could book a trip to the countryside. Not wasting time, I researched more on excursions.
I had a lot of limitations, since my flight to Shanghai from UB was in 5 days. I had a Lonely Planet book with me, but I wasn't able to read it thoroughly. I just familiarized myself with the places that I wanted to go to, thinking it would be easy to book trip from UB when I arrive. I was wrong, so just a tip, when you plan to go to Mongolia, book your tours in advance. Mongolia requires preparation.
I was able to book a trip to the Terelj National Park, where I will be staying overnight in a ger camp. That was my first task. I needed to stay in a ger (or yurt in Russian), those round and portable tent like homes of the traditional Mongolian nomads. I asked my tour operator if they can book a trip for me the next day to Omnogov, the southern regions where the Gobi desert and the ice canyon Yolyn Am can be found. I needed to take a flight which again needs to be booked through the office. Hence, I could not get any fixed plan for the next day.
I checked out of Urgoo and was picked up by my driver at exactly 9 in the morning, or about 1 hour after I settled my dues to the tour operator. I was glad that the tour operator was very accommodating, considering that it was a Sunday (no work). Getting out of UB was a breeze since there were not many cars around. After driving along crater filled roads, the scenery began to change. Vast grasslands revealed themselves in a horizon dominated by rocky mountains. It was amazing. The roads soon became unpaved as we turned towards the heights.
Soon, we came upon an archway that said Terelj National Park. There were a number of buses traveling with us, all storming up a lot of dust from the road. the scenery became more dramatic as the mountains became more majestic. Littered on the side of the roads were signs to ger camps. I was hoping that ours would be a nice one.
The car suddenly took a turn and our silent driver was looking at me, pointing the camp where I would be staying for a night. The camp looked ordinary though, but nevertheless I was still excited. I got down the car and wasn't welcomed by anyone. So I barged into the restaurant with my luggage on hand. Still, no sign of life.
I was calling for someone already, and so, a petite girl humbly approached me and was trying to make me follow her. She got my luggage and led me to my ger.
As soon as I entered the ger, I was brimming with a smile. It was authentic with a steel fireplace at its center. The bed was made of solid wood and carved with colorful floral designs. There was an eerie statue of a Mongolian warrior, a god of sorts and a very small red statue of a Mongolian princess. I was actually inspired by the artworks hand painted on the columns of the ger.
I settled in, ready to trek the mountains at the back of the camp. I sat for a while on the floor and had to pinch myself. I was really in Mongolia now. This was the reason why the country was in my bucket list anyway. There were a few people around, and you'll really feel being a guest of nature.
Of course, there was no toilet or bath in the ger. Those were housed separately to be shared by all guests. So think of it as a guesthouse. Though, I was wondering how I would wake up late at night just to pee because the temperature will get below freezing at night.
I was tempted to go straight up the mountains, but I realized I haven't had lunch yet. So I had my first Mongolian meal of beef stew, mashed potato and Chinese fried rice It sounded like a weird combination of cuisines, but it was their traditional meal. There was also a large serving of shredded cabbage and carrots with a dressing similar to Thousand Islands.
Full and energized, I started my trek up. After lunch, everyone seemed to disappear again, so I went ahead without informing anyone. I didn't know if there was a trail or something, but the top of the mountain looked easy to trek to from afar.
It was mostly grass and bushes everywhere so I could see everything from my path. There were also no signs of wild life. I continued my trek upwards. As I was about halfway to the top, I looked back and saw our camp. I was really crazy in taking a trek, not knowing where I would end up. I was just hoping that the top would provide me with a jaw dropping view.
The wind was getting fiercer as I inched closer to the summit. There was also a high pitched sound coming from the bushes that was a little irritating. Then, slowly, I reached heaven.
It was a vast emptiness that stretched mountain after mountain. I felt like a giant, all alone in this world. I shouted at the top of my lungs in ecstasy. My feet were shaking a bit, but that didn't stop me from pushing further on.
I didn't know where to go, so I explored both sides. One had trees already had a dangerous slope, so I decided to go to the other side. I went down a steep slope and the high toned sounds got worse. These insects were invisible but they sure made themselves feel present.
I couldn't believe what I saw. It was the same feeling I had when I reached the highest point of the trek in the Tiger Leaping Gorge in China. But here, I was alone. If something happened to me, probably no one will find me.
I stopped at some point and rested under the pine trees. The air was cold, but very refreshing. The wind sometimes scared me, as it hurled strong blows from time to time. I pushed further, but realized I was getting too far that I may not be able to return. So I decided to take the same route back to the camp.
Back in the camp, I noticed that 4 gers were now occupied. There was a group of Europeans that arrived with a Chinese tour guide. Eventually, I made friends with them and hung out for drinks after dinner. I went back at the ger that was steaming hot like a sauna because of the fireplace. I had to open my door to get the heat out and the cold in. It was quite uncomfortable, so I decided to turn off the flame. I woke up the next day all cold, but at least, not sweating.
I was to be picked up by my driver noon time. I didn't get any word from the tour operator, so I was worried. I went around the camp and noticed a small waterfall at one side of a hill. I also explored the other common areas, such as the art gallery and the gaming grounds. I wasn't able to take pictures though.
And so I end this part of my trip, satisfied though wishing for more. I still couldn't get over my simple trek to nowhere land. I just couldn't wait to discover more of this magnificent country.