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Part 7 of the trip: Dundgov', Töv, and back to Ulaanbaatar

This part looks bigger than the previous ones, but it is not true. We are traveling on a well tarred road, like a motorway, from the south to the north, and so we arrive at our next stops very soon. We have a quick stopover at Mandalgov', then we continue northbound.

Süm Khökh Bürd (Dundgov'). First stop is Süm Khökh Bürd, another monastery ruin, which looks quite deserted - even from tourists. After that, we arrive at the nearby rock formation Baga Gazriin Chuluu ("Stone of the small land") and get to our next camp.

Surprise: Something is missing in the yurt ... yes, it is the oven. Well, it is August, should not matter anyway ... except ... if you wake up in the morning with 11°C in the yurt. Later that day, we resume our trip in the direction of Ulaanbaatar, and the weather is getting worse the closer we get there. Some ice pellets gather on the windscreen.

Khan Khentii National Park (Töv). We arrive at the Khan Khentii National Park and encounter the huge statue of Genghis Khan, made of stainless steel. This area is said to be the birthplace of the Mongol Leader. What spoils the impressive look is that this monument was created in 2008; not really an antique artifact but modern history. We pass the Turtle Rock at the Terelj road and arrive at the last program item, the visit to the Aryabal meditation center. We enjoy a marvellous view over the grassy landscape.

Then we drive on to our last yurt camp, Mirage Tourist Camp. This time, the oven is back, but unfortunately, cattle left their droppings all over the place. In the morning we have a short walk around the camp, up to a point where we can see the Turtle Rock and Aryabal from the day before. It somehow looks like a mountain pasture, and there is even an Edelweiss.

Back in Ulaanbaatar. Our bus brings us back to the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Before we drive to the hotel, we have a stop at the Mongolian Cashmere Center. I'm not really interested in getting a cashmere pullover, so I have a walk through the streets, and I notice that we are close to the Bogd Khan Winter Palace, which we know from the second day. Then we have another stop at the Ikh Delgüür (State Department Store), a huge shopping mall.

In the evening, our goodbye dinner is set, in a restaurant with a Mongol grill - what else? The guys are really skilled with their knifes at the hot plate, performing some artistic show. After that, we return to the Khabu Hotel, which was our first accomodation in Mongolia. Next morning, we pick up our luggage and head back to the airport. With a sunny goodbye from Mongolia, we fly back.

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Part 6 of the trip: Ömnögov' (2)

Khongoryn Els. Continuing westbound through Gobi, with 25°C in the shades. Comfortable temperature indeed. In the distance we see Khongoryn Els, a 100 km long stretch of sand. The camp Gov' Erdene (Gobi Treasure) offers us an unexpected luxury: log cabins. And private bathrooms.

In the evening we visit yet another nomad family. We get some snuff, a quick check of the yurt's minibar, camel cheese, and airag (fermented mare milk).

Early next morning (I mean, really early, getting up at 4:30 am) we drive out to the dunes, and wait for the sunrise. Yes, again, unbelievable. You need to see that. The colors, the small ripples on the sand, which almost looks like snow in the backlight.

Later that day, we drive over dusty tracks, but not alone - there are plenty of other tourist buses on their ways.

Lammergeier valley. At about 3 pm, we arrive at Yolyn Am, the valley of the Lammergeier (vulture). The bottom of this gorge never sees direct sunlight, so in some years, the snow and ice never melts. However, at least this year, nothing is left of it; maybe this is a sign of the global warming. In fact, it is not really cold, you can walk through the water with bare feet. In the small museum near the main road there are some stuffed animals and information about the area.

In the evening we reach our next stop, Gobi Oasis. It is located about 10 km northwest of Dalanzadgad, the capital of the Ömnögov' (south Gobi) aimag.

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Part 4 of the trip: Övörkhangai and Dundgov'

Orkhon valley (Övörkhangai). We continue just a few kilometers to the Orkhon valley and arrive at our next camp, Talbiun Ger Camp. A clear attraction of the area is the Red Waterfall near the Orkhon river. I don't take the opportunity to take a bath, as it is a bit difficult to climb down the walls, and my shoes were not appropriate for that.

A small breakdown: flat tyre at one of our buses. In the evening we visit a nearby yurt camp; the nomads show us around their cattle and invite us into their yurt. It is interesting to see how four people manage to live in such a yurt - and not just during a short trip. In the night, the Milky Way stretches over our heads.

Near our camp we can find prehistoric carvings in stone slabs. We cross the Övörkhangai aimag and have a short stop at some stone circles which may be prehistoric tombs.

The landscape is getting more and more barren. At noon, we have a lunch stop in the middle of nowhere, grass steppe all around. A tissue roof is unrolled from one of the buses, providing some shadow. There are herds of goats and sheep every some kilometers.

Ongiin Khiid (Dundgov'). At about 5 pm we reach the next camp, Secret of Ongi, located in the Saikhan-Ovoo sum (district) in the Dundgov' aimag. The camp is located next to a monastery ruin, the Ongiin Khiid. The camp calls itself "the gate to Gobi", and it again has a distinctive touristic focus, featuring a building complex, evening entertainment, and an opulent buffet.

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Part 5 of the trip: Ömnögov' (1)

Steppe (Dundgov'/Ömnögov'). We are crossing the Gobi today. This is a desert you may not have seen anywhere else; deserts usually mean burning sun, dry air, high temperatures, sand, dunes, camels. Well, camels are also here, but the sun is hidden behind clouds. It starts raining. Among the sparse grass you can find wild thymus, and there is a scent like in a herbal cabinet as soon as you leave the bus.

The ground turns to rusty red, and we encounter the saxaul forests. They really do not look like forests, but mainly because the saxauls do not grow very high, more like bushes.

Bayanzag (Ömnögov'). We arrive at the Mongolian Gobi Luxury Tourist Camp near Bayanzak,a rock formation that is also known as the "flaming cliffs". We are truly lucky - after the rainy morning, the sun appears again, making the rocks glowing in a orange light. Bayan-zag means "full of saxaul", but we did not see that many saxaul here.

The area around the hills is unbelievably flat. The camp does not look too far away, but it takes some time to walk back from the flaming cliffs.

On the next morning, I can see a fantastic sunrise in the Gobi desert. What else could you want?

We continue our journey again, visiting the small supermarket in Bulgan, then continuing to the south.

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Part 3 of the trip: Arkhangai and Kharkhorin

Tsetserleg. We continue eastward again, visiting Tsetserleg a second time. We walk through the market halls, the container market (where the stands are actually containers). For lunch, we enjoy a hotpot dish, which is actually well-known at home as traditional Mongolian, but obviously not here.

Tsenkher. At about 5:30 pm we get to the next camp at Tsenkher. This one has an obvious touristic focus. There are hot pools outside, and a set of buildings for lavatories and a large restaurant.

After breakfast we drive through some difficult, muddy terrain; some other tourists seem to be in trouble - you really need an all-terrain car here. There is not always a bridge when you need one.

Erdene Dsuu (Övörkhangai). At noon we visit Erdene Zuu, the first buddhist monastery in Mongolia. It was destroyed in 1937 except for the walls and some few buildings. Since 1990, parts were restored, and the monastery was reopened. Outside of the walls we have a look at the excavation site, where remnants of the antique capital of Genghis Khan can be seen.

Munkh Tenger (near Kharkhorin). In the afternoon, we reach the Munkh Tenger camp near Kharkhorin. Later, we visit the Karakorum museum and then have a walk in the beautiful landscape.

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