Mongolia 08 – Canyons and Hot Springs

Arkhangai, Mongolia
July 2016

Full photoset on Flickr

The morning woke with low mist swirling around the White Lake. A cold wind whipped through reminding me of the brevity of summer in these parts. Winter is never far away. A late start allowed time for the sun to burn of the cloud, the temperature climbed twenty odd degrees in the space of an hour.

A stop to climb the dormant Khorgo Uul volcano revealed massive lava fields around extending all the way across the the lake and great views of the crater and surrounding mountains. Ground squirrels dart about amongst the lava formations at the base as opportunistic hawks circle overhead looking for a well earned meal. The steps to the summit are busy with Nadaam week holidaymakers, but the best of the scenery is found circling the crater leaving the crowd far behind. I make my way back down through the forest, thick for trees with a dense mossy carpet. It’s quiet and blissful in there.

We move on to the Chuluut Canyon, where the swollen brown river has carved a deep gorge through a deep layer of ancient lava. There’s a long ridge up above covered in pine and deep grasses and wildflowers which makes for a great hike with stunning views across the surrounding landscape. From here you can see the start of the canyon and see it snake thorough the valley below to end somewhere way off beyond the visible range. It would make for a superb rafting trip.

Up on top of the mountain is a shamanistic shrine where people have left offerings. There is a plague of flies in the forest here, I wonder how people live with it without going insane as I feel myself rapidly approaching that point with them in only a couple of short hours.

Back at camp, a fire is lit to hold the flies at bay, as the sun goes down, so do the flies.

Morning breaks hot and sunny, the wet season has moved on for the moment and we ride out into the countryside to the Tsenkher Hot Springs in a beautiful wooded valley filled with more wildflowers. When they say hot, the springs emerge at 87 degrees and are piped down to pools barely cool enough to get into.

After only 10 minutes in the pool, standing up I almost pass out now a deep shade or purple. Even stood up to my knees there’s enough sweat running off me that I might as well be in the pool. Stewing yourself up to the neck has the added advantage that it minimizes the surface area that the horse sized horseflies can bite at. Fortunately they’re not active at night and a midnight soak beneath the stars is the perfect end to the day.

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