NW of Khujirt – Bat-Olzii – Tövkhön Khiid
This was a beautiful morning. I was the first one up at 7:30 and went for a walk up to these white rock formations in the hill overlooking our camp. I spent an hour up there, reading and watching the sun move up over the hills. Slowly the camp roused and I could tell it would be a leisurely morning before we got on the road. I think the guys needed it after dealing with the mikr repairs yesterday.
We got on the road around 10:30 headed toward Bat-Olzii. One of the best friends I’ve made so far in Peace Corps used to live in Bat-Olzii. She was medically separated from PC in May, but thankfully she is on the mend and close to medical care in the states and not a 10 hour ride from medical facilities in UB. So, it was bittersweet driving into her soum without her there.
On the way into Bat-Olzii we stopped at a ‘scenic overlook’ to view the river winding its way through the countryside down below us. I could hardly pay attention to the beauty around me because of being swarmed by flies. I don’t mean 5-10 flies were annoying me by buzzing around. I mean hundreds of flies were driving me to distraction, I’m lucky I didn’t fall off the overlook from all the gesticulating and swatting I was doing.
Bat-Olzii is in the Khangai Nuruu National Park which covers a very large area of land and is composed of rolling hills, mountains, a large river, trees, rocky plains, and is just plain gorgeous. Green, green land and blue, blue sky. We stopped in B-Olzii to refuel, both the mikr and ourselves, and to get directions to Tövkhön Khiid.
Next we headed to Tövkhön Khiid. I’ll let Lonely Planet tell you about it – “Hidden deep in the Khangai mountains, this incredibly scenic monastery has become a major pilgrimage centre for Mongolians seeking spiritual solace. Zanabazar founded the site in 1653 and lived, worked and meditated here for 30 years. The monastery was destroyed in 1937 but rebuilt with public funds in the early 1990s. Situated at the tope of Shireet Ulaan Uul, Zanabazar apparently liked the unusual formation of the peak; the rocky outcrop looks like an enormous throne.” It also warns – “Swarms of flies will probably plague your ascent; wrap a t-shirt, bandana or towel around your head to keep them away.” That doesn’t work, btw.
Tövkhön Khiid on the left mountain top
There is a parking lot at the base of the mountain that is a 3k walk from the monastery. All uphill of course. Renting a horse for the trek is an option. An option that I should have taken. I made it about 2.5k up and then had an exercise-induced asthma attack, which have gotten worse since coming to Mongolia. My inhaler was not in my pocket, cuz I’m an idiot. So, I went back down and did not make it to the top. My traveling companions took many pictures so I got to see what I missed and I will be going back. I’ll make sure I have my inhaler in my pocket then. Here’s a pic of the woods we walked through.
so different from where I was two days before this
We left T-K around 5:45 and drove back towards B-Olzii. We stopped at a ger we had passed on the way to T-K and negotiated a price for a goat. The Korean man traveling with us wanted to have a khuurkhug one of the nights we camped and he said he would pay for the goat. A khuurkhug is kind of like a goat roast but the goat is cut into chunks and put into a large metal canister with rocks that have been heated in the fire as well as potatoes and onions. Then the canister is put in the fire. It’s delicious!
These two guys road down to our campsite by the river with the goat on the motorcycle. One guy to drive the bike, one guy to hold the goat.
After killing the goat and removing the innards (almost all to be used later – we gave them to the family that provided the goat because of the time it takes to prepare the innards), the feet and head are removed, then the hide is blow-torched off. Once thoroughly blow-torched, the goat is then cut into chunks to be cooked in the canister. This process takes awhile.
Meanwhile, a storm was blowing in. Lots of lightning, big thunder, dark skies, and wind so strong it blew one of the tents down. Two of us stayed in our tent to hold it down but it was being bent sideways by the wind. I was certain the poles were going to break. Thankfully they didn’t. And we managed to stay dry! It was a successful camping in a thunderstorm. Alas, the goat did not finish cooking that night. So, we had goat for breakfast the next day. But that’s tomorrow’s story…