June 15, 2007 - Location: Moron, Mongolia
GPS location: Moron N49 37 E100 09
“Saan Baan Nuu” from Mongolia! I have been here for about 3 weeks and can say with the utmost certainty that it is unlike any other place on Earth. The people here are the friendliest that I’ve come across during my travels. Outside the capitol of Ulaan Bataar (“UB” for short) and the rural towns, the land and water is unspoiled and there is very little evidence of people.
Speaking of cities and towns..... Mongolia is like a tale of two counties; one is the urban areas (the only REAL city is Ulaan Bataar) and the rural areas. A person should never judge a country by its cities and this is especially relevant to Mongolia. UB is, for lack of a more appropriate term, disgusting. The air pollution is thick. Garbage is indiscriminately thrown everywhere. People use vacant lots (and sometimes sidewalks) as public toilets. After Vladivostok, I thought I had seen the worse drivers in the world, but now that title goes to UB. The traffic is unyielding and accidents occur about as often as people use their horn, which is a lot. If Ulaan Bataar represented true Mongolia, I’d have left after 2 days.
Fortunately, true Mongolia can only be found outside UB. Instead of garbage, there are beautiful vistas of wide valleys and pristine rivers winding beneath tall rocky cliffs. A typical landscape usually includes nothing more than vast open land, a few gers (known as “yurts” in other parts of the world) sprinkled about and the local residents either on horses or motorcycles herding cows, yaks, sheep or goats. The people routinely come outside their gers to wave hello as we pass by. Sometimes they just stare.... probably because they haven’t seen a boat traveling upside down on top of a car before. I have enjoyed many “sit downs” with families. Typically this involves an invitation inside, an offering of dried yogurt, dried cheese and salted milk tea. Once I was treated to a delicious homemade noodle and beef stew, which the elderly woman created for me while I waited. The Mongolian people are incredibly kind and generous.
The rural road network is really nothing more than rocky dirt roads connecting towns. The roads are, by far, the worst I’ve seen. In the future, when people ask me what the roads are like in Mongolia, I’m going to say that I don’t know, because I tried NOT to drive on them; the areas on the sides of the actual roads are more fit for vehicles. This is actually a recognized form of road improvement. You know you are on a “major” road when there is actually a winding network of 4-10 parallel tracks. Apparently, an eternal optimism that a person will find a better track than previously discovered is engrained in all Mongolian drivers.
Thus far, I have chosen to fish some of the lesser-known rivers. The Chuluut River winds down a beautiful canyon in the vast grasslands southwest of UB. There are plentiful, large Lenok and occasionally a taimen here or there. As it is early in the fishing season, the taimen are still working their way through the rivers from their winter habitats, usually in lakes and deep pools. Taimen are legendary for their voracious appetites and vicious strikes. I can certainly attest to that. Both times, as soon as the big fly hit the surface, the fish struck, hurtling itself out of the water. It happens so fast I only caught a glimpse of the tail as it re-entered the water. It is an incredible sight to witness and really gets the adrenaline going of the ensuing fight.
I will be meeting up with Andy Parkinson of Fish Mongolia (www.fishmongolia.com) tomorrow and traveling up to his camp on the Delger Moron. This should prove to be an exciting trip as Andy has specialized in taimen fishing in Mongolia for a number of years. It will also give me an opportunity to explore the Khovsgol Lake region.
I would like to thank Gana and our guide, Baggy, from the Sustainable Tourism Development Center (www.stdc.mn) for their assistance during my initial adventures in Mongolia. As always, thanks to everyone back home for their continued support!
The water supply for the town of Tsetserleg
The inside of my ger at Terhiyn Tsagaan Lake
Dan with some helpful locals
A beautiful view of the Chuluut River Canyon
The land of open space..... and bad (nonexistent) roads
My trusty guide Baggy
Dan showing off “Chippy,” the experimental taiman pattern
A nice Lenok
A good start to fishing Mongolia: a small taimen
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