02-Mar-2005 -- This is a journey from Ulaanbaatar (UB) in Mongolia to Kirriemuir in Scotland, covering 110 degrees of longitude and visiting 15 CPs on the way. The story starts at 47°N 105°E. This is CP 8. The previous point is 47°N 94°E.
A Mongolian saying has it that a shortcut costs 4 extra days. In this case, maybe 4 extra hours. The next point lay high up on the valley side less than 50km after Darvi. We turned off the road when the GPS was pointing up the hill and attacked the easy slope obliquely. We soon came across gulleys from melt water streams and crossed them with care but quite easily. Gradually the frequency and size of the gullies increased and progress became very slow. A look at the track shows that we would have been much better continuing along the road for another few kilometres and striking up the hill almost due south. In the end we abandoned the car and set off the last 3.5 km up hill. There were those that doubted the wisdom of the expedition – late eve, no hot food all day, long walk climbing but in the end we ignored all the logic and ploughed on. Erka soon retired and went to move the car to a better place for the return – would we find him?? Choi, Sylvia and I made a brisk pace and diagonally up the slope and through a line of hills protecting the upper slopes. Once through, the slope was less severe and we all made it to the point in just over an hour. Darkness was falling so the photos had to be taken quickly. The GPS photo is very poor – I have not worked out why this happens sometimes. The track could be verified against the NASA satellite photo if more evidence is needed.
From the west photo a road can be seen! This came as a complete surprise and could have saved a lot of hard work – however it was nice to have the road to walk down. The road almost certainly leads to winter quarters high up under the steeper slopes.
In the dark it took about an hour to walk down to the waiting lights of the car and then a further hour to back to the road – getting trapped by gullies several times on the way.
After reaching the road we drove for another 30 minutes before stopping at a roadside bothy. The residents were watching satellite TV but much of the time was spent calling to somebody outside to adjust the direction to restore the signal. In a corner next to the fire were 3 2-day old goat kids – no sign of a mother.
The food was good and hot and the bed (room for 8?) cost less than 10 US cents per hour per person – within budget! The next morning we set off early (3.00am) for Khovd and arrived there in time for breakfast. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Choi at this point as he had commitments in Ulaanbaatar and it is difficult to get on to the flights from Bayan Olgii. The last point in Mongolia, 49°N 90°E, was visited the following day.