04-Sep-2007 -- Confluence point 49N 91E is located just off the Hovd River valley, which runs roughly north/south in the Bayan-Ulgii aimag (province) of far-west Mongolia. I wanted an adventure…
Guljan (my guide), Kenje (cook), Yassin (driver) and I took off from the city of Ulgii in the morning, heading east on the normal route out of town. Two to three hours out we stopped for lunch on a small rise, sitting on rocks under the blue Mongolian sky. We talked about our route and what we might find at the confluence point, and even if we would be able to get to it. Then as we finished Guljan looked down and three feet away spotted a small set of 4,000-year-old petroglyphs – deer, ibex and what looked to be a wolf or dog. They had never seen these before. I knew this was going to be a good day!
We continued east, and then headed north to get around a mountain that was standing between us and the Hovd River. Yassin had never been up this way before so we used a topo map and my GPS to figure out exactly which ‘roads’ to use. Basically we were following faint tracks left in the terrain as other trucks/4WDs/horses/goats/yaks/camels passed on their way to and from the area. After about an hour we finally rounded the north end of the mountain and made our way down the Hovd River valley which is rather wide for the most part, but narrowed down for a bit as the rocks/mountains on either side began to turn red.
We continued along the river and the amazing red rocks until we were near the confluence point. Here, the narrow valley opened out into a flat area with a small valley heading off to the west/south-west. And at exactly this spot stood a Stone Man (see photo). These are grave/battle markers found in western Mongolia, left by the Turkik people who came into the area somewhere between 1,000 BC and 500 AD (at least as far as I can tell by quick research). I included a picture here because amazingly, if you look into the face of the Stone Man, you’re facing in the exact direction that the confluence point is located – 4.5 km away! Coincidence – or aliens?
We headed off into this other valley, Yassin driving and me counting down the distance with my GPS. Yassin stopped at a point about 800 meters from the confluence point, which looked like it was located somewhere up on a hill to the side. Guljan and I then jumped out and sprinted across the flats to the hill (okay, I was excited!). We ran up about two thirds of the way, I was within the 100 meter limit, and then walked back and forth and up and down that hill until the GPS showed me 49N, 91E – and a bunch of zeroes! I was there!!!!
I marked it with a rock, snapped all the photos, and triple-checked to make sure that I had gotten everything. Guljan shot a photo of me on the point, and I snapped one of the both of us. There was one bush located near the confluence which I use as a reference point in some of the shots – you can see the bush itself in the east-facing pic.
This was such a riot doing this! I kept thanking Guljan for helping me get there – and she kept thanking me for the adventure! Ultimately, I suppose the real thanks goes to whoever thought this whole Degree Confluence Project up – and the volunteers who help it to go on. THANKS!
Below are explanations of photos…
General Area: taken from 30 meters away from the CP, looking north-east, with the reference bush located dead-center of the frame. The Hovd River itself is located between the dark mountain in the center of the frame, and the red one located just to its left. That’s also roughly where the Stone Man is located… with his back-side facing toward me! :)
The Four Cardinal Directions: Because of the angle of the hill, the south and east photos are essentially looking into the hill itself, but without any specific directions I thought it was best to take the shots with a level camera instead of angling it up to see sky in the frame. The east photo has the bush that I use for reference in the other photos. The north and west photos give a great sense of the area.
Me standing on the CP: This shot gives you an idea of distance/perspective… if you look just above the left brim of my hat, you’ll see the Land Cruiser at the bottom of the hill.
Guljan and I on CP: Two happy campers!
Yassin, Kenje and Guljan: They were fantastic and had fun with the adventure - and Blue Wolf Travel totally rocked in helping me get there (www.mongoliaaltaiexpeditions.com)!!! I just could not have gotten there without them. Also for perspective, the reference-bush near the CP is located just up and to the left of the top corner of the windshield.