Mongolia 2008 – Second and third phases at Lake Khovsgol

Team Zebra: Canoeing

Just about recovered after the horse riding, we inflated the
canoes and set out on Lake Khovsgol. It was Paul’s birthday that day, but
unfortunately he was feeling a bit under the weather and decided to stay at
base camp. This meant we had to put our secret celebration plans back a day! We
set out in 4 canoes to find a campsite for the night within reach of Paul so
that we could pick him up the next day. We canoed for around 4 hours until we
reached a beautiful island where we decided to make camp. Some of the girls
decided to go for a quick swim in the glassy lake and attracted various boats
of Mongolian tourists. After the 3rd boat arrived we decided to get
out and dry off. We then chatted on the island and chilled out for the rest of
the day.

Around 5 o’clock we were rudely interrupted by some angry Mongolians
who wanted us to vacate the island. There are no landowners in this national
park, so Chris knew they had no right to ask us to leave. He tried to defuse
the situation with a private chat and a cup of tea, even phoning his wife Sarol
 to translate across their broken
English. They stank of beer, and when they started asking for a bribe Chris
knew it was time to leave. None of us felt at all unsafe under Chris’
leadership. We packed up our tents, re-inflated our canoes and set off across choppy
waters to a new campsite on the mainland.

Our new site was even more beautiful than the last. We got
back on our feet very quickly, setting up camp in time for an evening meal and
tales around the fire. We had a wonderful night, described at the debrief as a
group highlight, and went to bed very satisfied and eager to begin our early
start the following morning.

We set off in the early hours to pick up Paul from base
camp. The wind had picked up significantly, so after we had completed what was a
rather challenging crossing and met up with Paul, we stayed at base camp for a
few hours to allow the wind time to die down and enjoy a lazy lunch. It was at
said lunch that we broke out Paul’s birthday treat: a loaf of bread smothered
in chocolate and layered with melted Mars bars! It was delicious, and even featured
a tea light on the top.

Leaving base camp again, this time with Paul, we came across
a Mongolian family at the lakeside. They were processing freshly caught fish,
presumably just purchased from a small fishing craft we passed further along
the shore, throwing the entrails to the seagulls circling overhead. We landed,
and let the children play in our canoes. Many photographs were taken, and the
atmosphere was very pleasant: for many of us, this is the reason we came to
Mongolia, to interact with native peoples across language barriers in a
friendly, positive manner. Reluctantly we left them to their chores, and set up
camp a few hours later.

The final day brought with it some very still waters –
remarkably calm for a body of water so large, according to Chris. It was an
ideal opportunity to take some brochure photographs, so we had a bit of a laugh
posing in the canoes in the middle of the lake. It was a beautiful day; the
water is very clear, but that morning we could see right to the bottom of the
lake without any difficulty. We spotted the hiking group camped above a small bay
dead ahead, and were keen to share stories back at base camp that afternoon.

Team Zebra: Trekking

Our final activity involved a change in group dynamics: the
leadership for this activity was to be taken over by the three girls, so as to
allow them to submit their work towards their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. They
liaised with the Mongolian wranglers to devise a route to tackle Ich Ul II, the
second highest mountain in the area (“ich ul” means “big mountain” in Mongolian). Quite
a challenge given the poor quality of the available maps! This involved ascending
to around 2,500m, a good kilometre higher than base camp. The plan was to trek
to an advance base camp on the first day, ascending 600m, to tackle the final
400m on the second day, returning to base camp on the final day.
Will C, Richard, Amy, Laura, Rosie, Sarah, Chris, Paul &
Sharu.

Team Party-Trekking

After a relaxing day at base camp and a trip to the local
restaurant the night before team party made a some what slow start for their
first day trekking. We got going at around 10am with packs on and lots of
smiling faces.  With the horses packed we
set off following the same route that team faff (now faff-less!!)  had taken a few days earlier.  Around an hour later we discovered the possibility
of the horses carrying our bag so a few of us took the chance to enjoy the walk
without a rucksack!  Gamba and the
wranglers took us up into the mountains and then along an empty river bed, and
after around a three hour walk we stopped for lunch in the shade.  After a team nap we set off in the , what was
very hot, heat of the day and proceeded to walk amongst the glorious scenery.

It was around an hour later that Andie
discovered that we were still being followed by beloved Sheeba, the team
dog.  The wranglers and Uuggi then showed
us where we would be camping for the night. 
It was a beautiful spot with lots of shade and high mountains all
around.  Thinking we were completely away
from everyone, it can’t have been more than an hour before the head wrangler,
Gamba, had some friends showing up. 
After making what we thought was the best meal yet, chicken noddles, we
all settled around the fire and chatted with our wranglers.  It wasn’t long until Claire got her iPod out
and we began to introduce the wranglers to English music.  This was when James, not so reluctantly, took
the chance to perform his “Dancing in the Moonlight” special dance for us
all.  After an enjoyable night with lots
of Yak milk tea, Mongolian singing and English dancing we all fell into our
tents for a good nights sleep.

We woke not so early on our second day to the sight of, once
again, fantastic weather.  With museli,
hot milk and honey for breakfast we set off with water and sun cream at the
ready. The scenery then changed for us, from walking in mountainous open fields
to dense forests with the sun light thankfully not streaming through too
much!  We made our way down from the
mountains to the lake which gave us the feeling of “coming home  again” due to the fact we had become to used
to the presence of the lake and it’s surroundings.  We stopped for a cracker lunch in the trees
by the lake and then spent another half an hour by the lake in the breeze.  We then walked along the lake, watching out
for the canoeist, and found ourselves at the same spot we had been in a few
days before for canoeing.

We made a
group decision to move on and find somewhere else new to camp and  after a short pleasant walk we found the most
amazing spot.  On what seemed to be a
small cliff edge was a small clearing perfect for us and the horses. After
making camp, the girls of the group went for a dip in the lake whilst the boys
set up a shelter with Andie and Claire.  It was half way through cooking tea that the
storm behind us hit our area.  With what
was our first rain since base camp, most of the group stayed outside to watch
the short storm as it quickly passed over us. 
We then made tea and once again settle around the fire for another night
with the wranglers.  We spent a long time
talking about out families and telling Gamba, Uuggi and the other wranglers
about what England was like.  After
hearing the Mongolian national song and having the best head massages in the
world for one of the wranglers, the group then went to their tents for one of
their latest nights yet, half past ten!!!! 

With a proposed 8am start on the final morning, team party
took the chance to sit around and talk in the post-storm, great weather.  With a big team chat about many different
things we ended up setting off at a rather late half past 12.  However with everything talked about and
having learnt even more about each other, the group mentality was going
exceptionally strong.  It wasn’t long
until we were at the top of a hill at a stunning spot with a great few of the
lake and the mountains around it.  Team Party
then took the chance to take some rather ridiculous pictures with the newly
discovered self-timer on Claire’s camera and an even more ridiculous video.  After a final hour of brisk walking we found
ourselves dancing into base camp, with the wranglers joining in on their
horses.  With the group feeling positive
and upbeat we spent what was remaining of the day washing and preparing
ourselves for the horse trek.

 

With an early start, the horses were efficiently packed
along with, what we decided, had to be the best food all trip.  With us not so comfortably sat on the horses
we set off in high spirits aware of the visit to the town pretty soon.  Arriving in Hatgal around an hour later we
went in search of potatoes, onions, garlic and mutton.  After finding most of this in around 6
different shops we re-visited many to stock up on treats for the next few
days.  Arriving at camp earlier than
expected, 2pm, many of us were quite glad at the presence of sun light and lack
of rain as the boys constructed the shelter. 
After Helen had prepared the meat we realised we would need some more so
James went back into Hatgal with a shrieking Chiggi and amused wrangler.  After preparing the fresh veg and meat it was
all placed into a huge pan on the fire and stewed away until, after a never
ending wait, was ready.  The whole group
was delighted at the food with it’s very un-bland taste!  With full tummy’s and a very well constructed
shelter most of the partiers were in bed by 9pm.

As a long day had been pre-planned by Helen the day before,
the group left camp at around 10am after a breakfast of the remainders of last
nights prize meal.  After what could have
only been around 20 minutes the entire group were cantering across the Mongolian
step.  We spent what must have been most
of the morning at a fast pace and finally arrived for a lunch stop at the top
of a hill over looking some more planes. 
With sore bums and some of the most amazing moans and groans, the group
were back on the horses and cantering away into the distance after a long
lunch.  We arrived back at camp with a
final canter at around 4pm with some even more impressive groaning and crawling
along the ground from Chiggi, Ella, Heather and well…most of the group.  We then concocted a variation of tea the
night before with sautéed potatoes and a meaty stew.   Many of team P then crawled into the
shelter, whilst Helen and Heather stayed up giggling with Chiggi until around
half 10. 

A happy group woke up at around 7am on their last day of
riding and headed back into Hatgal to re-stock on treats and head back into
base camp.  After what was a painful ride
for many we arrived back at base camp for around 2pm ready to prepare ourselves
for  the visit to the Tsaatan.  A short trot got us back into camp in style
and after collapsing into the mess tents, the girl’s day was completely by the
presence of their tent which the boys had put up for them.  With lots of aches but everyone feeling
mentally good the group got some washing done and settled into the base camp
routine. 

Lots of love from all of team party,

Ella Helen, James,
Will, Claire, Andie and Heather and Chris!!!! (sat in a lovely gur at the
fantastic wedding!!!)xx

 

Team Non-FAFF Horse Trekking

Our first day started off on a bit of a bad note – Kathy had
been ill in the night and it was decided she wasn’t well enough to join us for
the first day, though hopefully the next. Pattie stayed with her at base camp
so we set out just Lily, Olivia, Louise and Allie with the wranglers. Once the
horses were packed up and we had been given our suited horse we were ready for
the off at about  9.30.  We rode a
gentle walk until approx. 2pm when we stopped for lunch near by the river and
decided to stay there for the rest of the day, set up camp and stop overnight
because if we went on any further it would have been to far to have Pattie and
Kathy join us the following day. We chilled out in the forest after making our
shelter for the night ahead. We used 2 large tarpaulins (one as the ground
sheet and one as the roof) . We tied rope between two trees and hung the tarp
over it and pegged everything down. This was with the assistance of a wrangler
who was determined to do it all for us assuming we needed it doing as an all
girl group. Later on we made the fire to cook diner on. We had mutton and
potatoes with onions with was really nice and rewarding with hot chocolate and marshmallow
s for afters – of course with the marshmallows toasted on the open fire . We
soon went to bed as the dark soon closed in on us. It was surprisingly nice and
warm under the tarpaulin .

The following day we de-camped after having noodles and
mutton ………………. To be continued, Lily has just gone horse riding!! (Kathy joined us early today feeling very much better for a good nights sleep) ed.

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About Andie Brazewell

Working with the profit and not-for-profit sectors of society, I am a Director, Business Development Consultant, Event Manager, Trainer, Facilitator and Expedition Leader.
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