Saturday, December 16, 2017

Transmongolian Rails Part III - Mongolia and Onto Russia

Terelj National Park is a gorgeous place. I was really surprised by how easy it was to access everything. The road is one lane (in each direction) and there are no streetlights, but it is nicely paved. There are settlements dotted around and lots of places to pull off the road and snap photos.

It was a nice day driving around. After exploring the park for a few hours, we drove on to the Genghis Khan Statue Complex.

You can see the equestrian statue of Genghis Khan from quite a distance. It is obviously very impressive. There weren't too many people there that day, and the visit was well worth it.

You can go inside the monument and see the worlds biggest Mongolian boot. You can also get a closer look at Genghis himself upstairs. Downstairs there is a nice timeline of various Khans throughout Mongolian history. 

The view was incredible.

Back to Ulaanbaatar. There was just a ton of traffic and it was boring and not fun at all. We kept the vehicle overnight, being totally unsure of how much time our trip to the park would take, and at one point expecting to overnight in a ger (yurt), which did not work out because of miscommunications. We ended up heading back to our hotel instead, which was fine.

Ulaanbaatar is a modern, but slightly ugly city. Above, a Buddhist temple and below, some kids hang out with their bikes.

There were some missed opportunities during my time in Mongolia, and all in all the stay wasn't remarkable one way or another. One massive failure is that I have a gap in my photos due to a destroyed memory card. That means that there's not much to illustrate our evening trip to the train station or our departure from Ulaanbaatar, and plenty that happened afterward. 

After a night on the train, we got to the end of the Mongolian line and then, spent hours upon hours traversing the border between Mongolia and Russia.

We stayed a small village there, first getting passports inspected, then waiting for hours for a train engine to come pick up our car, which held only a handful of passengers. After a bit of time on the train, we got to Irkutsk the next morning and walked to our hostel, a place I didn't care for. We had an excursion scheduled for the next day, the pictures pick up in the middle of touring a small village on the outskirts of Irkutsk. The day was grey and the visibility was terrible. We had a nice tour guide though, and while we did not go our on Lake Baikal, we did see a bit of it.

With our guide, we headed to a lake view point and it was a decent hike in the snow, but once we got up there it ws only fog. I fell on the way back. Sometimes vacations are amazing and sometimes, things don't quite go your way. Tihs felt like one of those days.

After our hike we went to a little market for tourists. There was a lot of fish being sold there; from what I'm told there has since been a limit placed on how many of those fish can be caught, which does not surprise me based on what I saw. 

Behind the market was a small church. Before long, it was time to call it a day. We headed back to our hotel for a rest, and I went to look for food.

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