Mongol Road Trip Part the Last: Khatgal and the Return to Khovd

Approximately two hours after I said goodbye to my Mongolian friend and her pile of dead animals, I arrived in Khatgal. I had initially planned to stay at a guest camp, but a friend of a friend heard I was coming and called to tell me I would be staying in his guest ger.

His what?
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Oh, that guest ger.
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I spent three days living in the ger, which was fun albeit an exercise in Things I Didn’t Know Could Freeze, like toothpaste and baby wipes and your balaclava, while you’re wearing it. Day 1 was super fun, what with all the chilling out and reading books and doing nothing. Day 2 was still enjoyable, but by Day 3 I was restlessly stomping around in circles and ready to be done.

For starters, it was fucking cold–I was burning wood, not coal, and since wood doesn’t burn super long, it was in the -20s in the ger by 4 AM, which is when the cold woke me up because I had stuck my hand out of the sleeping bag. Second, there was not a whole lot to do. Khatgal itself was very pretty and very cold…but very tiny. I spent most of my first day walking around and climbing shit, so pretty standard.
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And also running around on the frozen lake, being endlessly entertained by said lake, and making a lot of internal Jesus jokes.

See? Boats!
See? Boats!

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But by Day 2 I had explored the entire town nine times and was desperate for someone to be friends with. But the people I was staying with didn’t speak English and there were no tourists because off-season, so I befriended a herd of yaks:
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Also a dog that only loved me while it thought my chocolate milk was food.
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And then I climbed more things.
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On Monday I caught a ride back to Mörön and then discovered that the guy with whom I was suppose to travel back to Khovd had ditched me and gone the night before. And since traffic in this country only goes one way, this meant sixteen hours on a bus going to UB (read: in the wrong direction). I sat in the UB bus station for five hours and boarded the next bus going to Khovd, the back of which was impressively tetrised with boxes and bags and what I can only assume was half an automobile broken down into it’s component parts.
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About two hours into the trip the metal side of said automobile freed itself from its ties and I spent the rest of the trip convinced it was going to slide forward and decapitate me.

The bus ride back was actually super enjoyable, or rather, about as enjoyable as a 2-day bus trip (after a sixteen-hour bus trip) can be. The first day my fellow bus passangers ignored me/made fun of me, but as soon as they found out I wasn’t a tourist they bought me tea and tried to talk to me. My best friends were two seventeen-year-olds who took it upon themselves to teach me Mongolian songs and at various points busted out their computers so I could marvel at their collection of pirated Bruno Mars music videos (Oh yes, did I marvel). At one point they made a guitar appear from nowhere and a spontaneous jam session ensued; later, we traded songs–I sang an English one and they sang me a Mongolian song. Three-quarters of the way through the trip, we were such good friends that they were passing out on my shoulder and drooling on my jacket. By time we pulled into Khovd, they were trying to set me up with the 60-year-old goat herder sitting on a bucket in the middle of the aisle who had lead the bus earlier in a giant sing-a-long. So, as I said: about as enjoyable as it could have been.

Also, thanks to a bus driver who appeared by all accounts to have a death wish, we made it from UB to Khovd in a record 32 hours which was both terrifying and awesome.

Mongol Road Trip By Numbers:
21 days travelling
102 hours (4 days, 6 hours) spent in transit
6 cities visited
13.5 books read
1 fabulous time

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One thought on “Mongol Road Trip Part the Last: Khatgal and the Return to Khovd

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