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Travel notes from my trip to the north of the country Part I

I was overwhelmed when I heard Khuvsgul Lake (also called Khuvsgul Ocean or Mother Ocean in Mongolian) was over 2 million years old. Walking on this ancient land – what could I compare it with? I felt loved as if I were boy on his mother’s lap. I was oddly intimidated just thinking about travelling around the lake, which happens to be the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world, by car, boat, riding a horse and on foot. But I did it. And couldn’t not share the best and most memorable moments I’ve treasured from the journey.

The first day – “Hoping the Scars Would Heal”

The journey started at Khatgal soum by going to the “the Snake Tree”- the wish-whispering tree. As the name implies, the tree is spiral in shape. It is a human nature to whisper dreams and wishes. It was obvious from the amount of khadag (silk bands) and other offerings that it is visited by many. The rain and the snake tree combined turned the atmosphere even more intimate as people whispered their wishes.

Moving on, we crossed over the Jankhai mountain pass and climbed the margin of the lake Ungulug, crossing through the Chochu mountain pass and finally reached our destination to spend the night at an area named Hyasaa Sair.

While crossing over Jankhai Mountain pass, I saw the road called by locals as the “geology road” on the Uran Dush Mountain, which was no longer in use. I felt a tinge of possessiveness. It was hard not to feel that way about the nature, mountains and even a single stone of my country. But I felt a little better after hearing a positive end to the year-long negotiations over using its phosphate rock deposits. Still, I wished the scar formed by countless machines of geology expeditions on Uran Dush Mountain would heal beautifully.

The second day - Lifting the fog with eyelashes

We had a foggy morning on the second day after a night at Hyasaan Sair. We arrived late in the rain, and hastily set up our tents for the night – but we did not realize we were already at the shores of Khuvsgul Lake. A new place and new environment woke us up early and we took a glimpse out of our tents. Thousands of drops of the rain that poured through the night stopped at dawn. And a curtain of thick fog had formed. The first feeling I had was that of moisture. Everything including tents, clothes, shoes, trees, leaves, grasses, flowers, the air, even stones were damp. A soft feeling was in the air probably due to the moisture and fog. All of us praised the beauty of this exceptional morning. It looked as if every traveler lifted the fog with their eyelashes and stared at the lake.

Somehow, I verse of a poem by Bavuudorj Tsogdorj kept returning into my mind:

Horses doze with their precious eyelashes deeply immersed in the fog

That is the great peace of Mongolia

As if my thoughts were heard, we suddenly heard the sound of horses’ hooves and snorts in the thick fog behind us. Our guides were bringing horses for further travel. I followed the guide on foot, not because I wasn’t any good at horse riding, but to get absorbed in my thoughts.

The guide’s words “I think Khuvsgul Lake does not belong to the locals of Khuvsgul nor to the people of Mongolia – it belongs to the world, and must be protected for everyone.” I felt he intended these words for my heart rather than my ears.

Flowers were all over the grasslands, on the mountains, the meadows and even flourished in my mind. The sacred mountains with sharp and snowy peaks along the shore of the lake were majestic. Mother Lake had watered these giant mountains and softened the atmosphere and assembled all the true beauties around.

My adventure continued. We went through the mountain passes of Ar, Uvur Khundlun, Belkh, Khukh Uvs, Bakhaa and Norog, and decided to stay overnight at the Baga Khar Us mountain pass. There were big and small rivers and streams in every mountain pass we crossed. An ancient story says one day the locals decided to count all the rivers pouring into Khuvsgul Lake. If they counted 100, they would have named Khuvsgul an ocean. But they counted 99 rivers. However, 46 rivers are registered to pour into Khuvsgul Lake.

Eg River is the only river that is sourced from Khuvsgul to join the larger river Selenge before pouring into Lake Baikal. I was touched and excited to walk around this extremely beautiful, unique and amazing lake. I could hardly wait for the next morning.

You can read more about my trip to Lake Khuvsgul in the August issue of Woovoo Ulaanbaatar.

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