Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chasing Waterfalls

I hated the idea of going out of town to see just one thing.  Mongolia has so many things to go see, but they are spaced so far across this gorgeous countryside.  In three days I thought we'd make it all over both Ovorkhangai and Arkhangai provinces, taking in not only Kharkhorin but also the Orkhon Waterfall, Zanabazar's workshop at Tovkhon Khiid, the old, old capital ruins at Khar Balgas, and Ugii Lake on our way back to UB.  Those of you who have lived in Mongolia longer than me are, no doubt, laughing your ass off.  You could do those sorts of distances in the States, or in other countries I've lived in - Korea, the Emirates, etc.  However, this isn't one of those countries.  This is Mongolia.
So Enkhe had the unenviable job of bringing me down to earth.  He suggested going to see the waterfall during the first day, then going up to Kharkhorin on the second day.  He wanted us to stay with a herding family he was friends with for the second night, but it's moving season around here, so we ended up renting a guest ger both nights, and were lucky to get even that!  Near the waterfall there would usually be a lot of gers set up; we had just about the only one available at the moment.  This experience was just about comparable to the one in August, actually.  The fire went out but it wasn't noticeably colder than it was two months ago.  This bed was far less comfortable, though, and made me think longingly of my super-hard Asian mattress.
We picked up a hitchhiker on our way to the waterfall, the first one in my life.  We are taught from a young age in America that hitchhiking is dangerous - you don't pick up hitchers, and you don't do it yourself.  This is another difference for Mongolia.  The lack of a cross-country public transit system in places and expense of a car kind of make it a necessity.  Our hitcher was only going a few miles, from the entrance to the national park to his ger, pictured above, but I met foreigners at the immigration office who had been all over the country this way.  I probably won't be trying it anytime soon, but it's interesting to think that the US used to be this way, once upon a time.
You may notice that I've said very little about the waterfall in this post.  That's because it was a very, very long drive over the harsh roads I mentioned in the previous post.  Luckily this is a country filled with lots of beautiful scenery, so the drive never got too dull, especially with Five and Engrish for company, as well as Enkhe's interesting tidbits (did you know that there's no word in Mongolian for a queue/line?  They use a Russian word for it; apparently they didn't need a word for it until Communism came to town).  At the point when I took this picture, though, I had a headache in full swing and motion sickness on its way - that's how rough the driving was.  I asked Enkhe to stop so I could take a picture of the lone stupa on the hillside (it's a little white speck, you'll need a larger view of the photo to see it) and since we were stopped, I went up the hill to check out the rather elaborate ovoo.  I felt a little better by the time I got back in the car.
We had either very good luck or very good timing (possibly both) because when we got to the waterfall the sun was just going down, which made for some really beautiful light.  The waterfall itself was amazing.  We weren't sure what we were going to find; Lonely Planet mentions that sometimes it doesn't run, depending on what the weather's been like.  I managed to find a picture of it taken 12 days before, so we were hopeful and once again, we got lucky.  You could hear it pounding over the edge as you got closer.  Strangely enough, I was expecting it to come from a higher point to hit at our level, but there actually isn't anything to tell you where it is.  Luckily Enkhe had been here, although five years had passed since then.
Here's a shot from the following morning.  I'm sure it looks great in summer, but I think we got lucky, again, because the ice makes it even better.  After one last look (and Five and Engrish checking to see if their Inukshuk was still standing - it was) we started the drive for Kharkhorin.

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    DARAALAL (in mongolian) = queue or line. We used to use a russian word for this. But we DO have a word for queue in mongolian. Who told you that we dont have a word for queue? just interesting.