Russia Day 9 – Khustain Nuruu National Park

We were due to arrive in the Mongolian city of Ulaanbaatar at 07:40, so got up at 06:20 for breakfast and to give us time to pack for the onward journey to the national park. It was a very tired start though having got less than 5 hours sleep. For breakfast I had some chocolate filled croissants, an apple, and cup of Earl Grey tea.

The conductor then went back and forth down the corridor at 06:45 knocking on every door to make sure everyone was awake – despite not everyone needing to get off at Ulaanbaatar. We were then given our tickets back – even though we no longer needed them.

The train arrived late at 08:00 and we met our guide the moment we disembarked. She led us to the car we would be taking and we headed off out of Ulaanbaatar and into the steppes of Mongolia.

Mongolia’s population is around 3.1 million, though just over half of this lives in the city of Ulaanbaatar. The majority of the rest are then nomadic, as is traditional for their people. As there are not enough buildings yet to support the city’s population there is a shanty town of sorts made from gers in a ring around the city.

The population has also caused issues with them trying to build their own industry as well as apparently they struggle to find a workforce. Prior to the Soviet government they were still mostly nomadic, and the buildings they have now were mostly built during Soviet times. During that time their raw materials were all sent to Russia, and they’d buy back the end product. Since the 1990s they’ve then struggled to get any sort of export out of the country.

The drive to the Hustain Nuruu Steppe Reserve took around 1h30 and along the way we passed a large number of cyclists who were obviously tourists, and also made a couple of stops. At the second stop there was a mass of sand that has apparently appeared there and originates from the nearby Gobi desert.

We arrived at the camp at 09:45 and shown to our ger – it seems ours was the only one that had an attached bathroom. We even had power – though it wasn’t quite working so there was an electrician fixing it whilst we waited. My friend however was not too appreciative of this and was a little sarcastic of their skills. Considering where we were and how much they have running off solar power I think what they’ve achieved there is pretty impressive.

Once the electrician had finished we then had some free time to wander around outside of camp until lunch at 12:30. We headed up into the hills which at altitude was a little more work than normal, but not that noticeable – it was more likely that lack of sleep would slow us down.

The lunch consisted of soup, which was actually more of a stew, and various other dishes such as slices of pizza and rice. For dessert I had a couple of small slices of swiss roll – it was a pretty good lunch! Once we’d finished eating we had some more free time so used this to relax.

Around mid-afternoon we had a look in the souvenir shop, but couldn’t find anything of interest. This was then followed by a visit to the information centre with the guide who told us about the area, the purpose of the national park, and the reintroduction of the Takhi horse.

The Takhi horse, also known as the Przewalksi had died out in the wild in the 1960s, but due to them being taken in large numbers to zoos at the turn of the 20th century it meant it was possible to start a program in the 1990s to reintroduce them at this national park.

Our chance to see these wild horses was getting later and later, and eventually it was decided we’d head out at 17:30 to see them. Our guide turned up 10 minutes early and led us to a local guide who would be taking us – she didn’t know as much English, but she could speak some.

In total we were out for about 2 hours, though from the sounds of it we were only supposed to be out for 1 hour. The local guide we had however took us on a walk up one of the mountains after we’d photographed some of the wild horses. We also saw some marmots on this trip, but didn’t really get very close to them – not enough to photograph properly. On the way back the guide said she was very tired as she’d gone up mountains three times today – we managed okay, but then this was only our second of the day.

For the evening meal there was a starter made from seaweed, and the main course was stewed beef, mashed potato, carrot, and some Russian rice called Grechka. By the time we’d eaten it was late and after not having slept much it was good to finally get some sleep.

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