The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

Mongolian Cowboys, Moron, Mongolia

Mongolian Woman

Inka And Kimo

Hans And His Steed

Kimo And Me

"Choo! Choo!"

KhovskolLake (l-r: Nam, Inka, Ghana, Hans, Me, Chengun)

Chengun Takes A Rest

Above Khovsgol Lake With Inka

Inka And Her Steed

Another View of Khovsgol Lake

Kimo And Me On The Shore Of Khovsgol Lake

Riding Home

End Of My Ride With Kimo

Inka And Fellow Mongolian Teachers

Inka Goes For A Swim In Khovsgol Lake

Khovsgol Lake

Mongolian Yak

Our Ger At MS Guesthouse

Inside The Ger

Lawyer And Jimmy

Eagle And Me

Mark And Lawyer In Front Of Our Russian Minivan

SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 2006. MORON TO KHOVSGOL LAKE, MONGOLIA. Before heading off on our long drive to Khovsgol Lake, we stopped at a bath house to take a shower (T1000). As there is generally no running water, this is one way for Mongolians, as well as travelers, to clean up.

We arrived at the town of Khatgal at the southern end of Khovsgol Lake. This town could also double for a Western movie. Our ger camp was Monkh Saridag (MS) Guesthouse (T 5000/night including dinner and breakfast). We were promptly greeted by Jimmy, who wore a large cowboy hat, and shown the ger that would be our home for the next three nights. Before dinner, Hans, Nam, Inka, and I took a stroll to the lake and along its southwestern shore. The lake is immense at 2760 square kilometers (136 km long and 36 km wide), purportedly holds between one to two percent of the world's fresh water. Surrounding the lake were several lush green tree covered mountains upwards of 2000 meters high. The fresh and crisp alpine air complemented the beautiful scenery. This was what we endured four full days of driving to get to. It certainly was worth it. After dinner, a traditional Mongolian meal of mutton and other stuff (rice and potatoes), we met Ganbaatar, the director of MS Guesthouse, who briefed us on the available activities. Mark and Trudy decided to go with Lawyer's minivan in search of the reindeer people, nomadic Mongolians who raise reindeer in the higher elevations surrounding Khovsgol Lake. Hans, Nam, Inka, and I decided on a full day of horseback riding. Nam was very reluctant to do the horseback riding as she was afraid of horses and this would be her first time. Mark invited her to go see the reindeer people, but she courageously decided to do the horseback riding.

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2006. HORSEBACK RIDING, KHOVSGOL LAKE, MONGOLIA. Ganbaatar introduced us to our horses and guides, Ghana and Chengun. Ghana, a teenager, had a broad smile and spoke pretty good English. Chengun was a man of few words, but a gentle smile and leather complexion. After some brief instructions, we saddled up and rode into the mountains northwest of town. My horse had a "K" branded on his left thigh, so I named him "Kimo" (Mongolians apparently don't name their horses). Kimo and Inka's horse were buddies. Whatever Kimo did, Inka's horse followed in close step behind. Thus, Inka and I became riding buddies for the day. In Mongolia, they use the word "Choo!" as opposed to "Giddyup!" to signal the horses to go faster. Throughout the day, Inka and I found ourselves sounding like a train as we encouraged our horses repeatedly with "Choo! Choo! Choo!" After riding through forests of trees over a small mountain, we descended into a valley. Ghana showed us how the needles of the species of tree that seemed to dominate the area were edible. It tasted like grass. We had a snack at a family's ger across a dry stream bed in the middle of a small valley, served by Mongolian woman and her daughter. From the valley, we rode up another mountain in search of a viewpoint for Khovsgol Lake. Our guides were a little confused as to the right direction. After a few stops and changes in direction, we proceeded up another mountain with a clearing on top. From there, we had our first and panoramic view of Khovsgol Lake. We let our horses rest and graze as we took in the view. It was indeed a spectacular site--the sun, sky, clouds, and trees reflecting off the clear freshwater lake spread out before us. Only a few weeks ago, the lake was still frozen over. From here, we walked our horses down to the lake shore. I told Hans, Nam, and Inka that I was going for a swim, but none would join me. It was frigid--like jumping into an ice cooler after all the ice has just melted. After fully immersing myself, I only lasted about twenty seconds before my body could no longer take it. Strangely, it felt warm exiting the lake into the chilly air.

We mounted our horses and rode south along the lake shore back to camp enjoying every minute of our ride. On one flat stretch of land, I decided to see what Kimo had in him. I pushed the reins forward, kicked Kimo's midsection with my stirrups, and yelled "Choo! Choo!" Kimo proceeded to give me a full gallop for a short distance. Kimo could definitely move! As I pulled the reins back to stop Kimo, I looked behind me and, sure enough, Inka and her horse were right behind us--they too galloping to catch up with Kimo and me. Horseback riding in Mongolia's alpine region definitely rates as one of the highlights of my RTW trip. And it didn't hurt to have a sassy and attractive Czech woman as a riding companion for the day.

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2006. KHOVSGOL LAKE, MONGOLIA. On our second and last day at Khovsgol Lake, Inka, Nam, and I went for a hike along the southwestern shore of the lake. Along the way, we came across about 40 Mongolian teachers camping in tents by the lake shore. They traveled in a bus that looked like it could comfortable fit 20. They all wanted to meet and take pictures with the tall blonde woman. They ignored the Korean woman and Chinese-American guy next to her.

We continued on to a portion of land that jutted out into the lake and surrounded by a rocky beach. Here we came across Hans, who had rented a mountain bike to tour on his own. We had the beach all to ourselves as this was the week before the start of the main tourist season. The water was crystal clear in all shades of aqua and blue. As we relaxed by the shore, a couple of women from a nearby ger camp approached Inka, and inquired whether we would be interested in lunch. We accepted their offer.

After lunch, Inka rose to the challenge I posed to her the day before and decided to go for a swim in the icy waters of Khovsgol Lake. The spirit of our playful conversations may best be captured by what Inka teasingly said to me while changing into her swim suit: "You're not looking are you, Michael?". Of course not, Inka :-)

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