The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mongolia from the north

I left Ulan Ubi early because I knew I was going to have to go through Russian/Mongolian customs on the way down to Ulaanbaatar, and that would require 6 hours. The road in Russia was mostly pretty good, interspersed with mile after dusty mile of sand and gravel. Once in Mongolia (surprise, surprise) the road got good again. Northern Mongolia is actually quite pretty, green and hilly. Gotta watch out for livestock though, so don't be admiring the scenery and not paying attention.

U.B. was not at all what I expected. I thought it would be a smallish big town with cows on the street. I guess it was that way 10 years ago, but now it is an enormous city with some of the worst traffic I've ever seen.  I decided to park the motorcycle in the hotel's shed and to take a tour instead.  That turned out to be a good decision. The first thing the tour went to was a giant statue of Gengis Kahn who is the country's hero and, I guess you could say, the country's father, sort of like how George Washington is the father of America.  The statue is way out in the country (I never was able to figure why) and the roads to it are mostly pretty bad.

To show you how big the statue is, I took a telephoto shot of people up on the horse's neck.

Our tour group eventually got there on that horse's neck ourselves. The people in the picture are from various parts of Canada, but they didn't know each other. The guy just to my left in the red shirt was our tour guide. Interestingly enough, he once lived in Illinois and worked in a program for kids ran by Jessie White, Illinois' Secretary of State.

Down in the belly of the statue you can dress up and sit in a Mongol throne.

You see eagles in the skies all over Mongolia, and they often get captured, tied down by a leather leash, and made to pose for pictures. I don't like to encourage such goings on because eagles should be free; still, I wanted to see one close up. They are huge.

There are also a lot of wolves in Mongolia, or so I am told. I never saw one alive and running after some of those many sheep, but I did get to see a lot of their skins hanging by front doors. Maybe the skins are good luck charms.  I don't know though, because the poor wolf wasn't too lucky to get himself shot.

I guess the two hump Bactrian camel once used to be all over Mongolia. Now,  I think they are mostly seen a couple of hundred miles south in the Gobi desert.

Mostly these days there are sheep, goats, cows and horses, but there are a lot of yak also.

I guess they are a little bit mean. I couldn't get any closer without the beast warning me away. Anyway, I don't have time to be yaking about things because our tour guide wants to take us up to the Buddhist shrine  down the road in the National Park.

One of the ladies in our 5 person group thinks she is going to be sore tomorrow.

It's a nice view from up there in the shrine.

The next day we went to the main shrine. It is in the heart of  U.B. It was a special day, but I never could get it straight just what the occasion was. The main monk gave a nice long speech.

I guess it was a good speech because nobody in the audience fell asleep.

Even the band seemed alert and ready to play.

Well, maybe some eyes were starting to sag a little. The instrument with two strings to bow that old droopy eyes is holding is a "horsehead" violin. Here is a big one. Look at the top of the instrument and maybe you can see why it is called horsehead.

Hoses, by the way, are very revered in Mongolia. Kids learn how to ride when they are five or younger. I wish I could be here next month when all around the country there are big fairs where 7  year old kids ride as hard as their horses can go on a cross country race. I don't remember the exact distance of the race, but it is something like 20 kilometers (12 miles). That is nothing by Mongol standards, because the longest horse race in the world is in Mongolia and it is 1,000 km.

Anyway, time to go get some pictures in the monastery; we can let the head monk drone on without us. What do you think of this huge Buddha?

That statue must be 20 feet tall. I think I like the smaller guys better.

There are several smaller shrines in the monastery, and church services were going on it some of them. I felt out of place walking around while people were praying, but our guide said it was okay.

After several days in U.B., I rode back to Russia and I am in the same Ulan Ude hotel I left from days ago. Tomorrow I head on east toward Vladivostok. Time to mark out my route. Here is one last picture of the monastery in U.B. Goodnight.

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