You may not have to slow down for traffic jams, but big herds of livestock – goats, sheep, horses, cows, and yaks – will undoubtedly get in your way over the course of your journey. A honk or two of your horn will usually get them scampering so you can keep rolling on.
Last week, my husband and I went on a trip up to Khuvsgul Lake. It’s Mongolia’s biggest freshwater lake, and the second largest in Asia. According to Wikipedia it’s 2 million years old. In all that time it’s avoided the worst of the devastating plunder of industry, development and pollution and remains pristine. It’s one of the jewels of Mongolia, a must see if you venture all the way out here to see the beauty of this country and its diverse wildlife. Of course, it’s at its finest in the summer time. The in-law’s family photo albums all have photos from family trips to Khuvsgul with endless green mountainsides and fields of neon-bright wildflowers. Of course, we stay-cationed this summer and went to Khuvsgul after the first few snowfalls of impending winter had hit.
Fall in Mongolia means all the green is gone, and while the trees go all technicolor with the change in season, the winds drop those leaves quickly. In and around Darkhan, the wheat fields have been harvested, the tall grasses around gers have been collected for winter fodder, and if the summer’s been good (and this one was) the animals have a healthy amount of chub to keep them warm as their winter coats grow in. All across Mongolia this time of year, nomadic families are wrapping up their moves to winter camps, stocking up on supplies, and moving big herds to more palatable grazing areas. Summer gers, with thinner walls will be replaced with heavier winter felt, and central stoves are being brought back inside to provide cozy heat. Construction crews across the country are in a hurry to finish jobs they started, or resumed in spring. It’s a race against winter to get cement poured before it starts freezing.