Nariyn Golin Els: the frozen desert (2/3)

Journey photo album

The Government Palace on the Chinggis Square, Ulaanbaatar

 

The statue of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire

 

Crowded traffic and heavy smog in the city center

 

The statue of a famous local person in front of a hotel

 

My hotel room in UB with the radiation shield mounted on the tripod

 

Me and my guide at Chinggis Khaan International Airport

 

Soon the plane will depart to Zavkhan aimag

 

Arriving at Donoi airport, Uliastai

 

Meeting the driver. As he doesn’t speak any foreign language, my modest mongolian knowledge will be the main communication method in Zavkhan aimag. Fortunately my contact person from the tourism company purchased a local SIM card for me to can call him if necessary. 

 

On the way to Erdenekhairkhan. Not a single settlement on the 80 km dirt road. And only a few cars. 

 

Big sheep herd near the road

 

Approaching the driver’s village

 

Our street

 

The driver fires up the oven in his yurt

 

Meeting the mayor at his home

 

We start the trip to the desert, but soon the car is blocked in the snow

 

Reaching the sandy area

 

Following the single track in the waste

 

Visiting a nomad family (yes, they have satellite dish)

 

From here I will continue by foot

 

Desert people, real survivors

 

The view from the top of a higher dune towards the research place

 

Reaching the rim of the chosen depression

 

I put up my tent on the lowest portion of the rim

 

The first sight to the bottom of the hollow (around 4 PM). The sides are much steeper than I was expecting, above 30 degrees in many parts. Became pretty windy here

 

Installing the tripod with the data logger inside the radiation shield

 

The minimum thermometer on the top of the shield (now around -19 degrees Celsius)

 

The sun still shines outside the bowl

 

In the late evening I checked the instruments and found the minimum thermometer’s index blocked. Problem solved, around -34 degrees after 11 PM

 

The result of the first night: -38.5 degrees Celsius

 

Around 10 AM the hollow is still in full shade. It’s time to leave the camp

 

A group of horses in the barren landscape

 

Magnificent view from the top of a higher dune

 

The car is coming after me

 

Next day I go to a hike to the Mukhart river’s source, one of the main eyemarks of the region

 

Approaching the huge dam-like sand structure. Strong windchill here, otherwise not below -25 Celsius

 

The Mukhart oasis from the top of the huge horseshoe  (almost 200 meters high). It’s like an enclosed river delta

 

A lil’ rest and snack is welkomed as the wind weakens

 

At the bottom of the crescent shaped sand mountain. The water came out from the sands from all sides. Pleasantly warm in the full sunshine of the early afternoon

 

The water looks dirty brown because of the sandy bed. Nice ripply surface otherwise                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Deers on the top of a smaller hill. I was surprized to see these animals in the desert                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Many yaks are grazing on the sunny side. The river attracks the animals as it is one of the few sources of water here, outside the snow                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Back to the car. Today the sky was completely clear
On the way back to the village                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
The weather station of Erdenekhairkhan at sunset

 

The next day I visit another hollow, very similar in shape and size with the chosen one, but this one is closer to the track/ village and has lesser snow. Also it’s situated at lower elevation (around 1700 meters at the bottom)

 

The source of the Nariyn river is also close to the track. Its geomorphology is similar to Mukhart’s, but at a smaller scale (around quarter size)

 

Powdery frost covers the prickles of the desert shrub

 

Back to the ger (local name for yurt). The driver is preparing fish for dinner

 

Oh, yeah! The forecast for Tsetsen Uul looks excellent. -50 degrees soon!

 

The next day we are going again to the dunefield to approach my research area. I will spend another night in my tent. I guess it will be much colder this time                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Isolated yurt near the desert track. Two black guardian dogs followed me awhile

 

An unexpected encounter with a nomad herdsman not far from my camp. He visited my tent and was very curious about everything. Including vodka

 

Hat change and we are the best friends. Just kidding. I want back my favorite teal cap

 

Okey, the mini weather station looks untouched. Let’s check the logger’s minimum

 

A decent value. I’m pretty sure the following night will be even more colder. But now, in the unperturbed afternoon sunshine the weather is pleasantly warm

 

Yep, that’s my lordship. Something like the biblical Canaan. However this one doesn’t produces fruits but cold…

 

This quadruped appeared from nowhere. And disappeared the same way. He must be from the closest yurt, around 2 km’s from my camp. Maybe my friend’s dog (?)

 

While I go round the depression the shade reached the bottom

 

Already -40 and it’s still sunshine outside the bowl 

 

A long, cold night is waiting for me. Even if I will not sleep too much, the sustained rest will help the organism to regenerate

 

Still dark. I slept little and often as usual in similar conditions. Outside the sky was constantly full of stars. Ironically, my nose is not frostbitten but burned, as now I am UV sensitive because of a longer antibiotic treatment. Nevertheless, the “cryotherapy” probably doesn’t promoted the healing…

 

Not particularly warm…

 

…but I have a nice menu

 

Outside is a little chillier. But I am on the rim. What about the hollow’s bottom?

 

At dawn I descended to the depression to check the instruments

 

Oh, yeah! That’s certainly not for barefoot walking

 

-47.3 on the alcohol thermometer. That’s a good minus, Minusz!

 

Okey, the logger recorded a similar minimum. January 22 is the coldest day until now

 

I’m satisfied with the results. It’s time to leave the camp again. But the logger still have 3 days to register

 

Big herd of sheeps not far from my research place

 

Who said horses are sensitive? These animals are built for the cold

 

Crossing a higher rocky top on the way back. The weather is pleasant again. Huge difference between the morning and the early afternoon hours 

 

A portion of the Khangai Mountains behind the dunes 

 

Yeah, it’s really warm now. And I have plenty of time. And space

 

The driver and his friend are coming after me. The baby doesn’t really like the expedition…

 

In the next morning: the driver’s daughter is ready for school 

 

Horse statue in Erdenekhairkhan’s centre. The animal is venerated in the country. As they say: “A mongol without a horse is like a bird without the wings”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
A very common bird in the settlement and its surroundings

 

The village seen from a small hilltop with Altan Khairkhan (Golden Holy Mountain) in the background

 

An old resident peacefully smokes on the street

 

The buddhist monastery of the settlement

 

My “colleague”, the weatherwoman checks the air temperature in the instrument shelter. The village has a somewhat milder climate because it’s not situated in a valley or basin bottom. When at Tsetsen Uul and Tosontsengel the temperature plummets below -40 degrees, at Erdenekhairkhan is only around -20, -25. But now is colder. Tsetsen Uul recorded -51.6 degrees Celsius this night, the coldest temperature in Mongolia this winter 

 

The “ovoo”, a mongolian sacred cairn is very common on higher elevations (mountain tops and passes) and are used by the locals as altars or shrines 

 

The roof of the yurt is a significant part of the construction as it represents the sky, joining the earthly and the spiritual realms

 

In the coldest morning we start the last trip to the desert

 

We try to approach the camp more this time as tomorrow we need to go back to Uliastai. However this portion is too difficult, the driver will not risk. Final distance to the research area, as the crow flies: 6 km

 

Like the horses, the camels are also extremely well prepared to survive in the coldest conditions. These desert giants are very calm and peaceful, moving away only when you are really close to them. And they are constantly watching you, slowly turning their heads while walking. A lil’ weird

 

Yeah, today it’s colder. But the full sunshine and complete calm of the early afternoon hours tricks the senses

 

The tent is still intact. Let’s check the tripod

 

Well, well. The top part looks a lil’ moved. Maybe my nomad friend was also curious? Fortunately the logger is still there, recording 

 

Yesss! This is exceptional: -53 degrees Celsius! Only 2.6 degrees less than the absolute record of the country measured in Zuungobi in the 70’s 

 

The last sunrays of the day saying goodbye to the shield. It’s only 4 PM

 

I climb to the top of the rim. Meanwhile the shade incorporated the bottom of the hollow. The sky is completely clear, the air moveless. Perfect conditions

 

-46 degrees before 6 PM. This part of the day is the most fascinating. After the sun disappears, the temperature plummets extremely fast

 

Outside the bowl the sun is still shining 

 

From the rim, near my tent, I can watch the sunset

 

Still not alone

 

Bright orange on the sun’s side 

 

Pastel magenta on the opposite part

 

Near surface temperature at my camp in the last reseach day (at dawn)

 

The night was completely clear and calm. At the bottom must be extremely cold 

 

That’s right!  My precision electronic device have never seen such a low value                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Still below -50 at head level too. As I was warmed up well from the strategic morning jogging beside my tent, I wasn’t suffering from the extreme cold of the depression’s bottom. Actually, I consider a -30 with moderate wind more unpleasant and dangerous for the exposed skin than a windless -50

 

The alcohol thermometer almost “died” . The index is stopped between the last two dashes of the scale: -52.2 degrees Celsius

 

As the logger shows only the absolute minimum for the entire 7 days + 8 nights period, I can’t check the value for today. The previous -53.0 remains the lowest temperature of the research.  The electronic precision device was constantly indicating between -50 and -51 degrees in this morning

 

While I packed my camping equipment the sun reached the bottom of the cauldron. After 11 AM I say goodbye to my frost hollow 

 

You again…

 

The driver is looking after me from the top of a dune

 

Last time on the sandy track. That short, steep part was difficult

 

On the way to Uliastai

 

Otgontenger (on the left), the highest peak of the Khangai Mountains (4008 m). Because of a recent tragic accident the ascent of the mountain is forbidden. Maybe another time…

 

Uliastai at sunset from a small hilltop. I will spend the night at a hotel in the town. Hopefully we can found a quiet one

 

An angry deity tries to scare me. These mitological entities are originating from the tibetan folclore 

 

Bye Zavkhan aimag! It was my pleasure 

 

Don’t worry. This guy is very contented. He just needs some sleep. And face cream

 

Otgontenger from the plane

 

Next day in the capital I visit the Gandantegchinlen monastery 

 

The 26.5 meter high standing Buddha is known as the tallest indoor statue in the world 

 

You can appreciate the sizes more from this picture

 

The Blue Sky Tower, one of Ulaanbaatar’s most emblematic buildings

 

Last dinner in Mongolia. Tomorrow I will fly back to Europe. I don’t know if the winter has finally arrived there. What I know is that mine is over.

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Nariyn Golin Els: the frozen desert (2/3)

      1. Szevasz, Sanyi! Mint első hozzászólót, értesítelek, hogy az első és harmadik rész magyar fordítása is fent van már a blogon. Kellemes időtöltést!

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