10kms North of Toilogt, Khövsgöl Nuur (Хөвсгөл нуур)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The plan was to head north to Khövsgöl Nuur which is the second largest lake in Mongolia. And as the lake was only 100kms away on a good sealed road, we decided to treat ourselves and sleep in a little. So we got a late start.

It was less than 2 hours before we reached Khatgal, the southern gateway town to the lake. We drove all the way through town and back, but didn’t linger as we wanted to go further north to the actual lake. And we had our heart set on staying in a ger. The road up the western side of the lake was improved, but it was still a little slow going with occasional potholes and dry river bed crossings. We stopped at various tourist camps along the way looking for a place for the night, but none of the camps were really open yet. The season will really kick-off in a few weeks. And although the camps weren’t open, they all did offer us a place to stay. Toilogt Camp was only three days away from opening, but still lacking hot showers and the price was a hefty TUG 100,000 or USD $55. We decided to find a place to free-camp.

The lake itself was magical and still covered in reasonably thick ice. Everything was so still and quiet. Unfortunately it was a little cold and the weather was a little threatening, even though it never rained for long.

We continued to drive along the shore looking for a place to camp, but it turned out most of the good spots were already taken by tourist camps. And much of the shoreline was boggy. But we did find a nice, semi-secluded and dry spot for the night. We spent what was left of the afternoon doing chores on Sterlin. The music adaptor had become disconnected and the glovebox was removed to fix it. Mud was removed from the hi-lift jack as well as from Sterlin, both of which got covered a few days ago. The sand tracks went back up onto the roof rack, but this time mounted in a way they could be accessed with ease. Other general tidying-up and re-arranging of things were done.

We found a nice camping spot… or so we thought.

Caroline cooked up a wonderful meal of pasta and last night’s leftovers. We sat around our camp fire enjoying the meal and the amazing view of the lake with its ever changing sunset colors. Spitting rain came a went a few times, but was never enough to put out our fire. We also did a reading up in Lonely Planet on the area of Russia that we’d be crossing into from Mongolia. This area is the Altai Republic and according to Lonely Planet it looks like we may need permits to be able to enter that specific region. Further research with the Internet is required.

As the sun disappeared behind the mountains the temperature really started to drop, and we were glad to have invested the time in collecting firewood and lighting the fire.

Sunset view from our ‘camping spot’.
Sunset view from our ‘camping spot’.

It was 10pm and we were just enjoying the last of the fire and the last of the sunset, when a car load of people showed. We thought they came to say hi. Actually they were Rangers of some description and had come to tell us that we couldn’t camp where we were. The conversation was in sign language and we really didn’t understand what the problem was. There were no signs saying we couldn’t camp where we were. Regardless, we put out the fire and packed everything up and headed another 2 kms further up the lake, to a place where apparently we could camp. As it was dark by then and there are no signposts, one of the rangers came out and showed us the good spot. This whole little adventure was a little annoying and we ended up paying a TUG 20,000 (USD $12) on-the-spot fine.

We were eventually settled into our nice warm bed by 11pm.

Our camping spot after being ‘re-located’.