Traveling to Khovd (Ховд)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We woke up to find a dusting of snow on Sterlin as well as on the northern slopes of the surrounding hills. In our cozy hotel room we were completely oblivious to the weather outside, so seeing the snow surprised us a little.

Khovd was 450kms away, a distance we completed in 2 days. The roads on day 1 were bad, some of the worst we have had in Mongolia. Although the road has clearly been constructed and is relatively straight and level, there were sizable corrugations pretty much the entire day. This caused the entire car to shake and rattle. The side tracks have been formed by eager motorists and generally were a little smoother but had dips and patches of sand that would sneak up on us. We spent as much time as possible on side tracks to avoid the considerable shaking.

At one point Caroline could hear a rattle coming from the engine bay. Turned out one of the bracing points on the metal bracket we installed to hold the extra battery had failed, and the batteries were shaking around a little. We added a little protective foam around them and continued on. The bracket could hopefully be welded in Khovd.

The drive was predominantly through featureless and dry desert. The land supports very little vegetation and we did not see much livestock. Occasionally camels were seen walking around, but usually near gers. At one point cattle, sheep and goats were being farmed, but this was only possible as the animals were drinking from the water supplied by a well and pump. This is hard land and farming here must be even harder. To the south were pretty snow capped mountains which we followed most of the afternoon.

In the distance we saw a person walking and pulling some type of trailer behind him. Clearly a Westerner. We stopped and had a good old chat to Ash, who was attempting a solo unsupported walk across Mongolia, a challenge that has been attempted before but never successfully completed. We were the first English speaking people Ash had seen in the last 4 days. He averages 40kms per day, really quite impressive, and expects to complete his challenge in 10-12 weeks. He looked in great shape and had very good spirits. When we stopped to talk to him, he was only 111kms from Altai (or 3 days). We topped up his water container, gave him a little extra food and took his trash (we made sure that these small acts are permitted under the definition of “unsupported”). Check out his website:

Around 5pm we pulled a few kilometers off the side of the road for our night’s camp. Dinner was wonderful and we completed it and the dishes just before the wind picked up too much. By 7pm the wind had disappeared and we had a wonderful night under the stars with only one visit from a curious local.

That snow wasn’t there last night.
We were very lucky to see the extremely rare ‘blue horned cow’.
Something rattling around in there.
The broken battery tray
Our camping spot for the night.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Got a pretty good night sleep. And although the sun decided to get up super early, we didn’t. Before we set off, another quick inspection of the engine bay under the morning light revealed another loose bolt on the battery tray. It was quickly tightened and we set off.

The road started out just as bad as the previous day and we expected a long hard day’s drive. But after a mere 7kms a beautiful sealed road appeared and stretched all the way to Khovd. That shortened the driving time by about 3 hours.

The scenery was quite stunning with snow capped mountains to our left for most of the day’s journey. The valley also returned to a greenish tinge and started to support livestock. This day we saw the most camels in a single day.

Around 80kms short of Khovd we took a side trip to see some cave paintings from prehistoric times. After 22kms on rough road and successfully crossing a few streams we were stopped by a muddy section of road. If we had deployed the sand tracks we could probably have made it without getting stuck, but we didn’t want the hassle of getting unstuck if we did. So, we stopped for lunch and then headed back. The trip was not an entire bust, as the scenery in this valley was magnificent. And for that alone the trip was worthwhile. We had also heard from Slunz and Camilla that the cave was not very impressive with considerable amount of graffiti. So we didn’t feel too bad.

We made good time to Khovd and quickly found a hotel with Internet.

Road to the Cave Paintings.
The wide open plains are beautiful
More views from the day.
Khovd City nestled in the Valley