Light rain overnight, but not cold. Woke to texts from our forward scout travelling companions, the river north of the lake Archit Nurr which we have to cross to get to the border, and have been watching since the beginning of August, remains flooded, and fluctuates from knee-height and higher daily according to water entering upstream. They sent us their coordinates from where they crossed on the diagonal heading upstream into fast flowing water. They advised us it was remote, no nearby gers, and no locals were using the crossing. Looks like we’ll have to go around the southern end of the lake, at least another 100kms plus half day. That puts us too late to cross the border on the weekend.
Crossed river just west of Buruunturuun and stopped briefly to wash mud out of the floor mat, and a family of 10-11 got out of a short wheel base Russian Jeep scattering to their various ablutions. One lady came over enthusiastically and pumped GirlRob’s hand and wanted to see inside - opened door and Wanderoos fell about laughing as all the mud we'd been keeping out was traipsed in when the whole family piled in together!!
Wild camel tracks along road, pads close together. Many small packs grazing or lying, funny to see one hump collapsed. One domestic pair not cooperating with their owner - but stopped to peer curiously at us as we drove by. Horses standing in pairs, head to tail, each using others tail to keep insects out of face! Heavy corrugations, in between rutted previously boggy patches, and old river beds or deltas, very little traffic. Huge flat expanses, open range out to distant purple mountains, grass more yellow, dryer – in high desert country. Horse groups with brands or neck ties, belonging to gers on horizon at base of hills. Could see mirage of Mongolia's largest lake Uvs Nuur for tens of kilometres but the closer you seemed to drive the further it retreated. Given it is 5 times saltier than the ocean, is surrounded by marsh and wetlands, as well as plague level mosquitoes - we were not sad we had no time to visit. Couldn't see tops of twin peaks, shrouded in clouds. Supposedly snow covered and permanent glaciers up at 4000 metres. Region known for seismic activity, but we not only didn’t come across hot springs, but rather icy cold water running in man-made canals (haven't seen this kind if irrigation infrastructure anywhere else in Mongolia). Are these corrugations? No – “Richter age rings...”
Arrived Ulaangom, fuelled, to police station to check whether road north of Archit Nurr is flooded - couldn’t understand each other so tried again at lunch stop “Chinggis Pub”. No luck there either (in fact ordered schnitzel, got beef patty with fried egg and rice in a star shape)
Lovely bitumen for 30km out of Ulaangom, then headed straight to mountains, relieved to find the pass through pretty canyon, clumps of purple, white and cream wildflowers. Rain started, rivulets running down road - not boding well for the falling river levels we are hoping for...Khokh Nuur alpine lake, beautiful alternating between sunshine and misty rain, water a crystal cold azure blue, with snow-capped mountain behind.
Got through the pass, and over into valley sighting north end of Archit Lake. Even though we had the coordinates where Miles and Guy crossed, we checked with locals we were headed towards the best river crossing under recent conditions. Arrived on edge of multiple streams across a wide delta/wetlands area to find a quarantine outpost, where we were charged to spray the underneath and wheels of the vehicle - surely the definition of administration gone mad since we were about to enter the water where it would all immediately wash off!!!
BoyRob manned up to the swarming mosquitoes and the icy water and walked through several streams to check water height, hidden holes etc. As the deepest was only thigh high, we took the opportunity to cross there and then rather than risk water rising from the day’s rain and water catchments upstream. Ozzie handled the stony beds and fast flowing water beautifully. Even though we were fast losing light as the sun dipped below the mountains, we kept going on the other side to get through the boggy wetlands. Still had to run the mossie gauntlet to get into the house though, when we stopped for the night. Even though we were an hour late for the satellite phone check in time, tried to call Miles to update our status, no luck, no one to celebrate with! Made soup and hot chocolate inside, and crawled into bed where we were asleep within seconds...