Thursday, June 23, 2016

In the Land of Blue Sky

White Lake, Tsagaan Nuur. This is the only boat I saw on the lake.  I learned that tourists do come to fish, though I didn't see any other vessels during my stay.
Our visit to the Dukha reindeer herders in northern Mongolia began and ended in Tsagaan Nuur sum. After an 11 hour ride in a Russian Furgon van we checked into our guest house. The road was unpaved and we crossed over small rivers and streams, passed herds of yak, cattle, sheep, horses and goats. We saw occasional gers and people on horseback going to or coming from either Murun or Tsagaan Nuur. There was a stop for lunch at a ger canteen in Toom and a quick visit to a friend in Ulaan Uul.

At the guest house, all five of us slept in one large room, the twin size beds lining the walls, head-to-toe, even under the windows. As with most dwellings here, there was no running water or indoor plumbing. Meals were included and they were delicious.

Wood fired stove in our guest house.
Dusty when dry, muddy when wet, Tsagaan Nuur, the name means 'white lake,' had me thinking, 'this must be what it was like to come across the undeveloped countryside in the US in the 1800s and stumble upon a small, newly built town in the West.' While walking around, I commented to my Mongolian translator, "I don't think I've ever seen such  a beautiful lake with nothing built on it" - no pier, hotel or restaurant, that I could see anyway. In fact, one young American tourist I met, he grew up in Maine and lived in Colorado, mused that those mountains beyond the lake would be great for heli-skiing; they were so pristine and beautiful.

Most heat is provided by wood fired stoves. In winter residents switch to coal.

The town has no paved roads. The houses are made of locally sourced wood and the roofs are different, bright solid colors of red, green, orange and blue. I was reminded of the Lego cities my son used to build when he was small.

While all over this country nomads live in circular dwellings, gers or urts, these houses are all sharp angled rectangles, triangles and squares. Also, each yard, or 'hasha,' is surrounded by a wooden fence, some plain, some decorative. It seems very few people at a time are in the shops or walking around, particularly after the the school term ends on June 1 and before the tourist season gets into full swing. I was surprised there were no large souvenir shops or restaurants catering to foreign tourists. Just guest houses and hotels looking like guest houses, though further afield from the sum center some 'resorts' can be found.

No, this is a town that seems to cater to its 2000 residents only, and to me that is its charm.

Walking home from the store.

Gas station.

Basketball hoop, no basket, by the lake.

The grocery store. Sundry basics (soap, laundry detergent), fruits and vegetables canned or in jars, candy, some school supplies and plenty of vodka.

Reindeer in front of the grocery store.

The hasha fence around what reminded me of Lego roofs.


No comments:

Post a Comment