Reaching Tsetserleg

Posted in Mongolia by Lovell D'souza.

Reaching Tsetserleg

Our mission to travel around Mongolia on our own had encountered a setback due to the fact that its public transportation system (outside Ulaanbaatar) wasn't the best. If you have a look at the map of Mongolia, you'll notice just a few lines (roads) moving from North to South, and East to West, all intersecting at the capital – Ulaanbaatar. They have a bunch of long distance buses which take you to a few far-flung towns, scattered sparsely across the vastness of Mongolia. But once you reach any of these towns that lie right in the middle of nowhere, you are on your own. The best option to traverse this huge, open country is to hire your own vehicle. Walking around is not really an option.

We realized that travelling in Mongolia would turn out to be very expensive, especially for frugal travellers like us who can't afford to hire a vehicle, all for ourselves. So we strolled around Ulaanbataar, trying to figure out if we should get a bunch of other travellers together to share the expense or join a tour group. Luckily for us, we stumbled upon the good folks at Golden Gobi. After we rejected most of her tour programs since they were too expensive, the owner, Ugi, finally gave us a work-around option of joining a group that was already out travelling around the country and had two empty slots. They were halted at a town that lay 450 kms from Ulaanbaatar and it would work out cheaper for us if we were to travel on a public bus to reach them and continue our journey together. So on a bus from Ulaanbaatar to Tsetserleg we were, the next day.

Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Inside the bus from Ulaanbaatar to Tsetserleg.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Our cool ride.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Pit stop for lunch.

We departed from the Dragon Bus Station in Ulaanbataar at 8 am and reached the town of Tsetserleg around eight hours later, at 4 pm. The bus ride was pretty smooth, the landscapes were beautiful and Mongolian pop songs kept us entertained.

We met up with a couple of locals who picked us up from the Tsetserleg bus station as arranged by Ugi, and headed towards the South, to a valley with natural hot springs, where our group was rejuvenating after a long week of travelling.

Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Another quick pit stop by the river side. Pristine water and fresh air for everyone!
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Priya takes some time out to soak in this new landscape.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Our temporary local guide who met us earlier, walks her kid to the river.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Beautiful Mongolia.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Our ride, parked in the shade.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Our driver gets his feet wet.

After a short drive and a quick break by a beautiful riverside, we proceeded on our journey. The road had downgraded to a dirt track by then. No more tar. We kept bumping up and down while were made our way over across the plains, streams and rolling hills of the Mongolian steppes. Luckily our Toyata Land Cruiser was able to manoeuvre through this terrain with ease, burning rubber only at a few extreme uphill climbs, where the tyres kept skidding. At certain spots, we even drove at a 45 degree angle. But the drive wasn't as scary as some of the journeys I've undertaken along the Himalayas.

Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Our driver soaks his feet, while an unidentified arm pops out to click a photograph.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
More landscape.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
On our way to the camp site.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
We were greeted by some cows, en route.
Reaching Tsetserleg, Mongolia
Horses in the distance.

A long, bumpy ride later, we reached our destination. More about that later.

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