Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Biger to Bayan Tooroi

The town of Biger, near the bottom of the Biger Depression at an elevation of 4404 feet, or some 5095 feet lower than Dütiin Pass, is famous for a number of things, including vodka made from yak milk and vegetables which thrive in the nearby oases.
Yak milk vodka made at local distillery. Eat your heart out, Smirnoff!
Careening into the small town square we were surprised to find a small fair in progress. People from the various bags in the area—an administrative area very roughly equivalent to an American township—were in town to show off and hopeful sell their various products.
Local produce for sale
Nice display of aaruul—dried curds—from Bag #3
We were immediately struck by the huge potatoes for sale. Local boosters claim the Biger Depression is home to the largest potatoes in Mongolia. We had already bought potatoes in Altai but could not resist adding five more kilos of these gargantuan tubers to our supplies.
Uyanga and typical Biger spud

There were also saddles for sale. Forgot to ask the price of this one.
Interesting as the vegetables and whatnot were I was eager to track down Namsum, the local retired school teacher with whom several years earlier I had ascended Burkhan Buudai Uul, and question him some more about Dambijantsan. When we asked for directions to his house, however, we received the disconcerting news that he had transmigrated two years ago.
Namsum on the way to Burkhan Buudai Uul, several years earlier
Namsum with a snow leopard skull we found on Burkhan Buudai Uul
With no reason to linger any longer in Biger we headed south, climbing through the Gov-Altai Mountains to another pass oddly enough also known as Dütiin Davaa, the same as the pass on the northern side of the Depression. Although it had been quite balmy in Biger at 4400 feet on the 9428-foot pass there was fresh snow.
Valley leading through the Gov-Altai Mountains to Dütiin Davaa
Fresh snow near Dütiin Davaa
From the pass we dropped down to the small town of Tsogt, which as mentioned earlier was the beginning of the Tsogt–Gongpochuan caravan route mentioned by Shukee in Shinejinst. Beyond Tsogt we climbed to Üreltiin Davaa and then began the long descent down through the Üreltiin Canyon to the Gobi Desert. In the distance, from the floor of the desert, soared Eej Khairkhan Mountain, the most famous landmark in the area. The mountain is named Eej Khairkhan (Mother Dearest) supposedly because its twin peaks resemble two breasts. By early evening we arrived at the oases of Bayan Tooroi. Here we would spent the night before meeting our camel guys the next day.
The magnificent mammaries of
Eej Khairkhan thrusting into the azure sky