Zavkhan Multi, August 2011 (21 days)
Price : $4350 NZD
(This is an exploratory trip)
This is the trip for people who would like a bit of everything, and is ideal for horse riders with non-riding partners (or who are keen to do more than just ride). As well as great horse riding, we will experience Mongolia's infamous roads by four-wheel drive vehicle, ride mountain bikes (hopefully!), trek across the steppe on camels, hike in the mountains with packhorses, and explore a desert lake by kayak. As with all our trips, you will also get to experience the local culture in a region where tourism is almost unknown.
At each stage of the trip we will have more than one mode of transport available. Once you have had enough horse riding for the day, or the novelty of camel trekking is wearing off (along with the skin on your back-side perhaps), try hiking or mountain biking. If any mode of transport really does not appeal, you will not need to use it.
For an outline of what we aim to get up to on this trip, see here.
The Great Mongolian Road Trip
We start with the epic drive from UB to Zavkhan (three days, 850km), stopping at Kharkhorin (Karakorum), site of the13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire, and on past Terekhiin Tsaagan Nuur, the Great White Lake (see a full description of the Road Trip here...). Our indestructable Russian four-wheel drive vehicles will handle anything that Mongolia's notorious roads can throw at them. We stay at comfortable ger camps each night, to ease you in to the wilderness camping to come.
Initially we travel through the same great riding country as on our Zavkhan Classic ride (8-9 days riding). A mix of wide open valleys, perfect for a gallop for the more experienced riders, and forest trails. We make our way up in to the mountains of Tarvagatai Uul National Park, where we will visit our favourite abandoned old spa for a well-earned soak. There will be enough horses with us for everyone to ride, since there is a strong possibility that the bikers and hikers will see the sense in horse riding, at least for part of each day!
For a full description of the horse riding on this trip, see our Zavkhan Classic ride.
While riding the horses (and also the camels later), we hope to have mountain bikes available. Unfortunately they took quite a beating in 2010, so we are still trying to source parts for repairs. The riding will not generally be hard-core down-hill (although there are some good spots if you are after thrills!). If biking is really not your thing, you can always stick with the horses or camels. Our horses will easily reach 50km per hour at a gallop, so the bikes may struggle to keep up at times. However the average speed over a mixed day of walking, trotting, cantering and galloping works out at about 8 km per hour, perfectly acheivable on a bike. You will be riding on dirt tracks and horse trails.
Our bikes are good quality UK-designed models made for Landrover, with front shocks. For those who know about these things, the components are by SRAM, Truvative, RockShocks, Avid.
Once we reach the mountains, where wheeled transport cannot follow, we leave the vehicles and mountain bikes and set out on foot and horse back, using some of the horses as pack animals. Our destination is Marz Nuur, a lovely lake at the foot of Marz Mountain. Listen for the eerie call of loons (divers) at night. This is an ideal spot for swimming, and makes a good base-camp for an ascent of Marz, quite a climb at 3025m.
The summit can be reached in a day, but the way is steep and there is no trail so a good level of fitness is required. The view from the top is worth the climb, but if that doesn't sound like fun, the lake is a great place to relax for a day. Those with a taste for the macabre can visit the wreckage of a plane which crashed on the mountain summit some years ago (please note that this was well before the current airlines started to operate!).
This is a mountain environment and the weather can change rapidly. The journey to Marz lake and mountain is very much weather-dependent.
After riding/biking back down from the mountains, we start camel trekking. Mongolian camels are the Bactrian (two-humped variety) and are an excellent mode of transport when travelling out on the steppe where water is limited. We will set out from Zambaga ger camp, a great place to stop for a night and enjoy a soft(ish) bed in a ger, and a hot shower (no promises). We trek south-west for three days across the steppe, until reaching the shores of Khar Nuur, a beautiful desert lake (120km). We tried to follow this route in 2010 but did not make it all the way, so we will be searching for a new route - you need to be prepared for anything!
During this part of the trip we will also be able to ride the mountain bikes. We may be able to meet our four-wheel drive vehicles at the end of each day, depending on the terrain and route we take. Alternatively we will use some of the camels as pack animals and be fully independent.
Once we reach Khar Nuur, we set up base camp on the shore amongst the sand dunes, which is as far as we have ventured previously. From here we will attempt to travel along the southern shore of the lake, with some of the group continuing with the camels and some by kayak, swapping modes of transport each day.
The far end of the lake is uninhabited and inaccessible by vehicle, and we are not sure exactly what we will find there, but satellite photos show a huge area of sand dunes sweeping up from the Gobi Desert and meeting the shores of the lake. Kayaks are the ideal way to explore this area. We may camp along the way. In 2010 we had a good try at reaching the end of the lake, but had to turn back. If you are not comfortable with the idea of kayaking, there is the option of hiking or riding the camels.
Our kayaks are made by Pyranha in the UK, and are suitable for people with no previous experience. A reasonable level of fitness will make this part of the trip more enjoyable. You will be supplied with a bouyancy aid, and a spray deck (for experienced paddlers).
By Day 20 we will need to be back at base-camp, ready to drive south to the airport (3 hours) for our flight back to Ulaanbaatar.
IMPORTANT: This is most definitely an exploratory trip. You will need a keen sense of adventure and be prepared to deal with the unexpected.
|Day 1 (13th Aug)||Meet for dinner in Ulaanbaatar|
|Days 2 to 3||Drive to Zavkhan|
|Day 4||Arrive in Zavkhan, short horse ride|
|Days 5 to 7||Horse riding, hiking, mountain-biking in Tarvagatai National Park|
|Days 8 to 10||Horse riding and hiking to Marz Mountain|
|Days 11 to 12||Horse riding, hiking and mountain-biking back out to the steppe|
|Day 13 to 15||Camel trekking to Khar Nuur|
|Days 16 to 19||Kayaking, camel trekking|
|Day 20||Fly back to Ulaanbaatar|
|Day 21 (2nd Sep)||Transfers to airport|
- All the fun of a Zavkhan Classic trip, plus...
- Help us pioneer new routes
- Hike and ride further in to the mountains with packhorses
- Camel trek across the steppe
- Kayak on Khar Nuur
- Mountain bike on dirt tracks with no vehicles
- The Great Mongolian Road Trip, including Kharkhorin/Karakorum, Erdene Zuu Khiid (a 16th century monastery), and the 'mini-Black Market' at Tsetserleg