Uureg Lake, Altai Mountains, Uvs, Mongolia
Uureg Lake and the Altai Mountains
Blue skies, bluer waters, and sparse grasses – what could be more Mongolian? Uureg Lake, on a high (2,200 m/7,500 ft) plateau in Uvs Province, Mongolia, is just stunning in the afternoon light.
After five days of bumping across the rough roads of Mongolia’s seemingly endless grassy steppes, it was with a sigh of relief that I watched our Russian UAZ (Ulyanovsky Avtomobilny Zavod) four-wheel-drive vehicle climb into the Altai Mountains that run along the north western border of the country.
Mongolian guides G and Segi of Shaman Tours were looking after myself, a small group of photographic enthusiasts, and photographers Jeffrey Chapman and Winslow Lockhart from Within the Frame. We were taking the long roads to the Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ölgii, West Mongolia, but we still had a full day’s driving ahead of us before we would reach our destination.
The little cabins at Suldet Tsakhir Tourist Camp on the shores of beautiful Uureg Lake were the perfect location for our penultimate stop.
We had lunch on the last stretch of flat land before we climbed into the nearby mountains.
UAZs into the Mountains
Our Shaman Tour UAZs lined up for the last run towards the Altai Mountains.
Up into the Mountains
Once we are finally out of the steppes, the hills rise steeply on all sides. (iPhone6)
Snow Patches in the Foothills
Circuiting the Ovoo or Obo
At the top of our first pass, we came to an ovoo, or “magnificent bundle”. In keeping with local custom, we circled three times, clockwise, to ensure the continued safety of our trip.
Ovoo on the Mountain Pass
This sacred pile of rocks which honours the spirits of the surrounding land is intrinsic to Mongolian folk religion or shamanism (also called Tengerism).
“… In Protection of the Sacred Mountain …”
Offerings at the Ovoo
Visitors discard crutches, steering wheel covers, and empty food containers – especially empty vodka bottles – to give thanks for good health, a safe journey, or any other boon.
Offerings at the Ovoo
While the ovoo itself is predominantly adorned with khadag (ceremonial scarves) in blue – a symbol of reverence for the sacred “Munkh Khukh Tengri” or “Eternal Blue Sky”, the surrounding rocks are tied in Buddhist yellow, a symbol of knowledge and religion.
Bumpy Roads into the Mountains
Never ask if a Mongolian road could be any worse! It can always deteriorate. (iPhone6)
Uvs Lake and Russian Mountains
Our tailbones might be bruised by the bone-shaking climb, but we are rewarded with a closer sighting of the Altai Mountains, rising between us and Russia on the other side of Uvs Lake.
Mongolian Grass and the Altai Mountains
The Long and Winding Road
Uvs Lake is Mongolia’s largest, and the best known lake in the Great Lakes Depression. As part of an endorheic (closed drainage) basin, the lake is five times saltier than the ocean!
Suldet Tsakhir Tourist Camp
Now here is a “resort” I’d come back to! Simple, but located in a blissful setting high on a plateau on the south shore of Uureg Lake, the cabins at Suldet Tsakhir Tourist Camp beckon in the afternoon shadows.
Uureg Lake Foreshore
This beautiful saltwater-highlands lake on the Mongolian – Russian border boasts exceptionally clear water.
Skull on the Rocky Foreshore
The lake is home to Turkic stone statues, burial mounds, and rock drawings that indicate the area has been inhabited by nomadic tribes for millennia. And, of course, there are the more modern animals.
Photographers on Uureg Lake Foreshore
The lowering afternoon sun led to a feeling of quiet, as we all explored the foreshore.
Reflections in Uureg Lake
Afternoon Sun on Uuleg Lake
Quiet on the Foreshore
The snow caps over Russia turn pink…
Sunburst on the Grasses
… as the sun drops below the surrounding mountains.
Last Layers of Twilight on Uuleg Lake Foreshore
Sunset on the Altai Mountains
Sunset on Uureg Lake
The sun is down – it is time for dinner. (iPhone6)
It was a beautiful spot – albeit freezing! The flooring of my cabin was not yet finished, so the wind whistled up through the floorboards all night.
Still, a worsening cold was a small price to pay to be in such a magnificent location.
Travel may not always be smooth (or warm), but it is always enlivening.
Until next time –