In a valley carpeted with wild flowers and framed by forested mountains, Tsenkher is the site of various natural hot springs. The unpleasant aroma of sulphur accompanies the bubbling wells which is then piped into the village and tourist ger camps. After a much needed shower from a couple of nights “roughing it” in family-stay gers, we came out smelling rather like sulphur instead of “refreshingly clean”.
The underbrush of the forest is home to small wild strawberries which is used to make some delicious jam. However most had already been picked by locals and possibly the three tour bus loads of Japanese tourists who subsequently “invaded” the outdoor ‘hot spring’ heated pool and denying us the relaxing pleasure of a quiet dip.
Tsenkher is merely a slight detour on the way through the Orkhon River Valley. Which itself is known as the cradle of Mongolian civilization, holding many of Mongolia’s ancient monuments in its vast river basin.
By this point in our trip, we had already ventured off proper roads and were traversing the Mongolian countryside along a combination of well-traveled tracks, patchy trails and sometimes no path at all.
Our driver would suddenly veer off what seemed like a perfectly good trail without any visual landmarks and head in a straight line for hours with nothing around us. Only to then meet up with another trail like he had Mongolian Google Maps in his head!
After a long bumpy ride, we entered Hangai Nuruu National Park. Halting our advance lay a fairly deep river, which proved to be an adventure in itself, since the nearby bridge was broken and we had stopped beside other tourist vans and 4x4s on the bank watching others attempt the crossing. One confident local on a motorbike failed miserably and had to be rescued, to the amusement of everyone!
With our confidence high (at least for our fearless driver), we slowly trundled across. With all tyres submerged and three quarters of the way across, we came sputtering to a stop.
Our driver calmly lifted the centre console to reveal the empty space above the gearbox and the river in all its deep glory. But after a few restarts, our trusty Russian van came back to life and we were on dry land again!
Nothing would stop us now from reaching our destination; the only waterfall in Mongolia, Orkhon Waterfall. The waterfall itself was gushing with fresh water, plunging into its self-made canyon.
The canyon edges are treacherous to stand on as the deep cracks show potential for disaster at any time, as proved by the pile of rubble below. A short climb down made for an interesting angle for more photos.
Our second time horse-riding was much more fun this time as we increased our horses to gallop speed, Indiana Jones style!
After returning to our local ger family, Andrew got a hands-on lesson in traditional Mongolian wrestling with our tour guide, Tulga.
Then we watched it being properly performed by the local family as four of the elder kids took it in turns to challenge each other. It was a unique experience to see the rest of the family huddled on the grass in rugs watching on, while the little kids chased a goat around their gers.
Visited 9th and 10th August 2014.