The standard of ger accommodation seemed to be increasing during our tour. They may not look like much from the outside, but some come with the latest mod-cons! Satellite dishes, kitchens and ample space to even hold a dinner party.
Leaving our family ger home-stay at Orkhon Waterfall, an epic 10 hour drive (the longest of the tour) on some of the bumpiest, dustiest and deserted tracks (you can’t call them roads) brought us into the heart of the Gobi Desert. The scenery dramatically changed from lush grassy steppe to flat desert wastelands. The halfway point where we ate lunch before crossing the first asphalt road we had seen since Ulaanbaatar, seemed to mark the scenery turning point.
The desert was reminiscent of the Australian outback. Flat red plains melded into a brown rocky tumbled landscape. The dry Gobi Desert would be our home for the remainder of the tour.
Situated on an interesting bend in the Ongiin Gol (River), Ongii Khiid was a complex of two monasteries called Barlim Khiid on the north bank and Khutagt Khiid on the south bank.
It was once a populous meeting point for monks in the Gobi Desert, but once again the Stalinist purges of 1937 brought utter destruction to Ongii Khiid. Everything was destroyed and now all that is left are sand brick ruins. It is hard to imagine what this flourishing monastery was once like.
Although a new much smaller temple was built in 2004, it is rarely used. A solitary ger houses the ‘museum’, the remaining collection of religious items and books that were saved.
Atop a rocky outcrop, a sweeping view of the monastery and the river’s bend was glorious to see. The ruins are mostly on the north bank. As there is no way to cross the river anywhere nearby, the lesser southern ruins remain unreachable.
Reaching our ger camp overlooking the ruins, our tour guide, Tulga, surprised us dressed in a (somewhat authentic) Chinggis Khan outfit. Andrew couldn’t resist.
Visited 11th August 2014.