Buriad and Michael on the new motorbike ready to go to Chandman'

Khovd to Chandman’ Mongolia 1993

One of Buraid’s sons had bought a new motorbike. After tinkering with it for a day, Buriad was ready to travel the 180 or so Kilometres on it to get to Chandman District.

However, the journey began by a blessing of the motorbike.

A long piece of white felt was placed in front of the bike. We mounted the bike and all three of us were blessed with milk. Buriad then started the motor & we ceremoniously drove over the felt to initiate the bike & to bring it good fortune in its life.

Then it was off through Khovd town out & up the long incline until we reached the Khovd Ovoo where the pot holed tarmac gave way to a wide dusty track. In the distance I could see a huge lake which turned out to be Khar Us Nuur (Black Water Lake). At the Ovoo we collected some small stones & walked around the Ovoo clockwise three times, on each circuit we threw or placed the stones on the pile. This was our offering to the spirit of this place. Others had offered Vodka bottles, prayer flags, Khadags (Ceremonial blue silk scarves) and the skull of a horse.
Khar Us Nuur on the way we meet some camels
As we descended I spotted the first camels of my trip. There seemed to be about a hundred of them munching the dry grass & shrubs. We stopped to take a photo. Some of the camels were losing their winter coats & looked very dishevelled.

Onwards & downwards we bumped about on the dry track, it seemed for ever & ever. Then we veered left off the main drag & headed on a smaller even more uneven track. This was leading us to Khar Us Nuur.

We arrived at its shores, where I stripped off & ran into the lake to wash off the dirt & dust from the journey. The water was not cold & the lake at that point very shallow.

It did not take long to dry off & we went on our way skirting the shores of the lake. Near the opposite shore I could see the fabled Jargalant Altai Mountains of which I had heard of legends about the origin of Khöömii.

It was about mid afternoon when we came across a herd of horses grazing by the lake. They were near a group of gers which we approached. Stopping for tea & doughnuts was very welcome as it was so dry that we needed our thirst quenched. The time was getting on so we said our goodbyes and headed to the south end of the lake where things got difficult. The bike broke down!
Khar Us Nuur Michael free swimming 2
We had not seen anyone for about an hour or so and I thought we could get stranded out here. However Buriad got out a small tool kit & proceeded to fix the bike in no time at all.

A little while after the track turned quite marshy & then all of a sudden very sandy. The weight of the two of us would stop the motorbike in its tracks. So I had the unfortunate task of walking for a while, getting back on the bike and trying to see if it would take the two of us. This was very tiring and made even more infuriating as dusk approached. The onset of the dreaded “shumuul”, mosquito starts at this time. They could smell fresh foreign blood & gorged themselves on me, no matter how hard I tried to fight them off. On the motorbike it was impossible to stop them from biting my hands and protecting my face. This also caused severe problems for Buriad.

It was now becoming dark and we were still many hours away from our journeys end. We had seen no one since the bike had broken down which was about 3 hours. So we had to stop for the night. It was like being in heaven and hell at the same time. The landscape was mesmerising, the bright enormous full moon was in direct opposition to the red glowing equally giant setting sun, casting immensely long drawn out shadows of the mountains, ghostly reflections in the unending waters of Khar Us Nuur and creating the deep purples & blues that Nicholas Roerich painted in his travels through the Altai mountains in 1926. I was continuously trying to take this in by peeping through my highly inadequate sleeping bag & always been bitten by those wretched Shumuul!

Needless to say I did not get any sleep & by dawn I was feeling very ill. We had to continue, which was very arduous for me. I nearly passed out through vomiting so much. Running out of water did not help either. I felt this must be some kind of test of the spirits of khöömii and Chandman sum. Would I ever get there?