Gorkhi Terelj National Park, UlaanBaatar – ~250km
Mongolia – done.
Ticked off the final points… rode into Gerkhi Terelj National Park, rode around a heap, saw the “Turtle Rock”, dithered about whether to stay in the park, or sleep next to the ridiculous giant Ghenghis Khan statue… eventually opted for staying in the part – as it was really the most interesting/scenic landscape I’d seen for some time. (Steppes/desert are great, for a short time… but seeing something new was enervating). The entire park was hills and rock formations… quite cool after so long in the steppes.
Checked into a ger camp – for one last night sleeping in a yurt… and proceeded to drink beers in the last of the evening sun. Drank too many, and had to go to sleep without fully appreciating the night’s gimmick of “traditional Mongolian music”. The place I stayed at was obviously geared toward South Korean tour groups, and I figured I wasn’t going to see too much of anything authentic anyway.
Next morning – used my camp frying pan for the first time – to fill with soapy water, and give a cursory wash of the bike, to make it look just that slightly better. The lady who’d hired it wanted it back “as good as new”… and I figured that if at least the entire thing wasn’t covered in mud, that would be a decent goodwill measure.
Then – off to see that stupidly big silver monstrosity – the 40m high stainless steel statue of Chinggis on his horse. I kept expecting to see this shining monster on the horizon, but it only came into sight reasonably close. As big as it is… my first impression was “yeah, that’s a big hoss and Khan”, but the second impression was “not as big as I’d expected”.
Had a look around the inside of it… including a very large boot – 9m high.
Possibly the most interesting thing about the whole thing – was looking at the original plans for the entire statue/complex. It’s supposed to be a massive theme park, with the silver statue just the centre-piece. Privately owned/built – this thing is supposed to be surrounded by 200 yurts – hotels, souvenir shops, other edifices… 10 years later, the statue is surrounded by about a dozen gers, and the steps up to it are already falling apart.
But – still impressive… although I have my doubts as to the condition it will all be in 10 years from now.
After visiting the “Biggest Equestrian Statue… IN THE WORLD!” – it was time to drop the bike off.
I pointed out the 7 pieces which had fallen off, and there were no objections to giving my deposit (passport) back. In fact, the nice lady (much nicer, and less flustered, than when I’d picked it up) – gave me a cold beer to enjoy while I repacked everything from the useless panniers, and waited for a taxi.
So, finally, back to UlaanBaatar, to kill a couple of days. The sheer number of people here (which isn’t much) – is a little scary after 24 days of wide open extremely isolated spaces.