Received April 9, 98

See script attached for description of this outing. a few more pictures will be added next week
As I told you on the phone the trip to Terelj was wonderful This was part of a walking group which meets every weekend in the better weather for hikes of various distances. Last Saturday's was a bit ambitious. We were told we were going just a bit beyond Terelj for a short hike. The leader of the hike is a master of the understatement. I joined 6 other people in front of the Ulaanbaatar Hotel at 9 on Saturday morning. A few moments later two Landrovers from the British Embassy rolled in with four other people including the ambassador and his wife. We all managed to fit into the two vehicles so rode off to Terelj, a holiday resort about an hour northwest of UB. Terelj was an official holiday resort for government people before the fall of Communism and is now adding more hotels in hopes of attracting foreign tourists. The British started building one about 6 years ago but ran into financing problems and a fire, but the part of the building that is still standing is used as a hotel. Most have gers available too, for tourists. It is in a nice little valley, with streams running through and all that. We, however, went beyond Terelj where the tarmacked road disappeared and was replaced by a dirt track. Thank God we were in Landrovers, nothing else, except a horse, could have survived the drive. We bumped and rolled and dipped and dodged for about an hour before we reached our destination. We passed herds of horses, cows and yaks (many cows and yaks have interbred so that it is not always easy to find a full bred yak, only hairy cows). Gers were scattered at long intervals, usually only one or two per settlement along with stables and pens built out of logs. In the distance and occasionally up close we saw horseback riders. I think most were out for pleasure since it was a marvellous, sunny day and a holiday. Whenever we passed a ger, the people came out to see who we were and waved. Everyone wears traditional dress in the countryside. We passed a little river valley and I saw among the trees a man on a horse holding another horse for a women who was just getting up on it. It reminded me of the movie "Close to Eden". The landscape is very plain (which is probably where the word "plain" came from). There are no trees except on the hills and along the small rivers. Mostly it is just barren, wide open plain or steppe, and at this time of year everything is brown. The steppe is fringed by low mountains or high hills (not high enough to keep snow on for long) that fold away into the distance. Everywhere are marmot holes and cattle droppings. It looks empty but if you look closely you will find lots of activity. After we stopped our vehicles we hiked for about 5 km into an old monastery (or heed) site that had been destroyed sometime in the last 40 or 50 years. The outside walls were still standing and some of the painted designs were still visible. We ate lunch there and then walked back over a circuitous route that took us up a couple of ridges which gave us a great view of the valley. Much of our walk back was over frozen bog so our going was very slow. We took a "brief" detour on our way home to look at the German embassy's hut and to recce a location for the British Embassy's ger. Actually went way out of our way. It took four hours to get home. We got stuck in a snow bank, we had a flat tire, we nearly broke through the ice on a river we were crossing and finally had to negotiate the steppe and a barely visible road in the dark. We passed some gers in the dark and you could see the glow from their lights through the hole in the top. Neat! These Brits are a lot of fun and much more my cup of tea than the UN-types. I am going on another long hike next Sunday but hopefully it won't be so far out in the wild. We were getting quite concerned on the way back that we might not make it back.

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