We were in a small car and Chuka decided it was not in the shape he wanted so made a phone call and next thing you know we stopped and switched to a humongous Land cruiser. This was to prove to be wise choice
It took a good two hours over mostly paved roads to find our way the camp. The girls kept us occupied with jokes, riddles and word games while we were in the car. They had been schooled in Australia while Chuka was in school there so speak very good English. Chuka had called ahead and made reservations for lunch but when we arrived there was no record of it and they were feeding a large group who were holding a conference there. So we placed our order and hiked in the woods for an hour.
It was striking how lush and green it had become in the last month, grass and flowers popping you all around us and leafy green enveloping the stands of beautiful white birch trees growing beneath the old grizzled pines. Water was flowing down from the hills and we managed to get properly wet while finding a lovely little waterfall cascading over mossy rocks. Not what one would expect in Mongolia. There must have been a recent windstorm as many of the birches were snapped off half way up and many were bent over. The breaks looked fresh. Chuka made a weaving out of birch bark from the fallen trees and the girls delighted in assembling bouquets of wild flowers of different colors. It was a lovely walk and one of those unexpected delights that life can offer.
After a leisurely lunch (which was still not started when we returned) we visited the library which was in a ger. There were books for sure but they were all safely locked in glass cases and I could never read one anyway since they are in Mongolian or Chinese.
I expected the return trip to be anticlimactic until Chuka announced we were going to take a "shortcut" and zipped off road and headed for the hills. We meandered over hill and dale past gers and herds of sheep, goats and cattle. The yaks scattered as we drove through the middle of their herd and the camels moved aside and just stared at us. Chuka stopped when he spotted a pair of marmots on the hillside. He said they used to be thousands of them here as recently as a few years ago but they are mostly gone now since the herders have moved closer to UB after the drastic livestock losses of the past severe winter know as a Zud.
Chuka stopped the SUV in the middle of and open plain and we got out. He pointed to the hills on both sides and described how he and his family hunted the wolves who came down to prey on the horses and livestock. Wolves are fast and cunning so the hunt is not a simple or easy task. The wolves are still plentiful and there is more livestock close at hand now.
Some 9 hours after departing they dropped me at my apartment, pleasantly tired but feeling good about the day. Alas it will not happen again soon as Chuka has been posted to Washington DC and the family will be gone in a month. A good change for him but another loss here in UB for me
ps: I turned down an offer to go to a friend's place to watch the USA UK Soccer match which started at 2:00am local time. Sleep is what I needed.