Monday, 16 September 2013

Mongolia: frozen lakes and stone cooked lamb

Snowcapped mountains emerge from the mist at Khuvsgul Lake
© Andy Brown/2013/Mongolia
Look at a map of Khuvsgul and one feature will jump out at you – Khuvsgul Nuur, or lake. This is a massive 2,760 square kilometre body of water that stretches almost to the border with Siberia. It is the second largest in Asia and one of the oldest lakes in the world, being among just 17 that formed over two million years ago. Mongolians call it ‘ocean mother’ and revere it as the country’s main source of fresh water. It is famous for its clear, drinkable water and blue/green colour.

The lake is also a major tourist attraction and, unusually, there was a tarmacked road all the way from the provincial capital Murun. We stopped mid-morning at the southern tip of the lake. Our driver Agi knew the chef at a tourist 'ger' (tent) camp, and he served us tea and snacks. Afterwards, we walked down to the lake. The shore was stony and the water was crystal clear. On reaching the water, the Mongolian tradition is to take a little water in your hand and splash it on your forehead. “This is to give thanks for the water and show respect to nature,” Byamba said, demonstrating.