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Saturday 27 May
Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

A week in the countryside (Pt 2)

Our last day and night on the road were spent at Karakorum. In the early 13th century, when Chingis (Ghengis) Khan decided to take over the world he set his capital here. His nephew Kublai moved it to form modern day Beijing when he conquered all of China. All that is left is mounds of rubble and two stone turtles. The ancient site is completely unguarded so I had a lot of fun rummaging for 800 year old pieces of fired tile. I had just finished a brilliant book on Kublai Khan so was fascinated by it all.

That evening we paid for some traditional musicians to come out to our ger. They specialised in Mongolian throat singing which consisted of making various organs reverberate in a similar way to rubbing your finger around the rim of a wine glass. It was like nothing I had heard before and very beautiful. They accompanied the singing with two string violins and a kind of harp. Whilst they were performing a huge sand storm blew up. It rocked the ger about so much they hung a large water container from the centre to hold it together. By the end of the evening everything had a thick coat of fine sand and trips outside to the toilet meant wrapping up in coats and scarves. When I went for my usual 2 am toilet trip I found the ground now covered in snow and the temperature had dropped significantly. They day before it had been so hot we were in t-shirts and covered in sun tan lotion. By sunrise the ger was covered in snow, the van frozen shut with icicles on the bumpers and the landscape was altered from green pasture to a brilliant white. As we left Karakorum we saw a camel stood in the frozen terrain by the roadside. It still had snow on its back from the previous night's storm but otherwise looked quite content.

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