We arrived late afternoon at Heaven Envoy ger camp in a valley in the Terelj national park just past the now-extinct dinosaur holiday ground complete with a decaying life-size concrete tyrannosaur and other giants that once roamed the steppe. “Jurassic Park,” our young guide Daria mumbled without further explanation.
Heaven Envoy was set up with three rows of ger all with doors facing south as tradition requires. Unlike the colourful family ger we’d just visited, furnishings were simple in the tourist tent with a few beds and a central coal burner. Our ceiling was padded with electric wires to heat at night. It was all very cosy.
On our first day, we wandered the canyon behind Heaven Envoy and found a Sharman ritual area among the trees marked out with bunting and peacock feathers. A pair of nesting crows took turns to warn each other of our presence, while a group of small birds hopped around our heads in the branches.
Of course, we headed back to “Jurassic Park”. A caretaker invited us in to the grounds and left us to photograph the dinosaurs, cattle and decrepit holiday camp buildings. I’ll post most of those photos in a separate blog as the quirkiness is just too good.
Back at our ger, a groundsman visited frequently to stoke the fire, and disconcertingly, to drop a plastic bag of coal into the burner at 11pm each night. On the second night, I pulled the plastic out in deep worry about the toxins potentially flooding our lodgings. I could understand why the guy did it though; how bloody convenient just to lift the lid and drop the bag in.
On our last morning, while about to step out in my slippers and shorts for a morning loo stop, I opened the door to a foot of snow. It had got down to -17 degrees while we were tucked up. I swapped my slippers for boots and still headed out in my shorts because oddly the cold was bearable.
Using Jenny’s tramping poles, we headed back to the Sharman area to see it in the snow. The crows squawked but the small birds were elsewhere.
Daria picked us up later in the morning for our train from Ulaan Bataar to Ulan Ude. She was stressed by the traffic back to town with the weather and poor driving causing accidents. For us, the chance to see the valley in snow was a bonus even worth the hair-raising drive.