When last we saw our intrepid adventurers—before the horrors of multiple computer disasters and restoration chores on this end—they were bundled up against the cold northern Mongolian wind at the exclusive Ashihai Tourist Camp and waving goodbye to the staff who had assembled to see them off.
Being here is worth the cost of the trip,” says Cap. I agree wholeheartedly, though the best part for me was the day trip from the Ashihai tourist camp and the visit with the Mongol herders. And that cup of salted yak milk tea.
They are on a time schedule now, as Cap is anxious to get back to Ulaanbaatar in time to attend a meeting at 2 P.M. Saturday afternoon. We catch up with them in nearby Mӧrӧn, not far from Ashihai but a couple hours closer to their destination, where they have stopped to spend the night.
Now, we’re in Murun, or Moron, or Mӧrӧn—take your pick, as long as you pronounce it Muroon. From now on, I’m going with the Moron spelling, just for kicks and because I’m still reading From Mӧrӧn to Moron.
My room isn’t quite ready, so I wait in the lobby of the hotel where we had lunch a few days ago, looking at a large map. I have a hunch there’s more to the name of this hotel than meets the eye. There’s a sign that says 50/100. The longitudes and latitudes on the large map are too small for me to read, so I take photos and hope to enlarge the numbers later.
|This little girl is so focused on the cartoons playing on the TV above me that she has no idea I'm there.|
Turns out there’s no need because as soon as I walk up the stairs to my room, there are signs everywhere: n 50°” e 100°00” Hotel. And there you go, the latitude and longitude of this hotel that’s named 50 Degree 100 Degree Hotel. Frankly, the old name that everyone still uses, Edelweiss, is much easier.
The adventure for the day is a visit to the Deer Stones. I was absolutely blank on what deer stones were, but I suspected something along the lines of cave art.
The short drive is where Chimdee decided to have some fun and he pushed the pedal of the metal as we rocketed across the flat plain. A caveat: No livestock were harmed during the speed-of-light crossing.
Out in the middle of nowhere is a small shack used by a volunteer caretaker during the summer tourist months, a few signs, and a fenced area surrounding some stones sticking up in the air and some piles of rocks. I am immediately enthralled and wish I had a guide book that would tell me more in depth than I glean from Yusuf. It is not Yusuf’s fault; it’s mine. I simply don’t know enough about this site to ask the questions that would satisfy my curiosity.
|Some of the deer stones in this complex.|
Most often carved from granite or greenstone, these ancient megaliths from the Bronze Age most likely depict events from a person’s life, though they are not considered to be gravestones as no human remains have been found at the sites. Most likely, they represent shamanist rituals, as animal remains have been found under the stones. Other theories suggest they are simply art.
|There are many theories as to the purpose of these mounds, but they are now considered by many to be altars.|
|Yusuf and Patti amid the deer stones.|
Stones with stylized reindeer are prominent in southern Siberia and northern Mongolia. Of the 700 known deer stones worldwide, 500 of them are in Mongolia.
|Note what appears to be a belt or sash with bow, axe, and other tools.|
Like gers, the carved faces are oriented to the east, to catch the morning sun.
|Note the face at the top of the deer stone. This is considered very unusual.|
While I lingered at this tallest of the deer stones, a break appeared in the clouds. Look what happened.
This is from Lonely Planet:
Found across Mongolia, deer stones are markers from the Bronze Age and there are several theories about their existence. The ancient steppe tribes believed that after death the soul ascended to the sky on the backs of deer. The deer carved on the stones appear to be representational of this act.
However, since human remains have never been found near these stones, they do not appear to be gravestones, but rather serve some sort of religious or spiritual purpose. Many deer stones are also carved with a belt, from which hang various tools including axes and spears. These accessories would be required to successfully navigate the afterlife.
The drive back to Moron was at a moderate speed because Cap had a tête–à–tête with Chimdee. It was also populated with speed bumps in the form of curious livestock.
|Having had one successful tête–à–tête this afternoon, Cap approaches the locals to attempt another.|
Other photos from the drive back to Moron:
|A monument to horses on a nearby hill.|
|Moron is laid out in grids with wide streets.|
|This map shows several routes. Ours will be from Lake Khuvsgul in the north to Moron, across to Bulgan and east to Erdenet. Our destination is Ilaanbaatar in the far east.|