It’s not been easy.

Spring is not a very hospitable season here. The tourist trail that is normally well-beaten in later months is just seeing a trickle of travelers. Supplies are low, the weather is rough and the tourist-friendly establishments are generally closed. In a way, its a good time to be here. The busy spots are quiet, the prices are a little lower. But the seasons here, across the vast, dry, empty plains, bring drastic changes. Right now, the otherwise green hills are brown. What precious little rain Mongolia sees has yet to come and the snow has only just begun to melt. The livestock have grown thin without fresh grass to eat and the people are waiting until summer arrives to slaughter them for meat. The horses, now mostly turned loose to survive on their own, are also weak. The country is still recovering from the hard winter.

Frozen Marsh Speck = Dog

I joined a small tour group of 6 organized by UB guesthouse rather than trying to make my own way as I normally do. There is no public transportation outside of Ulaanbator aside from a tiny length of train tracks in the center of the country. To get somewhere, there are few options: walk, ride a horse or camel, or buy a seat in a Russian van. For my first excursion, the tourist van looked like a good choice. The tour was headed for Khovsgol National Park, home of the great frozen Lake Khovsgol, with stops in Karakorum, the White Lakes and Moron. I planned to leave the group in Khovsgol and do an extended trip on horseback to the far north.

The line-up: Inge and Joan from Antwerp, Belgium, Basil and Flavie from Lioux, France and another Frenchman, Greg. And me.