Day 10 – Tsenkher hot springs

The following day was quite a funny one. We had planned to go to the Tsenkher hot springs, and spent a very long time driving over bumpy roads to get there. We arrived at a deserted tourist camp, with people dismantling gers, and lots of bare pipework. Baggi and Bilguun ambled off, hands in pockets, to try and find someone, and we watched them with growing amusement walking around buildings, peering in windows, before they returned to tell us sheepishly what we had already figured out for ourselves – the hot springs were closed to tourists and we had had a wasted journey. We had always known this was a possibility, so found it funny rather than annoying. We weren’t able to bathe in the springs or sleep at the camp, but we did go to have a look at them. It wasn’t really as I had envisaged. We had to navigate through a network of pipes, crossing little streams on planks and ducking now and then. The springs were encased in concrete cladding with large, ugly pipes to carry the water to the hot tubs. The water temperature where the spring bubbles up is around 90°C, so it is piped overland to cool before it is emptied into a hot tub. Steam was rising and there was a sulphurous smell like noxious fumes from a cauldron. It was interesting to see, but a pity that the site looked so industrial. The water was indeed very hot, and you could sit on rocks that were warmed by the current running underneath.

After this, a plan was made to go to a nearby town, have a hot shower at a bath house and spend the night in a town ger. As we made our way towards the town, we had to cross a bridge over a river. We realised just at the approach that it was broken in the middle, but Baggi simply sped up the Pergon, there was a bit of a bump, and we were safely over the other side. The shower was very welcome after two and half days on horseback, and it was quite a while since we had had a good wash. The ger that night was on the outskirts of a small, but smoggy town. We passed through some gates into a small yard – there was a bungalow in the centre and to the left of this was our ger. There was a mother cat in the yard with two small kittens, which looked to be about 6 weeks old. Later in the evening, I fed the kittens the meat from my dinner which I still couldn’t face and they got braver and came into the ger with us, so we all got to have a bit of a cuddle and before they fell asleep by the stove whilst we played cards. We had to throw them out at bedtime so they could have their milk for afters. That night the town dogs barked unrelentingly, like a scene from 101 Dalmations!

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