Mörön, 7 October 2012

I like turbo-props, I find the deep roar their propellors emit is much more satisfying to listen to than the whine of jet engines. So I was looking forward to this flight from Ulaanbaatar to Mörön, capital of Mongolia’s northernmost province of Khövsgöl, in a little 36-seat turbo-prop. And it was a lovely afternoon, with a blue sky, so I expected to have good views from seat 9C at the back of the aircraft.

Good views we did indeed have as we took off from UB, climbed, banked, and set off north, with the propellers settling into their deeply comforting roar. The ugly outskirts of UB dropped out of site and we were now flying over a brown landscape of late autumn. Small rocky hills jutted out of valley bottoms, many of which had small rivers flowing lazily down their middle. Never have I seen such lazy rivers! They looped back and forth, fraying, rebraiding, leaving stranded oxbows behind. Mongolian valleys must be flat as a pan.

My wife, in seat 10C, remarked that the hills looked buried in dust. So true! It must have been a trick of the light on the yellow grasses sprinkling the land, but the hills really looked as if they were emerging from thick layers of powdery brown dust.

We picked up the Siberian larches, larix sibirica, quite soon after leaving UB. These are the southernmost tassels of the vast larch forests that cloak the Siberian taiga. They were always high on the hills and clustered on the latters’ northern, colder, side. In the late afternoon light, they cast long shadows. At first there were vestiges of their summer green showing through their autumnal yellows, but as we droned ever further north autumn caught up with us and their colours became uniformly yellow.

Soon after we were dropping into the vast bowl which Mörön finds itself in, flying over the town as we came in to land. Small houses with bright red or blue roofs and surrounded by a square of wooden fences hove into view and rushed by us.

And now we were down on the tarmac, with the plane’s propellers giving their last braking roar before we trundled to a halt before the terminal.

Tomorrow, we go to Lake Khövsgöl.