Saturday, September 24, 2016

Хар Зүрхий Хөх Нуур (Black Heart’s Blue Lake)

The mountain in the background is Black Heart with Blue Lake at it's slopes. 
In the year 1189, after an exciting childhood and a turbulent journey into manhood, Temuujin was awarded the title of Chinggis Khaan or king of the Mongols. Later in 1206-1208, Chinggis Khaan would declare himself leader of the people who lived in felt tents and start a campaign that would lead to the largest land empire the modern world has ever known. Chinggis Khaan is universally recognized as being one of the most important Mongolians in history. Along with conquering most of Asia, he can be attributed with opening up trade between nations, establishing the written Mongolian language, and… oh yeah, decimating (literally) a tenth of the world’s population.  

The man, The myth, The legend
Black Heart’s Blue Lake refers to the spot where the tribes of Mongolia elected Chinggis Khaan as their leader in 1189.  While it is difficult to archeologically pinpoint the location of such a historic event, there are certain documents that Mongolians use to chronicle Chinggis’ history. These documents reference a mountain that is called Black Heart with a lake beneath it called Blue Lake. Oral traditions and names of locations have led Mongolians to the belief with some level of accuracy that this historic location is at a scenic lake in western Khentii province, approximately 4 hours from where Sally and I live.

Khentii is recognized as one of the most historical provinces in Mongolia, because of its link to Chinggis Khaan’s homeland. Dadal soum (Reference the earlier Momgolia posts) is the recognized birthplace, Хөх Нуур (most Mongolians just call it blue lake for short) is the recognized place of coronation, and a mountain in the remote reaches of northern Khentii is recognized as his “burial” site (the exact location of the tomb is still unknown).
Chinggis' Totem
Traveling to Blue Lake has been a goal of mine for several months, so working with CPs, I arranged a mekr (15 passenger van) to take a group of people to the historic site last Saturday. We left early in the morning on Saturday and made the bumpy journey over bad roads. There were 13 of us not including the driver: 9 PCVs, and 4 teachers from my school.

As we left the paved road for 45kms of good old Mongolian dirt track, it became apparent why so many Mongolians speak so highly of the location. Grassy plains and bald rolling hills gave way to tree covered meadows and forested tracks. For us, who are so accustomed to open land, the trees were a pleasant change. Soon we found ourselves at the lake which was surrounded by ger camps and forest. On one side of the lake, the slopes of a large mountain met the water in a thin line of trees and boulders. Opposite of the mountain on a flat shoreline, the Mongolians had erected totems of a sort to Chinggis Khaan and his decedents.  The wooden carvings created a half-circle that faced away from the lake. All of the “recognized” children of Khaan looked toward a larger totem of the fonder of their dynasty. Flanked on either side of Chinggis Khaan were totems of his two “recognized” queens. Surrounding the kings and queens of Mongolia is a sparse forest of trees. The trees were a mix of larch and aspen, both of which were changing colors as Mongolian fall set in.
Some of the Kings of Mongolia
We only stayed at the lake for about four hours. During that time we wandered the forest surrounding the lake and found a geocache on Black Heart’s slopes. I had planned to do some mountain climbing, but Black Heart is a sacred mountain, so women are not allowed to summit it (consult a post from May titled “Foreign Language Competition and Birthday Stuff”). The sexism of these traditions sometimes takes the fun out of summiting a mountain, and I had no desire to do so if my wife and friends could not make the ascent as well.
Sally and I 
This is the first time that all of the PCVs of Khentii were able to get together, there are 6 of us who are starting our second year, and 2 new volunteers. 
As the wind changed and a cold Siberian breeze began to set in, we climbed back into the mekr and headed home feeling both revitalized on fresh air and exhausted from wind exposure. Overall, it was a very successful trip and a great opportunity for the PCVs of Khentii province to experience a celebrated site.


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