Mongolia’s largest, fresh water lake. Lake Khövsgöl is 136km long, 262m deep and holds 0.4% of the world’s fresh water. I got there on horseback with Bagi and Ankhar from the nearby town of Xatgal.
Xatgal was an important place of passage during the Soviet era given its proximity to the Russian border. The lake freezes over during the winter and until relatively recently could be used as a shortcut, as many of the roads become impassable. The place began to grow and buildings were begun, then democracy kicked in and everything stopped. Recently the tourist trade turned up and everything started again, although fortunately it’s still not in full swing yet.
Because of the increase in visitors to the lake, reindeer herders are now bringing their herds further and further south away from their homeland in Siberia’s Taiga forest. The impoverished herders look to make money from foreign visitors, but as a result their herds and consequently their way of life suffer. The moss that reindeers graze becomes sparser the further south the herders travel and many die neglected. The number of reindeer herds in this area is rapidly diminishing as herders neglect their traditional way of life and begin to depend on the unstable flow of tourists.
This is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It would be a disaster if it were to ever change.