Accelerating to 60 kilometers per hour on a frozen lake in Mongolia is generally not a good idea. A light tap on the brake pedal, a quick swerve to avoid a mound of snow, and the Russian-made UAZ minivan starts spinning in circles, the driver struggling to regain control. “We are only two people so the machine is very light,” offers Chimbdorj, the driver, as a form of apology.
Every winter, dozens of small vehicles ply the ice across northern Mongolia’s Lake Khovsgol. At 130 kilometers long and up to 40 kilometers wide, the lake surface -- frozen more than a meter thick -- offers passengers a shortcut and respite from an otherwise bone-crunching journey across unpaved mountain tracks. On an otherwise smooth ride, ice drivers keep a wary eye out for pressure ridges, a break formed by expansion and contraction of surface ice. Straying too close can prove fatal.
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Pearly Jacob is a freelance journalist based in Ulaanbaatar.