Our trip was run by a fantastic group of Mongolians who toured us around the desert. Tourism is an up incoming industry in Mongolia and our guides showed us a great time in the Gobi. We traveled by bus and we were driving anywhere from four to eight hours every day. Besides leading into the capital city, there are not very many paved roads in Mongolia, especially in the Gobi. As a result Dramamine or an Asian substitute was a daily necessity to combat the severe motion sickness caused by our large buses attempting to traverse sand and rocks. Our route took us south into the Gobi, west towards the more mountainous regions and back north to Ulan Bator: a total of about 1,000 km.
We primarily had class in the morning, drove into the afternoon and camped at night. The landscape was incredible. We were technically in mostly steppe, which is sand with a small amount of vegetation, and our view would often be completely unobstructed in all directions. There was literally not a hill or rock or human which stood in the way of seeing the full horizon in all directions. Actually, there was the occasional yurt (pronounced “gear”) speckled across the landscape but these stout houses often added to the beautiful landscape.
We stayed in tents primarily but our plans had to change after we got caught in a sand storm! That’s right, I have survived a sandstorm in the Gobi. I shouldn’t accept too many bragging rights; our crew mainly helped us out of the pickle. Many tents collapsed in the wind and those who were without shelter slept on the bus. I shared my tent with my three friends Tara, Anna and Jessica and after reinforcing our tent stakes we decided to ride out the storm. I guess those years of Girl Scouts have paid off after all! The event was not as traumatizing as it could have been, the biggest trauma was some of our belongings blew away.
Unfortunately, the night did leave some of the tents broken and for the rest of the time we stayed in yurt camps, which are amazingly comfortable. Post-sandstorm, the highlights of the trip included riding camels (twice!) and hiking up a dizzyingly large sand dune. Camels get a bad rep. Sure they smell and have a tendency towards excessive flatulence but they are also gentle and intelligent creatures who just like to have their nose scratched. We rode the two-humped variety which are the norm in Asia and it is similar to riding a taller, slower horse with a swagger. Another animal which we encountered on our trip but did not have the fortune to ride was yaks. Yes, they exist and yes they are fabulous! Picture a shaggy, docile cow. The males have large horns and are always separate from the females and babies. The yaks were overall very shy, probably because they are sometimes used for food.
The last event worth noting on my desert excursion was our day trip to a sand dune. This particular sand dune was about 300 miles long, several hundred feet tall and was formed by a small mountain chain which trapped the sand at its base. Climbing this big boy was one of the most difficult workouts I’ve had in my recent years however, the view from the top was worth it. By far the most euphoric feeling I’ve ever felt was running down the dune, our group’s preferred method of descent. Since falling and getting hurt were virtually impossible, bounding down the hill was possible and amazing.
That about wraps it up for our Gobi adventure. We are back in UB now and my days are spent going to class, exploring the different culinary treasures that Mongolia has to offer, doing homework, and occasionally going out at night. I absolutely love all of the comments that a large number of you have been leaving – please keep ‘em coming! For those in Tacoma, I hope the first few weeks of school have been enjoyable and not too stressful. Daniel leaves very soon for Asia so don’t forget to keep up to date with his travels and photography through www.adlerography.com. Bye for now!