Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gobi Adventure

San Bano! (Sahn-bah-noh) This means "hello" in Mongolian. I am writing you on a beautifully sunny day from Ulan Bator and we have been back from our Gobi adventure for a few days. The Gobi is a desert in southern Mongolia where the group spent about twelve days touring around and studying paleontology. Unfortunately we did not participate in any dinosaur digs, but we did do many other exciting things.

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 Bye for now!




Celia said...

Rachel how amazing! I'm soooo jealous you got to ride a camel! haha. I've always thought riding an elephant would be cool, so you should jump on that if the chance presents itself. I'm proud to hear that you're a true camper and were able to ride out the sandstorm, Moshier girls rock! I recently went through a hurricane here in Houston, though it wasn't very traumatic for me or my apartment, a lot of other things in the city were destroyed :/ Anywho, I'm glad to hear you're doing well and exploring amazing things. Can't wait for the next update! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hi Sweetie, What an incredible adventure! I had a feeling that your Girl Scout experience would come in handy. Dad and I went to dinner at the Wickware's last night and we proudly showed off your Gobi field trip photos to the Bacci's, Kelly's, and Kovac's. They were duly impressed. Ingrid, Meg, Faye and I went to see the Chihuly exhibit yesterday . . . Wow! He really does some extraordinary stuff with glass. XOXOx Mom

Kevin and Aunt Karen said...

WOW! Rachel, sounds like you're having a blast! My mom and I love the pic of you on the camel... how cool!

Where are you heading from there? How many desinations do you still have to visit?

We're so glad to hear that you're doing well and staying safe. Watch out for those sandstorms! We look forward to hearing more about your journey! Take care and we love ya!!

-Kevin, Mike, and Aunt Karen-

Meg said...


I think the camel photo and your comment about your Girl Scout training holding you in good stead during this trip should be in next year's Girl Scout calendar. I think all those camping trips have made you a pro! Keep those photos coming. Your energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Meg

Robin said...

LOVE the camel picture, Rachel! Sounds like you're having a great adventure so far. Keep the updates coming-- it's fantastic to hear about your experiences (and to live vicariously through you!). And give my baby brother a hug when you see him. He's enroute to Korea right now...

swadler said...

Hi Rachel ~ What an adventure you're having! Dan is in the air and soon you'll be closer to him than we are. He was really excited and prepared; backpack underweight and ready for his next adventure. You are an amazing pair!

love, Sherri

zekaman said...

Rachel, I'm a bit tardy on catching up with your blog, but I'm enjoying your posts....and the pics. Yes, that pic of you on "Camel One" is great, and I agree it should be on a Girl Scout calendar! Have fun, study hard and be safe. XOXO

Alys said...

Hey Rach. I missed a few posts for a while, but it sounds like a whole lot of fun. I'm definitely jealous. Good ace on the camping skills. No Moshier woman would wimp out on a bus!

I'm looking into joining the Peace Corps and might leave before you get back. Who knows, maybe we'll end up in the same place at some point!

Looking forward to the next post. Love you.

Eva said...

Riding a camel just so happens to be on the list of the top 5 things I have to do before I die. I am unspeakably jealous.

Also, studying in a monastery sounds phenomenal; I'm so excited for you, treasure all these adventures man, this is a special thing.
<3 Eva