Gobi Desert and Central Mongolia 26/06/08 to 07/07/08

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July 7th 2008
Published: September 18th 2008
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The Golden Gobi and the van we toured in. Good old soviet Russia style:)
The Gobi. The Desert.

Open a Pandora's box of contrasts.

Total journey distance 2,200km. Total days tires popped = 5.

Imagine baron fields. Gazelle's leaping gracefully over a distant hill. Camels, sheep, yak, horses and goats running wild together. Or some belonging to the nomads conveniently standing on the road in front of where your car is about to drive. The smell of flowers with a mint like fragrance, Gotov's cooking and the musty smell of a Ger. Spectacularly beautiful jagged mountains, gushing waterfalls and frozen ice lake canals. Young girls chasing goats and sheep, and not too far off vultures circling their prey. Somewhere along the way a jeep or Russian army van pops it's tyre (ours did five times on the trip) and a young woman appears over the vast horizon out of nowhere it seems face all covered, carrying a baby in her arms. Yet there is moisture in the air and rainbows in the sky after the rain comes.
A ger in the distance reminds you your not alone. Rain in the desert? The sand dunes sing and you fall in love with their vast landscape. Camel riding and swimming in an illegal lake
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The road ahead nothing but dirt road, gers and barren landscape dotted the view ahead.
(a lake created by mass torrential rain) with camel dung infested water.
Sain bainoo (Hello in Mongolian)! This is Mongolia! Mal cyreg targan taftai you (i hope your animals are fattening up nicely) always works like a charm when meeting the nomads in their gers.

"I am happy you are happy. No problems."
-Gotov (our guide)

26/06/08 Day 1 of the tour started at 6am (feeling seedy from the night before and paying 6000T or 5USD for the hostel accommodation). Got to the Golden Gobi and got introduced to the team I would be traveling with for the next 12 days:
Clair and Danny were a couple from London, 32 and 35 who were also working in the property industry and had taken a year off to travel overland to Australia (or possibly south America). So far they were 2 months into their trip.
Kevin was a guy from Connecticut, 24 and teaching in Korea the past 10 months. Prior to this he taught in Thailand for 5 months.
Deborah (Debbie) was from Germany, 21 and she had just worked in an orphanage for the past 10 months in Ulan Ude.
Bernie was from Germany, Hangover and he
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One of the first gers we past
was 63 who had done very many things and too many countries to list here (which included Afghanistan, Kenya, Iran and Saudi Arabia) but this time he was doing the trans-siberian or the trans-Mongolian i should say for 2 months.
Our guide was Gotov and our drivers name was Bilgee.
We entered a dirt track about 10 mins into our journey (which Gotov told me what about the majority of the road we would experience on our trip). My first experience of going to the toilet in the Gobi was interesting. There were absolutely no bushes to squat behind so it was pretty much just walking somewhere out in the open and squating. It was quite funny comparing the contrast in the begining of the trip where we would walk about 150 metres away from each other to the end where we were totally not bothered and where literally going to the toilet about 2 metres apart. We stopped at a field and saw some buzzards along the way (eagle like birds). The country was quite awesome to drive through and in no way did my photos do it justice. Stayed in our first Mongolian ger that night.

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A pit stop and you could walk 150m and still not find a bush for a toilet. This trip taught me to lose all inhibitions and decorum of going to the toilet in front of people.
We were not in the desert yet we saw some wild camels on the way and it was pretty cool as I had not seen them in the wild before. While stopping at the mountains for lunch, saw a carcass of a cow (perhaps). Along the drive witnessed 3 dead sheep with their feet in the air and gazelle running along the road. We got to this mini canyon, mini grand canyon as Gotov called it, and it was definitely very impressive. We camped that night and saw the rain for the first time in the desert. It was amazing, the rainbow afterwards I tell you and the night was only made more satisfying with the delicious dinner Gotov cooked. There were no Gers in sight and no grass to fatten the animals up that night.

28/06/08 This morning at 8am I heard someone talking about breakfast so I decided to get up, go outside and investigate. It was interesting how quickly the landscape changed everyday. On our drive we saw a camel been eaten by vultures on the side of the road and we stopped to take photos but they took off pretty quickly. We stopped for lunch
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Some buzzards (eagle type birds) we saw as we drove past. Amazing.
in a town (where I did not see more than one other foreigner including us). Part of lunch was salat olivia which was delicious but not as good as mums salad. We stopped at South Gobi National park which was interesting to find out what animals you could find in the desert. The majestic vulture which only feasted on bones. The snow leopard, very rare somewhere out west, which Gotov said you might be able to find if you had a helicopter - but was really rare otherwise he had not seen it on any of his trips. We then walked through the national park which I experienced again beautiful scenery which still caught me off guard. There were lots of Pika mice running around and I wondered if this was where the concept of Pikachu was born (until Danny suggested Pika's may also exist in Japan). There was a pretty glacier river which me and Debbie decided to climb on and I nearly slipped off much to the dissatisfaction of Gotov. In the evening we had Mongolian sheep hot pot which was delicious and very filling. Felt very carnivorous eating the big chunks of sheep. Gotov was very happy
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A dog at the Ger camp we stopped at to go to the toilet. Apparently your not meant to pat the dogs here because they are half wild but I couldn't resist.
as he said

"There are no vegetarians, I am happy!"

29/06/08 A beautiful sunset last night was followed by an equally beautiful sunrise this morning. How many times can you say what an awesome view? Had a make shift shower where I got to wash my hair and the top part of my body using a cup and a bucket of water. Well the mountains where we were dropped of at lunch definitely was. We arrived at a tourist ger camp for the night where we had some goats milk and some sort of a biscuit and camel curd. The curd reminded me of Parmesan with a way bitter after taste. As Winston would put it me and Kevin were not fans but the Europeans enjoyed it. I went up to the sand dunes and took photos of the awesome views. After dinner me, Kevin, Debbie and Bernie joined some other tourists in a ger for a ger party (which just involved drinking and chatting) where I met a whole bunch of other cool tourists from Spain, Ireland, NZ, America and England. Me and Kevin stayed up to 12:30am our latest night yet.

30/06/08 This morning we
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The backyard or front yard of our toilet pitt stop.
went camel riding at about 10am. Riding them was something else. We had to get onto them while they were kneeling, after which its a bit of a shaky feeling as they rise to full height. It wasn't at all like riding a horse, in fact I did not really feel like I had control of the camel. The rein is like one long rope with a stick attached to the rope which is inserted in the camels nose. We were told to kick the camels and say 'chew' to make it go - though I think my camel knew who was really in control in this saga. We christened our camels with names, mine was Hercules, Bernie = Ahmed, Debbie = Rocko, Danny = Poseidon, Kev = Camelot and Clair = Collin. We finally got to the sand dunes after a bit of uming and ahing and our camels stopping mid walk to eat grass or what not. We had a climb up the sand dunes which was quite painfully for the feet as it was quite hot and I went bare foot. But it was well fun running, jumping and rolling down the mountain. After lunch I had
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The dog again.
an awesome power nap after which we climbed another tall dune (300m in the air) and listened to the sand dunes signing. Coming down was good fun again; running, jumping and sliding down on my back with my head facing down. Though I definitely would have got sand in every crevice of my body it was well fun. After our late return and late dinner at 8:30pm we played a rock game where Clair won and got the best seat in the house and Danny lost and had to make tea and coffee for everyone for breakfast. I think he was happy with this as initially he said the loser runs around the gers naked. We then played a riddle game, a discovered there were about 5 Aquarius (the most amazing star sign I know), out of 10 people present, staying in this ger camp.

01/07/08 The seista yesterday helped me to feel very refreshed when I got up this morning. When we stopped in a town that morning I tried to get ice cream but was out of luck due to the electricity been off in the town until 8pm. We got petrol for both that tanks in
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The field (polea as Gotov told me in Russian) we stopped in after lunch.
the car!! Plus the spare emergency fuel in a fuel bottle at the top of the car in the nice hot sun. We arrived at the Ger camp and I washed my clothes followed by myself in a camel dung infested lake (illegal lake that had formed due to torrential lake in the desert as Gotov told me). Went to the dinosaur flaming cliffs which were amazing and mesmerising at the same time. I stood on a cliff face and I could nearly see a bronchious saurus there down below a terridactal flying back onto the perch and a crazy t-rex jumping up along the cliff face. The scenery also reminded me of the land before time cartoon. Danny and Kev suggested this may have once been a big lake around 65 million years ago, so perhaps at the end of the dinosaur era. Bilge showed me some puzzles which a potential mother in law would give the guy who wanted to marry her daughter to prove his wit and see if he was suitable for her daughter. Gotov said Bilge would kiss me if I couldn't figure it out. However the guy who was selling them helped me work
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The crags or mountains we decided to climb close by.
out the puzzle. After getting back I walked around the illegal lake which I had swam in earlier. I saw a Gazelle run away too quickly before I could whip my camera out and also a kangaroo type pika, which were more skittish and harder to take photos of then the ones in the national park. It took about an hour and 10 minutes, during which I also saw a tourist ger camp which had the resturant in the shape of a turtle (symbolising long life). Gotov also said their may be turtles in the illegal lake coming out as they could like in the mud for up to a year without water. The stars were beautiful again, the milky way, the big dipper, Cassiopeia and Venus were easy to see.

02/07/08 Sunrise was beautiful, a big red splash of it washed through the sky. The sun coming up though wasn't as nice covered by clouds. Today we left the gobi which was quite sad. It was as quickly over as it started. We went to the Zayan Gegebnii monastry which was once home to about 1,000 monks. The ruin made it look cool. We visited a small sermon
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Bilge's pride and joy parked in the field. I will miss it:)
which people were arriving for in the temple. We camped in a field that night near small lakes/puddles. They were infested with horse dung, and as I had experienced my camel dung infested swim I decided to give it a pass. Did some yoga which felt good as I was feeling more fat and sluggish due to the amount of food I was consuming on this trip (at least 2 serves a meal sometimes 4). It also made me realise how inflexible I had become and the tension I had in my hips and left knee that had gone unnoticed for a while. Before dinner we played this 'Rocks' game which Kev and Dan had thought up which was actually quite fun a variation on lawn bowls I would say. After dinner we had torrential rain during which my new diary got massively soaked as well as 3 puddles which were in our tent. We dried it and it was ok for the rest of the night. Also me and Kevin played a hairy game of chess. The sunset behind us made up for the rain plenty.

03/07/08 We drove for the old capital Karakorum today. It was raining
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The lake by the field with the mountains in the distance. One thing I really enjoyed and noticed in the Gobi but I dont think anyone else did so much was the beautiful clouds there.
quite a lot and made it easy to sleep in the car. The second illegal puddle we came up to was quite deep and Gotov waded in to see just how deep it was. It came up to his belly button. Nonetheless Bilge decided to cruise through. I guess we should have expected it but it still took us by suprise when water started to flood through the bottom of the car door and into the car. We quickly grabbed our belongings on the floor (my diary and jacket). The engine (which was actually next to the drivers seat) began to steam and died. Bilge quickly passed me the bag on top of the engine and ended up getting us out of the lake by stopping and starting the engine to get us out. Gotov came back to the car and was sitting there pants and underpants (or pants again as the english would say) less for a while. We got to the Penis rock just outside of Karakorum. The Penis rock was built for the monks who lived near by to shy them away from visiting the young female nuns and making sex, as Gotov put it, who were
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The view from the mountain/crag that I climbed.
also near by. I was quite surprised though. The rock was quite small in stature, nowhere near the 3 metres I had imagined it to be.

06/07/08 Happy Birthday Ivan! My baby brother is 21 today wow!!!! I love you! We spent the morning riding horses for 3 hours. Breakfast was the promised pancakes. Sorry Kev and Debie but I can't lie they were delicious. With blueberry jam. Gotov had another suprise up his sleave - thats right Museli with fresh yak milk. Gotov warned us that the horses were wild therefore no:
- Patting
- Talking to
- Carressing or
- Kissing (dammit) the horses. The ride was very good. Imagine riding into the Mongolian wilderness atop a horse. Cantering into the distance. We stopped at this phailliac, perhaps symbolic mound whiich Gotov did not know the meaning of and dismounted. The guide was cool he let us take photos of him. Following this dismount we rode onto a rocky area where an old active volcano had turned the rocks black. We walked through the rubble without tripping and made it to a stream on the other side which me and the guide had a drink from. Then
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The lone dog that approached us in the field.
we rode back to the camp site - a mixture of walking, trotting and cantering. I had this great dream that I would get to ride across mongolia on my honey moon now that would be amazing staying in ger's... sigh. We drove to the next Ger camp after this and the views were spectacular. Had some goats milk and this sweet rice with raisins. Beautfiul sunset then met this finnish girls, 3 australians (all from around manly and lane cove) and a welsh guy who had been living in mongolia for 12 years. Had to sing around the camp fire and I was a shame to Australians as I forgot what Shannon Noll sings and then forget the words to the land down under.

07/07/08 We left alittle earlier at 8am to get back to UB earlier. We stopped at a Mongolian canteen for lunch. The last toilet break we had together in the mongolian wilderness was memorable. Gone were the inhibitions we had on the first day - we were practically doing our business 2 metres away from each other. Getting back to UB made me realise how exhausted I was and how I enjoyed the 12
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Girl gets her hair brushed in the ger we had lunch in.
day trip. It was peak traffic in UB and the Golden Gobi and I was really appreciative that I had made the decision to go on this trip in the first place.

Additional photos below
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A Mongolian girl in the ger where we had lunch reaches for food.
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With our first tyre pop came another toilet stop in a landscape that was what you see all around. Although it may look like nothing it was still truly spectacular.
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Bilge works on our ride. He was fast and he knew how to show the van the TLC it needed. They were a perfect team.
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Bernie works on his tan in the sun.
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Gotov looks on as Bilge works. Later we named them Arnie and Danny (think the movie twins) and really I would really recommend to travel with them they are the best team for sure!
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A nature reserve we stopped at.

19th September 2008

Amazing photos, I love the one of the town, the man on his soviet truck and the one with the tied up horse. I'm proud of what you have achieved, you should be also.
6th October 2008

Re: Wow
Thanks for the comments! Definately very proud!

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