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Published: June 28th 2014
GOBI DESERT TOUR
After breakfast we broke camp and wandered through the valley following the little stream. The walls rose up steeply on both sides and Soko actually pointed out an Ibex, the curved horned mountain goat, but it was too indistinct for me to see it. There were snow patches in the deeper part of the valley and a lovely shallow ice cave like a ledge of crystal translucent blues, greens and white.
When we reached the other side we met several large touring groups that were only entering the valley for a brief way. We also saw nomads galloping their horses across the hillside. Looking behind us we could see the vultures wheeling overhead, but with no binoculars we could not see their beards or white chests.
We met an unfortunate Ibex who could hardly remain standing on his feet. The previous week he had been taken to a veterinary facility to counteract a poisonous plant it had eaten. Now a day or so after being released back in the wild he was near death.
After enduring several more hours of driving
we caught our first glimpse of the dunes. They were not very impressive at first, but soon they were fifteen miles wide and extending as far as you could see. We were staying with another family, and after our usual welcoming tea and treats Joanna and I walked toward the dunes. However, we could not reach them because the heavy rains of the last week had created a small shallow lake and marsh which prevented us from getting to the sand. Pastures here are richer due to the water and families camp closer together. We could see several encampments near ours.
Soko promised us we would be able to climb the highest dune the next day. She explained that families will travel by camel over the lowest dunes in October, to reach their winter camp. It is warmer closer to the mountains. The men will ride motorcycles.
Hiking up hills of sand is exhausting. The hillside starts running in rivulets as your foot displaces the sand under it. Sometimes progress is measure in half inches and sometimes I didn’t think I would be able to make it to the top of the dune. Finally
I realized that hiking up diagonally made it less laborious. Once at the top with the rest of the group I saw our ridge terminated in a higher little peak so I had to try to reach it. I soon realized the sun on the ridge top made the sand blistering hot. I tried putting my sandals on and that just heated the tops of my feet as well as the bottoms. I had to give it up. But our illustrious young man, Jogi, managed to make it to the top…he said he had to just grit his teeth and run up the ridge to escape the burning sand.
On the way down we slipped and slid down the dunes in mere minutes, and we heard the singing of the sand dunes…more like moaning in fact. But it was pretty cool. Tomorrow, in the evening when it is cooler we will have a camel ride, my first.
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