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The Stunning Adventures "Not all those who wander are lost." Tolkien

Our First Three Days in the Gobi

MONGOLIA | Saturday, 21 July 2007 | Views [819]

The Stunnings at Ulaan Suvraga

The Stunnings at Ulaan Suvraga

After finishing up our trip around the northern and central parts of Mongolia, we returned to Ulaan Baatar eager for a shower, a comfortable bed, and some food that did not contain mutton.  These dreams were soon filled, and in the matter of 24 hours, we had returned to UB Guesthouse to speak to Bobby about arranging another van and driver for a trip down through the Gobi.  We had spoken to her about really wanting a good look at the sand dunes, and really the only way to do that is on camel back.  We asked if she could arrange some camels for us in Khongoryn Els, so we could spend two days on camels getting a good look.  She said she would send a note with our driver, expressing our desires, and he would pass this onto the "camel lady" so she would understand that we wanted to camp in the dunes.  Dave, was going to continue with on with us for this trip, but the three of us were really hoping to pick up another couple of travelers to decrease our individual costs for transportation.  Fortunately, two young, purely entertaining, Slovenian gentlemen (named Tony and Gregor) had read one of our notes we had posted, and signed up for the trip! Tuesday night we bought plenty of provisions as we would have to do a lot of our own cooking for lunches and in the dunes.  On Wednesday morning, after dropping off our passports at the Chinese embassy which is a little story in itself that we will spare you all, we all met up together at the guesthouse, met our driver, Aha, loaded the van with food, water, and tents, ready to depart on a 10 day trip through the Gobi.
On day one, our sealed road quickly came to an end after a couple of hours and we found ourselves back on familar dirt roads...but not too bumpy...yet.  We were fortunate enough to spot some vultures that had landed and probably had something dead in their sights.  We stopped and watched them for awhile and continued on our way to Baga Gazrin Chuluu.  Chuluu is Mongolian for rock, and when we had discussed our trip with Bobby, she had told us that the first stop would be at "Rock Formation".  We kind of got a kick out of this..."well, we should have a good time, and a good night's sleep at 'Rock Formation' ".  After some "research", we found out that the area was Baga Gazrin Chuluu and the English translation then made a little more sense to us.  The rocks were incredible.  There were small towers of rock slabs that somewhat appeared as though they might topple over if you pushed them too hard.  There were hundreds of them and they served to be great subjects for climbing, scrambling, and watching the sunset.  Our photo at the beginning of our journal of our shadows on the rocks is from this destination.  These rocks were out in the middle of great plains spotted with herds of camels and our ger, along with the one for the family that lived here, and another 2 for travellers, there was not anything else in sight.  Absolutely incredible.  There were piles of camel, and goat dung, that at first we didn't understand what purpose this served, but soon came to realize this was how they fueled the furnaces for cooking and staying warm during the winter time.  Very clever.
In the morning we rose early, and after a couple cups of joe, piled into the van and had our sights set for Tsagan Suvraga where we saw some incredible red cliffs.  The views were amazing...seemed to stretch on and on.  Below, you could see a vast array of low rocky hills that reminded of us large moguls (moguls you'd find on a ski slope).  They were whitish and ringed with purple, red, and orange, colors.  Looking out from these cliffs, and seeing the way the walls oozed their way down in a lava-esque way to the interesting landscape below, we felt as though this is what Mars might be like.  Our surroundings were so different and foreign compared to any other land we had seen before. We slept in our ger close to the cliffs.  We should add that Gregor arranged with Aha to buy some Airag (he had purchased some on the day before and loved it).  For those of you who don't know, it is fermented mare's milk.  The airag Gregor was buying this evening came from a camel and was quite chunky.  One swig was good enough for each of us.  We all stayed up and chatted into nightfall outside in a little Gazebo. Once again, we felt that we  were just a small group of people in the middle of nothingness.  It was so quiet, peaceful, and the stars were incredible!
The next morning we arose to make our way to Dlanzadgad (Aha's hometown).  What a drive this was.  We were driving through the steppes of the Gobi when we noticed some very dark, very ominous clouds in the distance.  In a matter of minutes, we found ourselves amidst a flash flood.  We couldn't believe it!  Who thought we would experience rain, and lots of it, in the fourth largest, and THE DRIEST desert in the world! The rain was torrential, and the land that had been dry was now quickly becoming laced with flowing muddy rivers everywhere we looked.  We had a pretty close call, when crossing a substantially sized "river", where our wheels got stuck, and spun for several minutes as we were trying to exit.  We really would have been stuck.  Aha worked his magic, and fortunately we completed the crossing.  Those old Russian vans are machines! Only a few minutes later, we come up an even larger crossing that we had just passed.  Aha, smiled and shook his head.  We got the message.  We were gonna wait this one out.  Gregor, eager for adventure, rolled up his pants, threw on his poncho, and waded his way through the water to the other side.  He is about 5'10" and the water came up past his knees.  Hmmm....we could tell Aha appreciated the visual.  We sat for a good 20 to 30 minutes and by this time the rain, and our little river, had subsided enough for us to forge our way across.  We were successfull and you could feel the relief in the air that was shared by all of us.  Noone wanted to say anything beforehand, as to not jinx ourselves, but we were all a little worried.  It is not like you get to see many other vehicles out here that can give you a helping hand, or use your cell phone to call triple AAA. With a big sigh, and some high fives, we reached Dalanzadgad.
We settled into our ger, which belonged to Aha.  Then just as we were about to do a little exploring around the town, he said, "Shower? shower?".  "Yes!" It had only been a few days since we left UB, but Bobby had told us this would be our one and only chance to shower.  We grabbed our supplies and headed to the public bathhouse.  Most of the gers and homes do not have running water, so most people have to go to the public bathhouse.  We were told on our Mongolian trip, that most Mongolians, because of their nomadic lifestyles, or nomadic roots,only shower about once every 2 weeks...so this whole public shower thing is not much of an  inconvenience.  The same man who shared this information, said that many Mogolians, himself included, wondered why foreigners liked to shower so much.  After listening to him, we thought how funny, strange, and probably wasteful as well,  our showering habits must seem to them...cultural differences...very interesting...After showering we went to a local bar/restaurant called the "Gobi Bear", the six of us enjoyed some ghoulash (we didn't have lunch...flash flood and all), and still found room for some soup at dinner time.

Tags: The Great Outdoors


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