Dune, where's my camel?

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Gobi Desert, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
Monday, July 22, 2013

The Gobi desert is mostly rocky soil with tufts of grass. Mostly. The picture one has of deserts, with the dunes of fine, yellow sand, endlessly undulating all the way to the horizon, is actually not the representative of your average desert. However, a small patch of the Gobi is indeed similar to Tattoiine, and close enough to our ger camp, the majestic Khongoryn Els dunes rose, creating a distinct border between the rocky soil regular Gobi and the sandy, duny bit.

The 200 metre ascent proved as tiresome as anticipated, or more. The sand acted a bit randomly; sometimes giving way for the feet, sometimes letting them rest, elf-like, on top, sometimes dragging the foot down just as you thought you were done. Different styles were employed: Criss-crossing the steep slopes proved more effective, as those opting for the straight-up, Gollum-style approach didn't reach the top until well after the first ones. The perfect, sharp, 70 degree ridge made a distinct line, and after crossing it the view of the dune sea was no less than breathtaking.

Unfortunately, there were neither dune buggies, nor sandboards to keep us entertained at the sandstormy dune-top. However, the getting down part might well be some of the funniest things you can do: slalom style jumping, arse-sliding, running uncontrollably downhill, slo-mo baywatch fashion and every other possible way to descend is indeed the way to travel in style. The fact that the sand made farting sounds as you ran through it added to the amusement.

With sand deserts come camels, supposedly. Not far from the ger camp there lived a family of goat and camel herders, and they graciously invited us into their ger. Offering donutty bread, salty Mongolian tea and camels milk before we got between the humps of the ships of the desert, we rode caravan style on the camels back to camp. The ride was neither as seasickingly swaying, nor as sinusirritatingly smelly as expected, and yet another type of mount was checked.

The heart of the Gobi provided a well-needed, much-deserved break of pace from the previous days of long driving, stuck-in-the-mud business and late dinners. Evenings were spent drinking, sitting around the bonfire, having a pub quiz. As roughly 95% of the questions were geography oriented, not my subject of choice, our team the Winos failed to claim the title, despite impressive knowledge from the Canadian camp, who proved to be quite the walking atlas. Second place was close enough though, and the winners, Quiz-in-my-pants, happily shared their trophy, a bottle of South African wine.

The long drives continued, and the desert went flat as a pancake, or Kansas even, but as we struggled on, in the thrilling average speed of 17.2 km/h, hills started to rise, lifestock changed from camels and goats to sheep and cows and the patches of grass grew ever denser, thus pointing out that the desert was behind us. We had experienced the heart of the Gobi. Or, you know, since it ofttimes was quite hot, the hearth of the Gobi.

Pictures & Video

Khorgoryn Els
Khorgoryn Els
Just loved it...it was fab! From hil, on Aug 7, 2013 at 10:49PM
Camel riding Bayan Zag, or the Flaming cliffs
Bayan Zag, or the Flaming cliffs
Sunset over the Gobi
Sunset over the Gobi
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