We got back from a 10 day tour to the Gobi desert yesterday and have a catch up day in Ulanbataar…but I doubt I’ll have time to put up any pics just now as I have loads downloaded last night, and we are leaving to Beijing in China at 0715 in the morning!
Anyway, we’ve seen the Gobi desert and hiked to the top of 300m sand dunes for sunset….and spent way too much time in a Russian 4×4 Forgon van. They’re superb vans and can drive over almost anything but unfortunately this trip just has way too much time spent in the van due to the distances involved. We covered about 2000km in the 10 days but luckily we were with a really nice small group of folk – 2 English and one Japanese girl, and we kept bumping into another group of mixed Euros and Aussies.
So we can definitely say we’ve seen the wide open landscapes of Mongolia. At times we were driving along and couldn’t see anything in all directions – not a hill, mound, car or dwelling – just flat ground with a gravelly sandy surface and some green foliage creeping through. It really reminded me of parts of the Australian Outback at times. With the distances it often meant we’d spend up to 6 hours in the van, see a sight for 30 minutes then retire to a ger camp for the evening, which sometimes was just a few gers with nothing else around it.
We did see a few sights though – the ‘flaming cliffs’, an Ice Gorge where there’s ice in a ……you’ve guess it, a gorge, when nothing else around it has any traces of snow, the highest dunes in the Gobi, the wilderness, some wildlife like cranes, gazelle and loads of camels and horses. We spent a couple of hours riding camels by the dunes and they were the most stinking animals I’ve ever laid eyes on. When we started heading back north to UB we stopped in greener areas which we really wished we could have spent another day or two exploring. We also saw the largest waterfall (at the moment) in Mongolia…which is pretty hard to believe as it was only 20m but very nice….and could have had some cracking rock climbing around it if the rock wasn’t so loose. We managed to stop off in some hot springs but they ended up being inside and in some dingy wee pools but hey ho.
I also managed to buy some fermented mares milk and fresh yoghurt on the last day. The milk was so ‘fizzy’ that when I took it out the van and opened it for the others it almost exploded like a heavily shaken bottle of coke.
Unfortunately our guide wasn’t quite as talkative as we hoped so we never got the best explanation of things on the road. We managed to acquire a pretty unique souvenir of a hand made silk type bag containing ten sheep’s ankle bones….yes that’s right, it’s a traditional game over here where you throw them and see what matches up.
The Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) playing cards from back home have been aired as we spent a couple of nights in the ger camps playing…..Shithead…..for those that dont know it it’s a cracking card game when in a group.
We wish we had a few more days in Mongolia – I’d love to head north to the lakes (if it wasn’t so far) or spend a few days in a national park outside UB but we had to book our train to China.
We’re off to Beijing tomorrow and due to only having 2.5-3 weeks in China we’re going to keep it to a manageable trip with 4-5 nights in Beijing, a couple of nights in Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors, then head down to Yangshou to touristville for a week of chilling out and doing some activities. This is where we thought about trying to get a job earlier in the year, but it all fell through. Unfortunately my friend’s have moved on from there now so won’t be around. We’ll finish China up with several nights in Hong Kong, and maybe a night of splurging in Macau (although we’ve been managing to burn through money quicker than we hoped already unfortunately!!!).
NZ is coming around a bit too soon for us…we’ll be there in under a month! Eeeek!