All the pictures of our Gobi trip (16. – 20.09.):
Shortly after returning from the Ger to Ger adventure we started planning our second excursion, this time to the Gobi desert. The planning stage ran extremely smooth, everyone who wanted to join could get free time, for some it took a little more effort to convince their superiors, and we even got official backing and some financing from IAESTE. Mije agreed to accompany us as translator.
On Thursday afternoon, it was windy and around 20 degrees Celsius, we met some students who told us about an approaching storm maybe even with snow... Honestly, we couldn’t quite believe them. But that was due to our missing experience with the Mongolian weather as it turned out.
Day 1 (79km):
Next morning 7.30am I got an exited message from Mije telling me that it was snowing outside... I quickly went to the window and couldn’t quite believe my eyes. Everything was white! Suddenly we weren’t sure if we could go to the Gobi or not... After a couple of phone calls the matter could be cleared up, we were definitely going, but without Mije! Her parents didn’t allow her to leave UB in this weather; they thought it was far too dangerous...
To our relief UB Guesthouse could organize a translator for us. So with an hour delay we started on our trip to Gobi. In UB the snow barely made an impact. The streets were wet and that was it. Outside of UB it looked different. The roads were covered in snow and together with the heavy wind we could only see 2 to 3 meters! Our driver drove extremely careful and only 20 to 30 km/h.
Suddenly we saw a figure standing at the roadside and waving to us. The poor guy lost his way in the heavy storm and he didn’t know exactly where he was, so we gave him a lift to the next restaurant. There we stopped for a late lunch.
Through Saka, our translator, the driver told us that it was better to stay here for the night and continue to Dalanzadgad, the planned stop for the second day. Because the storm was still going strong outside we quickly agreed with him and got a room in the restaurant for the night. It was completely empty, but we got a couple of thin mattresses and some blankets for the night. To while away the time we played Chicago and then tried to sleep on the hard floor.
Day 2 (553km):
During the night the snowstorm fortunately came to an end and we saw a beautiful white landscape. The first couple of kilometers were pretty long; we couldn’t drive very fast because of the ice and snow. On the way we saw a couple of cars stuck in the snow. Fortunately for them there was a big truck passing by which could pull them out. Then we saw an amazing sight: Camels in the snow! It didn’t take long till we left the snow behind after that. Our road brought us past Mandalgovi, where we stopped for lunch. A couple of hours out of Mandalgovi our driver suddenly started to ask people for the way and drove cross-country. After a while we found out why. He wanted to show us Tsagaan Suvarga, the beautiful rock formations just on the border between Dundgov and Ömnögov Aimag. Afterwards it got dark pretty soon. Our car had only one working headlight, and even that was flickering all the time. Nevertheless we found our way to Dalanzadgad, where we arrived at 10.10pm. Overnight we stayed in a Ger with real beds, but no heating and it got quite cold during the night...
Day 3 (282km):
Our first stop was in Yolin Am. A very nice valley where they have lots of small animals, we even could get a couple of very nice close-ups. This valley reminded me of the Swiss Alps, because these were real mountains, compared with the hills I found in Mongolia so far... We even saw a mountain goat, way on top of one of them. After cooking spaghetti for lunch we continued westwards towards the sand dunes. For a short stretch we had to walk, the road was so steep that our Russian van couldn’t carry us over that top. Next we came to an extremely narrow passage through the mountains; the car almost didn’t fit through. One corner later we were out in the plains again...
The sand dunes were pretty impressive. Especially the plants which were growing on top of them...
From the sand dunes we headed north to start our long journey back to UB. This night we stayed in a much simpler Ger: No electricity, no heating, no beds, just a couple of mattresses...
Day 4 (~240km):
Camels brought us to a place where they found dinosaur bones. A couple of fragments were still lying around, however, most of them immediately turned to dust when touched... The camel was a smoother ride than a horse and safer than on a dromedary, because we could sit between the humps and hold on to them.
Our next stop was at a rock formation where precious stones were sold and found. From the top it didn't look too impressive and so I didn't venture further.
We stopped at a small restaurant for lunch. There we met a Mongolian family which was celebrating the day after the full moon. They promptly invited us to a round of Airag.
Somewhere on the way the speedometer suddenly stopped working and we had no clue how fast or how far we were going.
Today we arrived at the Ger early, around 5.30pm and so found some time to play soccer and go horse riding. In this Ger we found two beds, we played Chicago and the winners got a bed. I was lucky and won the first round.
Day 5 (~300km):
We got up early to get back to UB in the afternoon. The road was very long and bumpy. In the hills close to UB we still found some snow and the road was in even worse condition than normal... Nevertheless we made it back to UB around 5pm.