On Friday the 13th of July it was time to leave UB towards South. At 8am I went to the office of our Tour Company, where I met with Graeme and our Meega, our driver, who also brought his nine year old daughter to the trip. First it would have been planned, that also two Canadians would have joined us, but they decided to go to the North instead.
So the four of us left UB through the morning traffic. As we didn’t really know, what would expect us, we were quite surprised, that our driver left the road in the middle of nowhere. Soon we realized, that it was just for a lunch break as he started to cook. Four hours later we arrived in Baga Gazaryn Chulguu. There we found some nice rock formations at an altitude of roughly 1800m and an old temple, which was destroyed by one of the former Khans in Mongolia in the 18th century.
After a quiet night in the tent we visited the Gimpil Darjalaan Monastery, which was destroyed by the Russians in the early 20th century and some buddhist monks started to rebuild it in 2005. Currently there are 12 Monks (the youngest one ten month old) and some 20 workers living in this monastery. We were quite suprised as we found one of the monks on a segway cruising around that area. Even more surprising was that he told us that he got this segway from Beijing and it was “only” 600 US Dollars…. Was quite surprised, that such a amount of money is no problem for a monk. After a short tour through the monastery we continued our journey towards south. It was a long day driving and sitting in the car and that our drive took the wrong way at some point was not the best for this. Thunderclouds were comming close, but fortunately we didn’t stay in the tent this night, but in one family’s ger, where we arrived two hours later then planned.
In the evening we visited some nice sand rock formations at Ikh Gazaryn Chuluu, which were shining brightly in the evening sun. Most stunning were that the rocks appeared in seven different colours. Starting with different reds and purples to blue and green.
The next day when we left, we got some camel cheese as a present. First I thought it was something like goat cheese, but when I tasted it and heard, what it was, I knew, why I didn’t like it. The taste was very strong and couldn’t be compared with anything else I’ve eaten so far.
After this experience, we were sitting in the car for another three hours until we arrived in Mandalgobi. One city almost in in the Gobi desert, where we filled up the car with gasoline and bought some new supplies. Lunch we had at a horse stadium just next to the road. In the afternoon we continued to the mountains to Yolyn Am, a valley high up in the mountains, where almost for the whole year the river is frozen and where you can find a thick layer of ice.
It was good not to sit in the car for some time and walk a little bit around. Incredible how many animals we’ve seen: Eagles, vultures, hawks, goats, marmots, … As we left the ice valley, I started to think, that it would be very fancy to camp just up here somewhere in the mountains. Obviously our driver had the same idea and we stopped in one of the mountain valleys just next to a small river. After we’ve set everything up and had dinner, Graeme and me went up one of the mountains to see the sunset. Climbing up the mountain was quite easy, but on the way down we had our problems with all the small stones and the very insolid ground. But finally we managed to get down safely.
The following morning we started quite early and after a two hour drive we were in the real Gobi the first time. When we left the mountains, there were suddenly big vast plains of sand and rocks. In the late afternoon we arrived near Khangoryn Els, one of the biggest sanddunes in Mongolia. 180 km long and up to 400m high.
Before dinner at our host family we went up there. It was like walking in the snow. Two steps up and (more or less automatically) one down. On the top of the sanddune we got a great view over the desert and and some other sanddunes. In the evening it would have been time for a shower after five days, but unfortunately the tourist camp we were visiting refused this to us, saying they have no showers available, although we’ve seen them. With a little disappointment, we spent the rest of the evening with reading and playing with the familiy’s kids.
At this family we spent a second day, where we went in the morning for getting some water, which took some time and in the afternoon we went camel riding and were reading again. On the way to the water hole, we met a mongolian guy, who looked like a little bit like a cowboy in the Wild West. As he asked me in English which country I am from, he told me in quite good german that he was living in Germany and also spent some time in Austria. Small little world…
When our driver started to cook dinner in the evening I gave him a paprika, which I still had in my bag and some minutes later I found myself cooking the meal. It was pasta, beef and some vegetables…
After two great days near the sand dunes we left for the flaming cliffs in Bayanzag, where we arrived in the early afternoon. Graeme and me walked around in the mountains and the meantime, our driver prepared some lunch. The cliffs, built out of red sandy rock, where great, but I wished we would have been there in the morning or in the evening, because the colours would be much brighter. Nevertheless I took some nice pictures. After that we went to a nearby family, where we set up our tent. In the evening a sandstorm was passing by. Once more really great colours…
The last night of the tour we spent in Khulstayn Uul, a shamanic place in the mountains in the southwest of Ulan Bator. Although the weather was quite bad, we set up our tent, had dinner in the car during heavy rain and went to bad early. Fortunately the weather was much better the morning after and we hiked up in the mountains. Got great views and pictures. Later in the morning we left this beautiful place off to UB, where we arrived in the afternoon.
Quite happy, that it was time for a shower and new clothes, I spent the afternoon and evening with organizing some stuff, as I had only one day in UB. At midnight it was finally time to watch my first game of the worlcup, which Italy lost unfortunately against Costa Rica.