7 Day Gobi Adventure

Trip Start Jul 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 29, 2008

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The Gobi Desert

Flag of Mongolia  ,
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hello everybody
Me and Pete have just successfully returned from our 7 day adventure through the Gobi desert. So much has happened that I'm going to have to break it down a little.
Day 1 - We set off in are trusty old Russian van with 2 Spaniards (Cesar and Mikel) and a french guy (Serge). Our driver was called Nyma (pronounced Nemo and he was an absolute legend!). After getting out of UB, we hit the off-road. This was serious off roading, i mean the roads didn't exist after leaving UB, pot holes the size of cars at points! (apparently there is only 80 miles of tarmac in the whole of Mongolia!). After a few hours we stopped for lunch by a small mountain and lake side. The views were stunning (since we were in the middle of nowhere) but they got better throughout the trip! More insane driving later and we arrived at some rock formation where our Ger's were. We were all pretty beat so we just walked around the rocky hills before heading off to bed.
Day 2 - We set off early and stopped at Khukh Burd Sum. this was a monastery built in the 10th century from rocks found only 300km away! It was built on an island so we couldn't really get close but considering its been abandoned for a 1000 or so years, it looks pretty good. We also met some locals herding there sheep and goats around (pretty cool). A few hours driving and we stopped in a small town called Luus, which was literally in the middle of nowhere! After a quick lunch we kept driving and eventually ended up in a sandstorm, at points you couldn't see anything but sand (surprisingly the Gobi consists of only 3% sand!) After driving through the sandstorm we ended up at the cliffs of Tsagaan Suvarya. These 30m high limestone cliffs were awesome, the views especially. After some scrambling around the cliffs, we headed for our Ger site and watched the sunset, also very impressive!
Day 3 - Early start and more intense off-roading led us to the middle of nowhere. We stopped for a break and this random dog just appeared out of nowhere. Pete made friends with it quickly as his photo should demonstrate! More driving and we eventually reached the city of Dalanzadgad (more like a shanty town really). There wasn't much to do but wonder around the small town and the market before heading back to the Ger's. Me and Pete then went for a walk towards some mountains (Pete thought he could get to them and back in 2 hours but soon found out it was more like 12). After giving up the walk, we headed back and ran into some goats. While i was taking pictures, one came up to me and started eating my jeans, little bliter! We then headed back and went to sleep.
Day 4 - A few hours driving led us to Gurvan Saikhan National Park. We stopped at the gates and wondered into the local nature museum (just some stuffed animals, not much else really). We then entered the park and drove towards the Ice Valley of Yolyn Am (which means Vulture's Mouth). The valley was pretty impressive with sheer cliff faces and narrow gulley's (no ice though, it had all melted!) We then proceeded to drive though some canyons, at points the van was scrapping the walls but we manged to get through. A few more hours driving and we arrived at the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els (this was what i expected the Gobi to look like). The dunes were the largest in Mongolia, varying in size from 300m high, 12km wide and 100km long! In the evening, Me, Pete, Cesar and Serge decided to hike up the dunes and drink a bottle of wine. It was an effort climbing the dunes but we managed to reach the peak of the nearest highest dune and enjoyed a good bottle of Portuguese wine!
Day 5 - In the morning, we had a chance to go on a camel ride. The camels were awesome, huge creatures that could carry you with ease. They were pretty slow but it allowed us to enjoy the views more i guess. The camels trekked to the dunes and then we wondered around again before heading back to the Ger's. We then set off off-roading for a few hours, stopping for lunch near some rocky hills before reaching Bayanzag, aka the Flaming Cliffs. This was the famous site where many dinosaurs fossils were discovered (a dream come true for me i guess). We wondered around the cliffs, scrambling over dunes and rocks but alas, i found no fossils! We then drove over to our Ger camp site, where there was a small pond and some more camels (no riding though!).
Day 6 - Something today happened that i never thought could or would happen. It started to rain and i mean torrential downpour, in the Gobi Desert!!!. This made driving a little more insane than usual, at points the van was going sideways but Nyma was able to keep it under control. This lasted for hours and hours before we eventually suffered a flat tire (more like the tire ripped off the wheel itself!) Nyma set to work jacking up the car but since it was so muddy, the jack eventually gave way (luckily he wasn't under it). The other van that was doing the same tour arrived and all the lads had to lift up the van while the drivers changed the tire (in F1 speed and style i might add). After the tire was fixed, we made it to our Ger camp, watched the unset and played some cards before going to bed.
Day 7 - This was the end of our trip. We set off earlyish back to UB and stopped in a small village of Erdendalai. Not much here but some shops and locals smiling as usual (the people in Mongolia seem alot happier than than those in Russia!). A few more hours driving and we stopped at a cafe for some lunch (nice food and stupidly cheap, about a pound!) We eventually arrived back in UB in the evening and that brought our adventures in the Gobi and Mongolia to an end! We are sad to leave Mongolia as it has been probably the best highlight so far, but we couldn't take another 7 days in that van on those roads! All the more reason to come back and do other tours i guess!
We set off for Beijing and a month in China tomorrow morning so we hope everyone is well and we'll see you all down in China Town!
Mark and Peter.
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