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Equipped with our thermal underwear and a set of yak and camel wool socks from the Ulaanbaatar’s black market we embark on a new adventure – expedition Gobi desert. They do not recommend to travel through Mongolia on your own and we are soon to find out why. Gunnar – the Ger-man – from Germany, Angel and Jeff from US, driver Aratcha, cook/guide Tseko and the UAZ (russian van) – that’s our crew for the following 9 days and 8 nights. We are informed to expect 2 chances to take a shower, charge our cameras or do some basic shopping and to expect cold weather.

DAY 1

Starting with the supplies shopping, the first day is all about getting to know the group and familiarise ourselves with basic capabilities of our vehicle once the road stops a few kilometers after we leave the capital. After a few hours of driving we stop in the middle of nowhere and Tseko prepares our lunch in the back of the van – lamb dumplings in soup of milk with tea. Our first sightseeing stop is ‘The Small Land Rock’ – Baga Gazriin Chuluu. We see rocks stacked up on eachother like pancakes and an ‘Elephant Mouth’ cave that is supposed to be tens of kilometers deep. We do not come to know if that is true.

At the Small Land Rock

At the Small Land Rock

Before the sunset we arrive into our first ‘hotel’ – a 5 beds ger (according to Wikipedia known as yurt, according to our guide they are completely different!). In the middle of the vast land covered with sheep and goat poop we celebrate our first stay with rounds of Russian vodka (leftovers of Transsiberian traveller) and after the sunset we make our way towards the hosts ger, standing hundred meters away, to see what is up. Welcomed warmly and with fresh smell of cooked food we are seated on the carpet as tradition says – women and men on opposite sides.

Helping with the dinner

Helping with the dinner

Every ger we will visit from now on would have a central part with two poles (which, as we find out later, are not structurally important). To remember is that noone and nothing should pass between them as that brings bad luck to the inhabitants. Every proper ger will also have a family altar, bed and seating area and a stove with a chimney near the centre. In most of parts of Mongolia wood is extremely scarce and there are only a few other materials to keep the heat in cold cold winters, e.g. dried animal poop. Our first meal was prepared on fire powered by something that looked like a cow one – tasted delicious (the food that is…)!

DAY 2

After waking up to a very cold morning (our fire died in the middle of the night leaving our noses frozen) we get our breakfast and take off to move further to Gobi.The highlight of today is ‘White Mountain’ – Tsagaan Suvarga – an amazing formation of land, rocks and colors. As the ger of a family that keeps camels, where we were supposed to stay, is occupied, we drive a couple of hours further to stay in a town ger. We do see some nice camels on this day.

DAY 3

The third day confirms that Mongolian and the Gobi desert’s geology and landscapes are amazingly diverse – we see something new after each mountain we pass. So far we rode through the steppe, rocks, deserty flat areas, crossed mountains and now we are in a snowy Ice Valley. Trying to spot a deer and watching small mice hiding away from the eyes of hungry eagles, we walk a few kilometres while having our lunch prepared.

In the Ice Valley

In the Ice Valley

After lunch we head to the ‘Flaming Cliff’ and stay for the night nearby in a dinosaur valley. Throughout Mongolia there is a few areas where dinosaur’s fossils and remains were found. As we are told, they are long gone stolen. This evening we also see our first sandy dunes and visit the deserted ‘Giant Turtle’ tourist guesthouse (that looks like a giant turtle).

Mark taking a walk at the Flaming Cliff

Mark taking a walk at the Flaming Cliff

DAY 4

We start the day with an attempt to feed horses with our old cucumbers. Encountering a bunch of very shy horses we are not successful. The day however turns out very nice – by early afternoon we reach the sand dunes! We check-in in our ger and make ourselves comfortable seated at the host’s ger afterwards. We are welcomed by a bowl of camel milk and share a silver bowl of fermented one (with a low content of alcohol). Putting our UAZ through another test we drive closer to the dunes so we can enjoy walking, running and rolling over them! We finish the beautiful day with a sunset / moonrise watching from the back of a camel. Tonight’s dinner is sushi and Tseko turns out to be scared of mice.

DAY 5

Never walk between the holy poles of the ger. Never take anything – a stone or a flower – from the Gobi desert. Never forget to spit vodka over your shoulder. If you fail, you might experience not one but two flat tires within the first hour of driving in the morning. Like we do today. Mind you, this is not the first time and after four or five such incidents (and hundreds more on other trips), our driver can change a wheel in notime. This time the waiting is a bit longer as there is only one spare and he puts his repair kit in the action. While waiting in a strong wind, we walk around the neverending steppe and Tseko cooks our lunch.

In the afternoon we experience a safari ride when we are trying to reach a herd of deers or hunted down foxes running with the wind. Of course, all off-road. Before settling in a small town ger for the night, we stopp at a monument dedicated to the legendary racing horses of Mongolia. Tonight our ger is borrowed from ladies that normally live in it and so it is equipped with standard bedroom/living room/kitchen. That deserves a bottle of wine, which we open with a knife and end of a spoon as we didnt bring an opener!

Horses Monument

Horses Monument

DAY 6

If we thought we have seen all our UAZ can do, today is going to set a whole new level for us. On this day we are crossing a valley with a curvy river (which will cross our path many times), muddy holes, forrest, snow and ice. Aratcha – the driver – has to change UAZ into a ‘tank’ mode and off we go! Stopping for lunch on top of a snowy forrest hill and for a short yak watching we reach ‘The Waterfall’ by the evening.

DAY 7

Good morning, snowy Mongolia!

Today we open our ger door only to find out that about 7cm of snow feel last night. We’re not entirely prepared for this and decide to only go out to visit the toliet. We are staying in, reading, hanging around and going nowhere. It is cold outside…

DAY 8

After a day of relax and boredom we start the day wonderfully – riding a horse in the middle of the snowy but sunny land. Afterwards we drive through the snow, icy rivers and later on icy paved roads to the old capital of Mongolian empire – Karakorum.  Once a capital of the great empire, Karakorum is situated in Orkhon valley. When one of Chinggis Khans sons – Kublai Khan – moved the capital to today’s Beijing, Karakorum was still OK until later on when the whole city was totally destroyed by Chinese Ming troops. Today all is left from the old old times is a buddhist monastery built from the ruins of the original city. We also visit a museum that tells us more about the Mongolian history. Tonight is our last ger night.

Karakorum

Karakorum

DAY 9

Our trip is over. We drive back to Ulaanbaatar on a paved road, stop for lunch in a roadside restaurant and that’s it. We are happy we will take a shower, sign into our e-mail accounts and eat out. However what we have experienced was a great adventure full of surprising sceneries. Mongolia has so much to offer and yet seems untouched by a heavy tourism. If you ever plan a trip in the region, make sure not to skip this beautiful country!

More pictures from the trip are here.

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Vybaveni termalnym spodnym pradlom a parom ponoziek z jacej a tavej vlny z Ulaanbaatarskeho cierneho trhu vyrazame smerom k novemu dobrodruzstvu – Expedicia pust Gobi. Na diskusnych forach najdete vela na temu cestovania po Mongolsku na vlastnu past alebo nie. Velka vacsina i skusenejsich cestovatelov nedoporucuje pozicat si auto a vyrazit a my coskoro zistime preco. Gunnar – Ger-man – z Nemecka, Angel a Jeff zo Statov, sofer Aratcha, kuchar/sprievodca Tseko a nas UAZ – to je nasa posadka na dalsich 9 dni a 8 noci. Mame ocakavat 2 prilezitosti sa osprchovat, nabit fotaky ci doplnit zasoby a zimu.

DEN 1

Zaciname s nakupom zasob – voda a toaletak musia byt! Prvy den travime v aute spoznavanim clenov supiny a zakladnych schopnosti UAZu hnedco opustime asfaltovu cestu niekolko kilometrov za hlavnym mestom. Po niekolkych hodinach zastavujeme uprostred nicoho a Tseko nam pripravi obed v aute – knedlicky s jahnacim masom utopene v mliecno cajovej polievke. Nasa prva skutocna zastavka ja Baga Gazriin Chuluu – ‘Skala malej krajiny’ – formacia skal poskladanych na sebe ako palacinky. Tseko nam ukazuje i dieru do jaskyne ‘Slonia papula’, ktora ma byt niekolko desiatok kilometrov dlha, co ale nikto z nas nepotvrdi svojou navstevou.

Pred zapadom slnka dorazime do nasho prveho ‘hotelu’ – 5 miestneho geru (alebo jurty, ako sa u nas hovori; i ked nam je povedane, ze je to nieco uplne ine). Uprostred sirokej plane pokrytej kozimi a ovcimi bobkami oslavime svoj prvy den rundami ruskej vodky a po zapade slnka sa vydame na navstevu do hostitelovho geru sto metrom dalej od nasho. Privitani teplom domova a vonou vecere, usadime sa na koberci – podla tradicie – zeny na jednej a muzi na druhej strane.

Kazdy pribytok – ger – ma centralnu cast podoprenu dvoma derevenymi stlpmi (ktore, ako zistime neskor, nie su az tak dolezite pre stabilitu). Je treba si pamatat, ze sa nema medzi nimi chodit alebo cokolvek podavat, kedze to by znamenalo nestastie. Kazdy poriadny ger je vybaveny rodinnym oltarom, postelou, ci postelmi, miestom na sedenie a pieckou s kominom veducim von cez strechu. Vo vacsine casti, ktore navstivime, je drevo velkou vzacnostou a tak Mongolovia vyuzivaju rozne ine materialy na prokurovanie, napr. suseny zvieraci trus. Nase prve jedlo bolo pripravene na ohni z kravskeho lajna – bola to pochutka!

DEN 2

Po zobudeni sa do mraziveho rana (nas ohen zhasol uprostred noci) sa naranajkujeme a vydavame sa hlbsie do puste. Dnesnym hlavnym bodom programu je Tsagaan Suvarga – ‘Biela hora’ – formacia skal hrajuca duhou farieb vratane bielej. Kedze rodina chovajuca tavy, u ktorej sme mali prenocovat, ma plno, cestujeme dalej niekolko hodin az do maleho mesta, kde prespavame v mestskom gere.

DEN 3

Uz treti den sa nam potvrdzuje, ze Gobi nie je len nudna pust. Za kazdym kopcom naz vzdy caka totalne ina krajina a iny vyhlad. Raz je to step, potom skaly, piescite polia, ci kopce a dnes sme v zasnezenej Ice Valley – ‘Ladovej doline’. Snazime sa spozorovat jelene a sledujeme male mysky ako sa skryvaju pred hladnymi ocami kruziacich orlov. Mame niekolko kilometrovu prechadzku zatialco nam Tseko pripravuje obed a stavia snehuliaka.

Po obede sa vydavame k Horiacemu Utesu – Flaming Cliff a noc travime v dinosaurej doline. Po celom Mongolsku je niekolko oblasti, kde sa nasli pozostatky a fosilie pravekych jasterov. Ako sa dozvedame, vsetky su prec – v muzeach ci rozkradnute.

DEN 4

Zaciname den pokusom o krmenie koni nasimi starymi uhorkami. Koniky su ale velmi plache a nas pokus je neuspesny. Nase stastie sa ale obracia – kratko po obede dorazime k mohutnym pieskovym dunam. Ubytujeme sa v gere a usadime sa u naseho hostitela. Privitani sme miskou tavieho mlieka a okrem toho medzi nami koluje i tavi arak – fermentovane mlieko s nizkym obsahom alkoholu. Nas UAZ dostava dnes znova zabrat a dokazuje svoje scopnosti na ceste k dunam. Tam si uzivame prechadzky, pobehovanie a i kotulanie. Uzatvarame tento den romantickou jazdou na tavach pri zapade slnka / vychode mesiaca.

DEN 5

Nikdy neprechadzat pomedzi posvatny stred geru. Nebrat z Gobi ani jeden kamienok ci rastlinku. Nezabudnut chrstnut kusok cez plece ked pijete vodku. V opacnom pripade sa vam mozu prihodit hned dva defekty v jedno pekne rano. Tak ako nam v tento den. Je treba podotknut, ze to nie je nas prvy ci druhy a nas zdatny a skuseny vodic uz vymenil a zalepil tak 4-5. Tentokrat ale oprava trva dlhsie a my travime cakanie vo veternej stepi prechadzkou po kopcoch. zatialco Tseko vari obed.

Po obede zazijeme necakane safari ked sa vydavame mimo vyjazdenu trasu priblizit sa stadu jelenov a frcime o preteky s liskami. Pred tym ako sa usadime na noc v dalsom mestskom gere, zastavujeme pri monumente postavenom na pocest legendarnym mongolskym zavodnym konom. Tuto noc travime v gere, ktory je normalne obyvany dvoma damami a tak je plne vybaveny standardnym vybavenim spalna/obyvacka/kuchyna. Spravny cas na vinko!

DEN 6

Boli sme na omyle ak sme si doposial mysleli, ze sme videli, co vsetko nas UAZ dokaze. Dnes prejdeme dolinou prepletenou riekou, bahnom, dierami, lesami, snehom i ladom. Aratcha – nas sofer – pouzije svoje nastroje aby prepol UAZ do modu ‘tank’ a ideme! Na obed sa zastavime na vrchole zasnezeneho lesu a pri stade yakov. Vecer dorazime k Vodopadu.

DEN 7

Dobre rano, zasnezene Mongolsko! Rano otvarame dvere geru a vonku asi 10 cm snehu a pocas zbytku dna ich otvorime len cestou na wc. Travime den vnutri, citame, oddychujeme a vegetime. Vonku je kosa…

DEN 8

Po dni oddychu a nudy zaciname novy slnecny den krasne – jazdou na konoch v snehu. Potom sa vyberame snehom, cez zamrznute rieky a neskor po zladovatelej ceste smerom k staremu hlavnemu mestu Karakorum. Kedysi hlavne mesto Mongolskeho emporia, nachadza sa v doline Orkhon. Jeden z Dzingischanovych synov – Kublai Khan – za svojej vlady hlavne mesto prestahoval do dnesneho Pekingu a pri pustoseni vojsk dynastie Ming bolo mesto zrovnane so zemou. Dnes, vsetko, co ostalo po davnych casoch je budhisticky klastor postaveny z pozostatkov stareho mesta. Po klastore sa zdrzime i v miestnom muzeu a nasu poslednu noc travime kde inde – v gere.

DEN 9

Nas vylet konci. Caka nas cesta naspat do Ulaanbaataru uz po aslfaltovej ceste, obed v motoreste a to je vsetko. Tesime sa na sprchu, e-maily a ‘normalne’ jedlo ale to, co sme zazili, bolo uzasne dobrodruzstvo plne prekvapivych scenerii. Mongosko ponuka velmi rozmanitu prirodu a kulturu a posobi, ze turizmom nie je este velmi dotknute. Ak sa niekedy vydate do tychto koncin, urcite si ho nenechajte ujst!

Viac fotiek z vyletu je tu.

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5 thoughts on “Gobi Desert Trip

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