Monday, June 19, 2023

Into the south Gobi, June 5, 2023

It was time to go to the heart of the Gobi desert, but before we left I got in a little more birding along the Ongi River. I won't go into the details, as I said at the beginning that this was not a birding trip, but there was one big highlight. As I was walking back into the camp I caught a flash of gray. I was very surprised to see a Japanese Sparrowhawk clutching a large warbler while sitting on the fence around the camp. I was able to get a few photos. Normally when I see a hawk take a bird, or rodent, they don't hang around.

We had a good breakfast and we packed the car to leave. Rami, Max, and I all agreed at the end of the trip that this was our favorite place. The setting was wonderful, with the river and mountain. My ger was comfortable, the food was good. Don't get me wrong, every place we stayed was great, but this one was special. I could easily have spent a week there.

We stopped on our way to the next camp at the Flaming Cliffs, named for the glowing orange rock faces.   This area was made famous by Roy Chapman Andrews and his team of explorers in 1922, when they discovered the first dinosaur eggs. Unfortunately the museum at the site was closed, but we really enjoyed the scenery. We parked and walked one of the trails. Max, Rami, and Sergie walked the trail to the end, but I went slowly, looking for birds and enjoying just being there. I am timid on trails, so I was very happy to poke along. I saw a few birds along the way. There were a number of women selling handicrafts and souvenirs at the parking area, so I did a little shopping. 

We traveled on to the next camp, Gobi Nomad Lodge. This camp was exceptionally nice. The gers range from simple, but comfortable lodging to absolute five star luxury. I had one with an attached bath that looked like it belonged in a higher end hotel. There was a line of small trees and shrubs behind the dining hall which held a number of birds, which made me very happy. The dining room was very nice and there was a small museum in a large ger. 

Sergie set up an area to teach us how to make traditional dumplings. These are made in large numbers by entire families to celebrate special occasions. Sergie said even little kids as young as four make them in mass. She laid out the fillings and rolled out some dumpling skins for us to work with. She demonstrated how to fold them and pinch them closed. I absolutely sucked at it. My dumpling looked nothing like hers. I tried a second one and it looked even worse. I definitely do not have a future in Mongolian culinary arts. 

We had a different brand of Mongolian beer with the dumplings which were fried by the cook. Despite my dumplings ugliness they tasted pretty good. They were filled with mutton, which I am quite fond of. I wandered around some more after dinner, enjoying the vast desert surrounding the camp. It was one of the most isolated places I have ever been. There were rain showers in the distance, but they never reached us.

No comments: