Saturday, June 24, 2023

The trip back north begins. June 9, 2023.


It was time to work our way back to Ulaanbaator.  I was sad to leave Gobi Nomad Lodge. The accommodations and food were so good. The staff were awesome. We were the first group of the year to stay there so we had all of their attention. We packed all our stuff in the back of the SUV and headed out. We were only going part way, but it was still a long drive to the next camp.

Sergie told us it was going to be rough because we would be driving on paved roads. This seemed a bit counterintuitive. The first road we got to was great. We zipped along with no problem. We made a tea stop at a very interesting monument to bactrian camels, which play an important role for many of the nomads in Mongolia. We pulled over and got out and all three of us looked at each other said "Is that camel pooping?" Sergie said that the position it was in was how male camels show their sexual prowess, but I am certain that camel was pooping! 

After leaving the camel statue I understood what Sergie meant about the paved road. Suddenly it became the worst road I have ever been on! There were massive holes everywhere. Baagi, our driver, did an amazing job cutting back and forth on the road, avoiding the holes and oncoming traffic. Once in a while he would shoot down the shoulder, convincing me we were going to turn over. His calm expression never changed. We made a stop for lunch at the Burd Hotel in Mandalgovi. It was a really nice place! It was quite posh and the food was great. There was a little souvenir shop and it was nice to do some shopping for gifts. I resisted telling them they spelled bird incorrectly!   

We reached Baga Gazriin Chuluu, an area with incredible granite formations. We watched for ibex as we drove through and I thought I had spotted a couple, but it turned out to be Argali sheep, which are actually rarer. We stopped to look at the ruins of a monastery where monks had hidden during the religious purges. There were beautiful aspen trees inside the little gorge the ruins were in, and also a cave. Seeing aspens after our time in the gobi was surprising! 

After Max and Rami did some climbing we drove on to our last ger camp of the trip, Erdene Ukhaa. Again, the ger was lovely. This one had a beautifully carved door. I hit my head a couple of more times for good measure. There were some other visitors in the camp, including some in the ger next door. I am sure they were amused by my language when entered and exited! 

We had a nice dinner, including more Mongolian beer. After we ate we played a traditional Mongolian game using sheep anklebones. Each side of the bone is shaped slightly different and represents a different animal, sheep, goat, camel and horse. You toss the bones and see what animals come up. We had a "horse race" and spent a good bit of time laughing and teasing each other. I went to bed and fell asleep, but was waken in the middle of the night by a calling Little Owl. I went outside to look for it, unsuccessfully but the stars were mind blowing. I was grateful to the owl for waking me up!

No comments: