Gobi, Kharakhorum, Nadaam Festival!
Mongolia Travel Blog› entry 3 of 8 › view all entries
Well folks, I'm afraid this is most likely the only other place in Mongolia that is likely to have internet, according to the other travelers I've spoken to, so I'll try to cram it all in, and also be brief, as I think my guide wheedled a favor out of the internet lady (I think the place is actually closed...she left us a key!).
After leaving Ulan Bator (UB), we spent 5 days in the Gobi Desert, staying in ger camps (I'll put pix up in a second). On my trip are, strangely, 3 other Americans (I haven't run into many 'Mercans here): Rod and Carolyn, scientists from Nebraska and Ed, a computer systems expert. All of them are phDs and incredibly well-traveled. My guide, Gana (a.k.a. Boss) is 28 and speaks mostly in American slang.
They took us to Yolyn Am, a mass of ice inside a gorge in the middle of the desert (beautiful), Khongoryn Els - massive sand dunes, about 2-3 times as big as the ones I climbed in Egypt.
Gana taught me how to play the game they play with sheep anklebones (it's actually somewhat like marbles), and we rode a Bactrian (2-humped) camel through the desert, hanging out at the camel herder's ger for a spell, watching the news about the protest in UB.
As far as I can tell, the protest in UB was supposed to be a peaceful one, and the protesters got drunk so the whole thing got out of hand - after they set the opposition's building on fire, they set fire and looted the Arts Building next store, destroying hundreds of instruments that were to be used at the opening ceremonies of the Nadaam Festival in UB today (the festival is held throughout the country, like 4th of July with horse-racing). The general population seems to be pretty embarrassed about the whole thing. Anyway, the state of emergency has been lifted, but it wasn't in place anywhere else in the country. We couldn't get alcohol in UB, but we've been certainly drinking out here in the desert!
We drove to Bayanzag - the flaming cliffs - where they found dinosaur bones years ago.
The roads are...almost non-existent. Dirt paths, really, with huge ruts, and often large streams to go through. In the Gobi, there are a lot of different kinds of desert (only 3% is dunes...most has a lot of scrub), but no trees.
The Nadaam Festival we're attending here in Kharakorum is actually a small, local one, unlike the one in UB. It's like going to a high school soccer game instead of the Olympics. Not well-organized, but a lot easier to see all the action.
The food is nothing to speak of...they've adopted Russian/European dishes that will work when there's not much produce available. But I'm already sick of potato salad, mutton stew, rice, potatoes & pasta (often, all 3 carbs on the same plate). When you go into a Mongolian's ger, they always offer you some "white food" (dairy products like curds, tasteless cheese, plus either milky green tea or mare's milk...which tastes like thin yogurt) and fried dough bits. I'm trying to take it easy on that stuff though, seeing the guys get sick! I like the ger camps...it's a bit like fancy camping. All of them are clean, but the hole in the top is usually left open, so bugs can be a problem at night. We often wind up playing cards outside if the wind isn't ridiculous (which it often was in the Gobi). Our campsite here in Kharakhorum is lovely...there's a river and big green hills right beyond the camp - seems like a popular spot for the locals to hang out.