Sandy

Khongoryn Els Travel Blog

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Not so wild nomad dogs

Since we set off from UB I have been cautious about the nomad dogs.  Virtually every family has 1 or 2 large-ish dogs that are traditionally used to protect the camp from strangers and the animals from attack from wolves.  These dogs are owned by the family but are not pets, they live outside and are semi-wild, so I am not expecting them to be that welcoming to strangers. I have also read that one of the mongolian nomad greetings literally translates to "are the dogs chained up?".  Despite all this so far the dogs we have encountered seem to have been reasonably friendly towards us, though they do tend to bark alot during the night. 

Today we are to head out into the desert dunes on camels.

Camel riding
  Bayaraa comes with us and looks to enjoy camel riding almost as much as driving.  He tells us how to ride.  I have ridden a horse a few times before but that does not seems to help much.  The camels only have 1 rein and seem very reluctant to do anything other than follow on behind but with a bit of firm digging with my heals, some tugging of the rein and shouting of "Tshoo" I manage to make my camel move off at a leisurely pace towards the dunes in the distance.  Phil does not seem to be a natural with animals and is not thrilled with the idea of camel riding.  It was hard work just getting him to stand near a camel never mind ride one, so there is no surprise when he elects to stay at camp citing a clause in his insurance policy that specifically excludes camel riding!  

We ride camels for about an hour, leave them hobbled so they do not stray too far and then walk the short distance to the dunes and climb to the top.

Camel guide and dunes
  Though the dunes here are quite low the walk to the top is still hard work.  I don't think there is an easy way to climb steep sand and the climbing technique of our local guide seems to be to go straight up the face and aftert trying to zig-zag my way up I think he is probably right.  Coming down is a different matter and the best way is simply to run straight down, trying not to fall over.

On the way back James decides he has had enough of camel riding and walks.  Julie's camel happily follows close behind the guide but mine seems to be on a go slow and I arrive back at the gers 10 minutes behind the others.  Moogi is waiting with lunch and jokes that I have won the "largest stomach" award; this is the award in Mongolian horse races given to the horse that comes last.

Walking back down the dunes
  

In the afternoon Bayaraa drives us to the highest point of the dunes, not as Phil thinks to the top but to the point on the valley floor from where we can walk to the top.  The dunes here are over 300m high and the climb really is hard work.  The last third is incredibly steep and the soft sand make progress very hard work.  Julie and James turn back while Phil and I slowly plod on.  Suddenly the wind picks up and Phil loses his hat so gives up the climb to chase after it. I am determined to give one last push and manage to scramble up the last 20 metres to the top of the ridge. From here it is a easy walk along the top of the ridge to the highest point on the dune.  The wind is strong now and blowing the sand into my eyes so I am not keen to hang around too long.

View from the top of Khongoryn Els
  At the top I take a few quick pictures hoping they will be Ok but the visibility is poor.  Going down I take the direct route, straight down the front of the dune, taking big steps and letting the soft sand break my descent, it's great fun once you get the hang of it and really fast.   It took almost and hour to climb up but only takes about 5 minutes to get back down. 

It's been hard work but enjoyable, but after the day's activities I'm covered in sand.  Back at the ger I manage to scrounge a small amount of water to wash my face and hair so look a little less like I've just walked across the Gobi when we sit down for dinner.

 

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Not so wild nomad dogs
Not so wild nomad dogs
Camel riding
Camel riding
Camel guide and dunes
Camel guide and dunes
Walking back down the dunes
Walking back down the dunes
View from the top of Khongoryn Els
View from the top of Khongoryn Els
Khongoryn Els
photo by: Biedjee