Friday, September 13, 2013

Three unforgettable days in the Gobi

The Sea of Grass

The morning of September 9, we headed to the Southern part of the Gobi, via unsigned dirt track, where the dramatic landscape gradually evolved from green steppe to golden steppe to an area punctuated by rocky sand dunes, if that makes sense. 

We saw our first free-grazing herd of Bactrian camels (two humps), gentle bizarre-looking critters, curious of us as we were of them, and enjoyed our first view of the Southern end of the Altai Mountains.  
A constant sight
They reminded us of a rugged version of the Sangre de Christos – dark grey, brooding mountains with gold, dry grasses in the foreground.

From the deck of the Lodge 
By lunch time, we arrived at Three Camel Lodge, where we stayed 3 nights.  It is a gorgeous ger camp, with the main buildings beautifully built with native stone, wood beams and Mongolian-style molded roofing.  Our "deluxe ger", on the edge of the camp, had a smaller ger attached with a stone-tiled bathroom; and sitting out front on the stone base of the ger, we had an unobstructed view of the Gobi and the Altais.

Our first morning at the lodge was relaxed – nothing planned except to enjoy our beautiful surroundings.  Herds of horses and goats were taking turns at the nearby water trough, so we wandered out a ways in front of the lodge to hang out with them and their dogs, and a few herders, one on foot, another in traditional garb on a horse, and a third, the goat herder, on a motorbike. 
This was one of the experiences we craved; just wandering the desert with hardly anyone around, hearing nothing except the wind and the animals braying and drinking.
After heading back that afternoon, we settled on a double swing on the sunny side of the lodge’s covered porch and ordered a bottle of Mouton Cadet white Bordeaux (a start to Ricky's Birthday!).  It was a wonderful moment – late afternoon on the swing, looking out into the Gobi with a glass of cold French white wine – OK, maybe a bit over-the-top, but what the heck.  We finished the bottle (much later!) over a dinner of lightly fried fish and vegetables – delicious.
The next day, we drove to an outcropping of sand dunes, where it was very tempting to slide down on ….something.  Looked around for a saucer or cafeteria tray or Flexible Flyer, but there weren’t any.  Beautiful white sand against a chunky blue sky, the image often associated with this desert.  

We climbed up on a dune, looked around and saw no one for miles and miles.  We then drove to a patch of trees that only grow in the Gobi – about the size of mesquite with succulent needles and gnarly, dry, twisted trunks and limbs.
We drove to the Flaming Cliffs, so-called because of the color they exhibit in the later part of the day.  This is where Steven Chapman Andrews, American
explorer funded by the Natural History Museum in New York, discovered a significant location of dinosaur bones that had been effectively preserved when the sand dunes collapsed about 60 million years ago.
On the 11th, we motivated early, for a trip to Yol Valley, about an hour’s drive in a different direction from the lodge.  Beautiful valley that was wide, with the colors of the Gobi, dotted with green and red plants – and as we hiked further, it evolved into a narrow rock-sided canyon.  The rock looked like a kind of shale – we will have to look at the geology of the place at some point! 
The Yol Valley
Boiah wanted to head back after a half-hour, but we kept going for a couple hours total – about 6km round-trip, according to Chris’ fancy watch.  Lovely hike.  Then, one more heavenly afternoon on the porch; the next morning, a quick trip across the desert to a local airport, and we were back to reality in UB.

The Gobi was wonderful.  Even the harshest of winds increased the silence.  Herds of camels, horses, yak, cow, sheep goats moving closely together as ships sailing on  the sea of grass. We simply cannot capture it all here.  and, a great place to celebrate Ricky's birthday!

1 comment:

Christy Davis said...

We're reading with chins on our chests - amazing scenery and stories...