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Wow!  EIGHT years.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  Here is Amber’s blog post about my visit, when we traveled through the Gobi Desert.

Traveling through the Gobi Desert

Posted on 12 August 2009

At the very beginning of July, my mother came to visit me from America. For the first couple of days, we were in Ulaanbaatar. She was able to meet some of my friends and the Peace Corps staff. We also went to some Mongolian museums and restaurants.

Then, we traveled through the Gobi Desert for five days. We organized a driver and English-speaking tour guide through Khongor Guest House. The vehicle we traveled in was a Russian 69, or “Jaren-Eus.” A 69 looks a bit like a Jeep.

Mother, Driver, Tour Guide, and I in front of the Russian 69 Jeep Vehicle

On the first day, we drove into Dundgovi Aimag. We drove for most of the day, and arrived at Baga gazariin chuluu around 7:00 PM. The place was, surprisingly, covered with white trees. We climbed up the small mountain, and looked over the entire valley. The valley was surrounded on all three sides with mountains! So beautiful! The red rock formations were beautiful, too.

During the time when the Chinese destroyed a lot of Buddhist monasteries, this place housed a few monks in hiding. There are many caves within the rock formations. Because of the monks that survived the Chinese raids, this place has a lot of superstitions attached to it. If you come here and do certain things, then good luck will come to you… it’s a lucky place.

Baga gazariin chuluu

The next day we visited the famous Flaming Cliffs! The Flaming Cliffs are famous for being the place that Roy Chapman Andrews found dinosaur eggs in Mongolia. He gave it the nickname “Flaming Cliffs” because of the way the cliffs change color according to the weather conditions. When my mother and I visited, the cliffs were a brownish color, with a hint of red. The wind was very strong that day… it made my hat fly off of my head! A nice Mongolian caught it for me.

Of course, there were vendors in front of the Flaming Cliffs selling goods… trying to overprice the items… Luckily for me, I know a bit about Mongolian pricing towards foreigners. I was able to bargain the price down to a “Mongolian’s” price because I know the language and I live here. My mother and I bought a few nice rock crystals that were found in the surrounding sand areas.

The Flaming Cliffs

One of the neatest things I saw in the Gobi Desert was the wells… in the middle of nowhere! You’d wonder how camel herds survive in the Gobi Desert, right? The Mongolian government and some private companies built wells in the desert. The herder must physically scoop the water from the well into the trough for the animals to drink from it. This was really neat to see.

Camels drinking from the desert well

On the third day, my mother and I visited the Yolin Am glacier… in the Gobi Desert! It was deep within the a valley, so it took about 45 minutes to walk to the glacier. As we were entering the valley, four shamans were exiting the valley. They were dressed in colorful robes and headdresses. They had traveled from Hovsgul Aimag to the Gobi in order to pray for rain for the entire country. And whataa-you-know? The next day it rained! How’s that for superstitions?

Yolin Am Glacier

The fourth day, my mother and I traveled to the Khongor sand dune. We rode camels for about one hour, and got to sit in the sand for a while. We ate a meal of buuz before traveling to Ovorkhangai Aimag to spend the night.

Riding camels at the Khongor Sand Dune

After the Gobi tour, my mother and I traveled to Kharkhorin, the ancient capital of Mongolia, then back to Arvaikheer for Naadam. In Kharkhorin, we stayed at my director’s ger camp by the river. My director and her husband drove us around the city to show us all of the touristy things, like the Turtle Rock, Erdene Zuu Monastery, and the Empire Monument.

Naadam was very fun in Arvaikheer! It’s so funny because for the entire year, the Naadam stadium is closed. It’s an outside stadium with a nice park around it. But the park and stadium are closed all year, except for Naadam. The grass was very green and beautiful. I could tell it had been watered in the days leading up to the opening ceremony. My mom was able to see traditional Mongolian dancing and music during the opening ceremony. Also, we saw the three traditional sports… horse racing, archery, and wrestling.

Sadly, my mother had to leave Mongolia… but I really enjoyed her visit! Hopefully other people are interested in visiting me over the next year… or two years. I’m thinking about applying to extend a third year, but we’ll see when the time comes. :)

Adding modern technology to a Ger

Adding modern technology to a Ger

Livestock near nomad's home.

Livestock near nomad's home.

So the nomads live in these round Ger’s.  Essentially living off of the land and their livestock.  But Mongolians do have access to technology.

One would see solar panels attached to the Ger’s or freestanding on poles.  The Solar Panels would send the energy into a car battery.  Then the car battery would be used to

  1. Charge up their cell phones.  Cell phones are used in a manner where you buy units.  It cost less to send a text than to call someone for a minute of cell phone time.
  2. Connect the battery to a modern florescence light bulb for at night use.
  3. Or maybe watch a little TV, which is hooked up to a satelite dish.

I bet you the carbon footprint for Mongolian’s is very minimal.  Al Gore would be proud!

In the June 2010 issue of the National Geographic, I found it cool that two Mongolian peeps were listed as 2010 Emerging Explorers.  Each year the National Geographic Emerging Explorers Program selects rising talents who push the boundaries of discovery, adventure, and global problem solving.  The 2010 class consists of amazing individuals who are innovators in their respective fields.  They are the new visionaries, and inspire people to care about the planet. Fourteen were recognized.

Who from Mongolia, or studying Mongolia?

Paleontologist Bolorstseg Minjin, unearths extraordinary dinosaur and mammal fossils from the Gobi desert while inspiring a new generation of native-born Mongolian paleontologists.


Bioarchaeologist Christine Lee analyzes ancient skeletal remains, bringing new understanding of China and Mongolia’s rich cultural diversity, past and present.

When Amber and I visited the National Museum in Ulaanbaater, there must have been over 70 different diverse types of peoples, that live now in Mongolia.  It was an awesome museum.

Because they are nomadic and move three to four times a year, Mongolian herders have developed a remarkable wood and wool house that can be taken apart in just a few hours and can be easily transported on a pack animal.

This called a ger (or “Yurt”), and it is remarkably cool in the summer, warm in winter, windproof and usually beautifully decorated, even though it is made from just a few basic elements.

Those who come from a world of high rise skyscrapers are often amazed that such tradition continues.  Yet the Mongolian nomad – and many city dwellers too – would have it no other way.  Many herders refuse to take up a permanent location, feeling that it would be scarilegious  to be tied to one plot of land.

The ger evolved centuries ago for the nomads who were constantly moving in search of new pastures.

Here are some photos of the gers that Amber and I encountered during my Mongolian Adventure!

First night during our Gobi Trip.  Stayed at a nomad's second Ger house.

First night during our Gobi Trip. Stayed at a nomad's second Ger house.

Rocks and various other items to help hold down the ger during windy times.

Rocks and various other items to help hold down the ger during windy times.

Amber to the left of the hearth inside the ger.  In the back of the photo is the case covering of a hand crank sewing machine.  No electricity.  We slept on the floor in our sleeping bags the first night.

Amber to the left of the hearth inside the ger. In the back of the photo is the case covering of a hand crank sewing machine. No electricity. We slept on the floor in our sleeping bags the first night.

So that was my first night in a ger. Had to find my own restroom. There was a holding pen for the baby animals, quite a ways from the gers, so I’d trot on down past the holding pen for my WC needs. Being on America time, I awoke at 2 a.m. and went out and gazed at the clear sky and all the stars. It was amazing. I’d wake up each morning as the morning light would start to come in (seemed like 4 am every day!).

Wow a month ago in Mongolia, I awoke at 5 am in the morning, at the Ger Camp, just outside where the dinosaurs were found, back in the early 1900’s.    jul09_99_12

It was very windy, the night before and windy early in the morning.  The WC that we had access to, was a low shelter on 3 sides, with two boards on either side of the hole in the ground.  If you didn’t watch it, you’d be blown over to the side, it was that windy.  So this was a low, low squat, in order to stay put!

jul09_99_22 We went on top of this mountainous area, the “Flaming Cliffs”.  Reminded me of Ship Rock in New Mexico, because of the color, and because of the rock structure that was left, after erosin (see that Geology class in college came in handy).  Reminded me of Oklahoma also because of the red soil color.

Amber and I bought some geodes rocks with some lovely crystals inside.  I bought Amber a rose rock, and then a larger geode looking rock.  Kinda cool looking.


Prior to getting to the Yolin Am Glacier area, we stopped along a high area.  Everyone was able to get cell phone reception.  I went outside to find a WC spot (had to make my own….getting very used to this), and I made my own oovm rock site.  Pictured here is the Russian Jeep with everyone in it talking, and me enjoying the fierce winds.  You could lean into them and still be upright.

jul09_99_29 My little rock pile.  Mogi said, she’d add to it with every tourist trip that the brought by, as this was a popular cell phone stop!

jul09_99_30 We ate at a nomad’s home.  She was 60 years old.  Knitted gloves, hatwear, sewed dells…basically during the winter in town made all the things that went into her Tourist Ger right outside the Yolyn Am Glacier Park (in the Gobi Desert, no less).  We ate homemade noodles – watched her make them, with mutton, carrots, potatoes, and onions.  Very yummy.  Drank Milk Tea, yoghurt and a sip of homemade vodka.  Interesting enough, I didn’t get sick on any of the traditional Mongolia dishes.

We went onto the Yolyn Am Glacier, traveled out through the narrow mountains, through the Golden Eagle pass, stayed in a small soum (city) that night


Originally published July 14, 2009.

So Amber, Patrick and I ride the bus from Arvaikheer to Ulaanbatter on Saturday.  Arrived in the late afternoon (no time to see the Natural History Museum), and promptly proceed to the Mongel Steepe Guesthouse.

Good thing too, as I think Amber had the last available room in UB, because of UB having their Naadam that day.  The road was packed coming into UB, as people were off to see the horse races.  People were even driving into the oncoming lane.  Now that was interesting!

If was my last experience with the outdoor WC (Water Closet-toilet), and for that I was glad.  I think I actually prefer going outdoors as opposed to the WC.

The airplane ride for me this time was as bad as coming over.  I could not sleep, and did not have nice seatmates coming back.  Coming over we got along swimmingly, had lots of bathroom breaks.  Coming home, I was somewhat stuck with the window seat and therefore, not to many breaks.  My feet swelled up and calves too, even though I tried my best to exercise them in the seat.  Got the swelling down with a bit of “Legs up the wall” yoga poses, when I got home.  Have a bit of jeg lag, coming home too, as I’m draggin!

Miss Grace happy to see me, Derek is off to UM Army, and I’m off to fend for myself for a couple of days.

I think the best part of my Mongolia trip was getting to see Amber, and then meeting and getting to know her counterparts and sitemates.  Second, I think would be the Harhorin and Gobi Trip, and all the “Settlers of Catan” playing!

More on the Mongolia trip coming up, after many many more naps!


My brother Hugh, purchased for me (thank you) two books to read and take with me on my Mongolian Adventure.

Michael Kohn’s Lonely Planet’s Mongolia lonelymongolia

and Jane Blunden’s Mongolia Bradt Travel Guide.

bradtmongoliaI’ve got lots to ready between now and Saturday… all that time on the plane!

I received my James Herriot books.  I’ll be taking “All Creatures Great and Small”,  and “All Things Wise and Wonderful” with me!  Probably won’t have any time to read, but those bumpy jeep rides, might have me wanting to read!

Back in December, when the rest of the family was visiting grandparents in Indiana, it was decided that we’d do an “Amber Day”. Basically a photo shoot of some of the harsh realities, of Peace Corps life in Mongolia.
Visiting the Out House
Chopping Wood for the Ger
Taking a bath in the Tuppin
Head Gear for the coldness of Mongolia.

Now, when I go, I probably won’t have to endure the scarves, in the 100 degree heat, but maybe I should bring my buff head gear to protect the back of my neck from sunburn, or the occasional sand storm!

Mongolian Ger Photos on Flickr

G P-B. Mongolia Adventure

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