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Wow! Three 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
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.
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!
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!).
Here it is! Amber’s post about our trip to the south….
Today, we depart to the Gobi Desert.
Yesterday, we visited the National History Museum of Mongolia. Lot of historical and current Mongolian Costumes from the different ethnic groups. Also the history of Mongolia. Good visit.
Went to the square where the Khan statue resides.
Ordered a “deel” to be sewn, after selecting traditional Mongolian fabric.
Visited and met the various program directors for the Peace Corps, in Mongolia.
Ate at California Cafe for breakfast….even had Starbucks coffee!
Lunch at the Luna Blanca, vegetarian style shisk kabobs for me. Amber had some spicey tofu dish.
Did some walking of the streets, tried to visit a monasatery. Additionally, ate dinner with some of Amber’s Peace Corps Volunteers in a nice Mongolian Restaurant. I had the traditional Mongolian dishes…..
Today, we depart for our Gobi trip! Wish us luck!