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29 travelers at this place

  • Day22

    Walking on the Dune

    September 16, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    Our Sunday afternoon activity was based around a visit to the nearby Sand Dunes. Now we told you there is actually little sand in the Gobi Desert but these huge Sand Dunes run for 180 km through the middle of the region.

    We had asked if we could ride camels and were taken to a spot close to the Dunes where a Mongolian Ger Camp have a herd of Bactrian Camels (two humps) which can be hired for riding. Cutting a long story short our Camels were prepared by being saddled and kneeling on the ground but John’s back problem meant that climbing on board was almost impossible for him and he found himself three quarters of the way onto the Camel physically unable to either sit down or get off, being stuck between the two humps. He was in absolute agony in this position but with the help of the Camel herder, Janet and NK was eventually able to fall away from the Camel to safety. So Janet decided that she wouldn’t ride alone. We had passed the cash over before starting, however the Camels owner, who was involved in John’s rescue, sympathetically returned the money and we rewarded them with a healthy tip. John’s Camel riding days are over before they begun!

    Despite the Camel loading problem John felt fine to walk and this was very necessary as we embarked on the main event of the afternoon, which was an attempt to climb the highest point of the Gobi Sand Dunes named Khongoryn Els.

    Now from the base to the peak is a walk of around 300 metres which does not sound much of a distance but after a gentle start of around 100 metres the face of the Dune becomes almost sheer and every two paces forward in the soft sand results in one pace back. As we looked up to the summit and saw those on top looking like dots the task was daunting and Janet’s view was that she would probably be able to complete a third at best. John was hoping to make it but was not totally confident.

    Our trusty guide NK, after giving us a bit of a warning about potential health risks, told us that we should try to complete the walk but that we should take it slow and easy. He said that once the slope really steepened we should consider taking about ten steps before stopping, sitting for a few minutes and then completing another 10 paces. He recommended us not to adjust our climbing style by trying to move on all fours (we saw several people trying this method) as this hindered rather than helped progress. There was no hurry he said. He always kept about 20 yards in front of us, encouraging us and bit by bit we made our way up, at times feeling we were not moving forward despite our efforts. We then realised that the size of people on the summit was such that the end point seemed achievable then found ourselves within touching distance. After about 75 minutes climbing we finally made it to the top with a sense of real achievement. Once we had celebrated we looked around us and could not believe the view. It was stunning across 360 degrees and most definitely worth the effort. Big thanks to NK who said he was very proud of us.

    There had been a big festival at the base of the Dunes and a number of Police from the main town (200 km away) had been on duty. At the end of the event they decided to climb the dune and arrived at the summit shortly after us. They were interested in us Westerners and a couple of them practiced a few words of English much to the amusement of their colleagues. The Police Chief was particularly keen to communicate with us and for about 20 minutes NK had to translate a number of questions from him about our views on Mongolia and what the UK is like. NK said it seemed more like an interrogation but then we guess that’s the Police Chiefs job. They were in good spirits and were keen to have photos taken with us as well as singing some traditional Mongolian songs.

    We said farewell and then began our descent which was great fun as you could almost run down in a zig zag manor and it took us around 5-10 minutes to get to the bottom, creating sand avalanches all the way down. You would not believe the amount of sand the three of us dumped from our shoes before we got back in the vehicle.

    It was getting late and we arrived back at Camp 3 just before sunset having seen both Golden Eagles and Vultures close to the roadside on our way. After dinner we were just leaving the dining area when who should walk in but our still heavily camouflaged Ibex murdering American acquaintance, Larry. He was interested in our train journey and gave us his business card so we could email him details of our travel company. He also told us enthusiastically that the rest of his itinerary in Mongolia is a couple of days back in the Capital, UB, and then he is going on a 10 day hunting trip, presumably to bag a few more Ibex, plus some Antelopes, Wolves and anything else that moves.

    We told NK what Larry was up to and he shared our displeasure. It gave us the perfect opportunity to explain to NK what is, and who is, an ‘asshole’!!

    This didn’t spoil another lovely Gobi day and we went to bed happy and exhausted. We have one day left in the desert before returning to the big City.
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  • Day20

    Into the Gobi Desert

    September 14, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    It’s Friday morning and our alarm goes off at 3am (ouch!) for a 4am pick up to UB Airport for one of the highlights of our journey, a four day trip to the Gobi desert. We only have a small weight allowance for the flight so the bulk of our luggage will remain at our UB hotel for our return. Eggy is ready and waiting for us in the lobby and everything works well as after a good flight we arrive in bright sunshine at Dalanzadgad Airport, in the middle of the Gobi, on time at 7.50am. Our guide NK and driver Choijo are waiting at the airport, having driven 700 km yesterday from UB.

    Our accommodation throughout the four days will be in Gers which are the traditional homes of Mongolians and can be seen all across the country, even close to UB. Ours will be in Tourist Ger Camps which gives decent comfort whilst allowing you to stay in remote parts of the Gobi Desert. These Camps have around 20 Gers and two shared buildings, one a dining area and the other containing toilets and showers.

    Our first night will be in Camp 1 then we will travel in a loop through the Steppes and Mountainous areas staying at two other Camps before returning to Camp 1 on the last night before flying back to UB on Tuesday morning.

    We had a great cooked breakfast at Camp 1 before going through our itinerary with NK and then having a couple of hours sleep. After lunch we travelled about 40 minutes from the Camp to walk the Eagle Gorge. There are three tarmac roads on the Gobi but the majority of driving has to be done off road which is challenging but provides constant spectacular views.

    Photo’s cannot do justice to the scale of everything we will see here. This afternoon as we drove to Eagle Gorge there were shadowed mountains to our left and on the other side perfectly flat Steppe to the horizon, punctuated by occasional nomadic Ger (always white) and herds of various animals.

    We will run out of superlatives during these four days but the walk through the Gorge was fantastic. From the car park it begins about 80 metres wide but narrows down gradually until after about an hour it is just a few metres from side to side, before gradually opening up again. A stream runs through the Gorge and has to be negotiated via natural stepping stones and we kept dry. The narrowest point was tricky to negotiate but achieved and we walked a bit further past this point and then returned to the car after a well paced three hour walk.

    At the wider points of the Gorge we encountered several Yak herds, there were lots of gerbils running around (nest building for winter) and plenty of horses. We also saw a number of Golden Eagles (hence the name of the Gorge) and also Bearded Vultures, Mongolia’s biggest bird with a wingspan of over 9 feet.

    We had a bizarre incident as we wandered through the Gorge. There were occasional hikers, but then we happened upon three Mongolian men one of who was staggering around. It quickly became apparent that he was completely drunk and extremely aggressive. One of his friends was trying to hold him back and the other one looked drunk but stayed in the background. The very drunk one approached NK, slurred some kind of insult and looked like he was going to take a swing at him, but his mate caught him in time. We had some concern but managed to divert past them and continued to the Gorge, whilst the drunkards walked towards the Car Park. Our driver later told us that he saw these people pick an argument with the local horse trek guides who gave them all a good thumping. That was good news!

    Despite this minor blip we had had a memorable walk in the Gorge in the most perfect weather. It was a totally blue sky. Warm in the sun but very chilly when in the Gorge in the shade of the surrounding mountains.

    Although we have already been to locations with big annual temperature swings, nothing matches the Gobi. Summer maximum can hit +50C and just to give it some symmetry the winter temperature can fall to -50C. Quite incredible.

    We drove back to our Camp across the Steppe with the sun going down and arrived back just as the full harvest moon was rising above the horizon.

    We enjoyed a hot shower, dinner (delicious spaghetti bolognese - something we weren’t expecting in the Gobi!), a beer and an early night. Janet had noticed a small mouse in our Ger (not really a surprise in our location) when we were getting ready for dinner so we mentioned it to our guide. We were presented with a solution which was a ‘sticky mouse trap’ to put under the bed which would glue the poor mouse’s feet to a glue pad when it ran over it. We decided we could not be that nasty - and didn’t mind sharing our accommodation - so we abstained from using this primitive execution equipment! We only saw the little thing once more before bed time and we think it slept as well as us.
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  • Day36

    Tour durch die Mongolei - Tag 8

    October 6, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Endlich wollten wir mal die Gelegenheit für den Sonnenaufgang nutzen und sind daher ein wenig früher als sonst aufgestanden. Danach gab es dann Frühstück. Nachdem wieder einmal das Auto gepackt war, ging es auf zur Fahrt zu den Sanddünen.
    Nach dem Mittagessen brachen wir zur Wanderung in den Sanddünen auf. Nach der Rückkehr gab es Abendessen und als Anlass zu Domis Geburtstag ein kleine „Party“ mit deutschen Chips, Bier und Vodka. Als Überraschung haben unsere Guides für Domi einen Geburtstagskuchen gebacken. Total Improvisiert mit Kuchenböden aus der Pfanne, Nutellacreme außen, Schrift „Happy Birthday“ aus Butter, Deko aus halbierten Cocktailtomaten und einer Kerze, gebastelt aus einem Deckel mit Pflanzenöl und Docht aus Holz. Das war wirklich total lieb! 😊
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  • Day35

    Tour durch die Mongolei - Tag 7

    October 5, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    An diesem Tag ging die Fahrt weiter gen Süden. Die weiten Landschaften in der Mongolei sind wirklich beeindruckend. Auch die große Anzahl an Tieren ist bemerkenswert, da ja die Landschaft doch so feindlich erscheint. Wir sahen kleine Nagetiere (vermutlich Millionen), Pferde, Rinder, Ziegen, Schafe, Adler, Geier, Bussarde und andere Vögel sowie Kamele.
    Nach der Ankunft im nächsten Camp und dem nächsten leckeren Mittagessen, brachen wir zur Wanderung zu den Flaming Cliffs. Dort verbrachten wir den ganzen Nachmittag und warteten auf den schönen Sonnenuntergang.
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  • Day38

    Tour durch die Mongolei - Tag 10

    October 8, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    Nach dem Frühstück fuhren wir nun weiter Richtung Osten. Das Mittagessen genossen wir diesmal auf dem Feld, was immer ziemlich schön war. 😊 Es gab Schweinefleisch mit Kimchi (koreanisches Nationalgericht) - sehr lecker! 😋
    Tagsüber sind die Temperaturen auch immer ziemlich angenehm, nur nachts wird es ziemlich kalt...
    Der nächste Stopp war der sogenannte „Ice Canyon“, da in diesem Canyon an der schmalsten Stelle das Eis erst im August geschmolzen ist... Sogar bei uns gab es kleine Flecken Eis ❄️ zu entdecken. Außer Eis konnten wir auch sehr viele Pikas (Pfeifhasen) sowie Steinböcke sehen. Nach der Wanderung durch den Canyon fuhren wir in ein Seitental um dort unser Lager für die Nacht aufzuschlagen. Wir übernachteten diesmal in Zelten und mit zwei Schlafsäcken und vielen Schichten Klamotten (und Vodka 😉) ging es auch mit den eisigen Temperaturen.
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  • Day113

    Mongolia's many faces

    July 1, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    What do you have in mind when thinking about Mongolia?
    For me, it was mainly open spaces and plenty of horses. Every little girl's dream coming true, simply galopping through beautiful landscape. (Though to be honest, so far I've only seen boys and men on horses...).
    Tom thought about vast open spaces as well, but dreamt more about the off-road routes than the horses.
    Both expectations have been met, but there is so much more!
    Plenty of open spaces for sure, featuring varying landscapes. Rocky desert, sand dunes, dry river beds, ice canyons ("yolin am" still had a bit of ice in it when we visited end of June. During some years, the ice never vanishes, despite it being in the middle of a desert.). Lots of nothingness, dotted with the occasional ger (Mongolian yurts that can be moved as needed), housing herds of different animals. We've seen horses, cows, sheep, goats, camels and even one guy with a few pigs (very rare as pig isn't eaten here). Apparently there is also only one chicken farm in all of Mongolia (they might be difficult to keep through winter?) hence we haven't seen any so far.
    But we've also seen beautiful Mongolian guard dogs (from the safe distance of our car as these guys are well trained to safeguard and you don't want to get too close without the owner around).
    Flies and mozzies have been rare so far, but we've been told that will change once we're close to lakes.
    As it's spring time there are plenty of young animals and I can't get enough of watching them roaming around freely with their mums. I can also get equally obsessed with watching a tiny lizard in the desert. It's like watching "Planet Earth" in real life.
    So much to see, so little to do. Without any source of water to cool down (we now realise how spoilt we were in Russia), our campsites are chosen fairly randomly, allowing us to hike or bike a bit, but mostly simply marvel at the landscape. Taking in the nothingness.
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  • Day21

    Day 2 in the Gobi

    September 15, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    It’s Saturday so day two in the Gobi and we spent the morning driving from Camp 1 to Camp 2 across the Steppe. Now many people think that the Gobi is a desert of all sand, like the Sahara, however the Gobi is a mixture of sand, grass Steppe and mountains, the latter two of which provide us with the backdrop to this mornings drive.

    The whole three hour journey is off road on gravel or dried mud tracks and we come across herds of goats, a large herd of horses running across us and some more horses being herded by motorcycle (which happens often here). We also saw our first camels, with the local variety being Bactrian’s which have two humps. All of these animals roam freely although they are all owned by somebody, somewhere and will be branded or marked in some unique way. Dwellings are at a minimum this morning with once again occasional nomadic Gers dotting the landscape.

    Our most interesting find today was a remote watering station pumped by a generator where a herdsman was watering his horses. NK spoke to the herdsman and he has three horse herds which exist as separate units each under the control of one Stallion. We watched as the three large groups took it in turn to water, with one group moving in to the trough immediately one group withdrew. The Stallions do not get on and there were a couple of brief sparring sessions whilst the watering process took place.

    We arrived at Camp 2 around 1pm and as it was 4 hours since breakfast (the maximum time allowed between meals apparently) they presented us with a huge lunch of salad starters and a full Chinese meal for main. This Camp is similar to the last in layout but more remote and we look across the Steppe to the horizon on all four sides. Our Ger is also much the same as previous. The weather is again blue sky and sun but it is very, very windy and by the time we reach Camp quite difficult to walk against. The animals and people here have a tough life.

    We always eat at a table for four with NK and Choijo, with the former having an appetite beyond what we’ve ever seen before. He eats things in an interesting order too, e.g. breakfast can be bread and jam, followed by a cream cake, then bacon, sausage and egg with a milk and cereal completion. At some point in each meal he advises us that he is so full he can’t possibly eat any more, then 5 minutes later is piling up his plate again. This process is repeated until every plate on the table is empty. He then disappears to have a few cigarettes.

    This afternoon we head to two locations near to our Ger Camp. The first was a forest, something extremely rare in the Gobi. Although it is called a forest the unique Saxaul trees are actually only about six feet in maximum height but they have roots that go 20 yards under the ground to the water level. This is the biggest collection of trees in the Gobi at 5 x 1 miles in size.

    Straight after this we head to the Flaming Cliffs which are a dramatic collection of sand/rock formations which are famous for reflecting the setting sun. We have to spend around 30 minutes walking over a narrow ridge across the top of the cliffs to get the best sight lines of the spectacular vista. At points this is quite precarious, particularly due to the gale force wind blowing that hits us whenever we reached points that don’t have any cover. Definitely a ‘bum twitcher’ at times due to the sheer drop on one side. Health & Safety would never have allowed this walk back home.

    This site is famous for one of the World’s most important discoveries of dinosaur bones, eggs and fossils by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews firstly in 1922 with further discoveries in subsequent years.

    The views were memorable but we were glad to return to lower terrain and then Camp 2 for sunset, moonrise, dinner and bed. It’s been a good day.
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  • Day24

    Goodbye Gobi

    September 18, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    Our last day in the Gobi, Monday, was a relatively easy one as we had no specific activities planned and the main event was to complete our circuit with a 5 hour drive from Camp 3 back to Camp 1, leaving at 8am.

    Apart from the last half hour this was off-road and a tough drive for Choijo over difficult, mainly gravel, terrain. It needs full time concentration particularly with some challenging dry river bed crossings to negotiate. Our vehicle is just about OK for the conditions (it’s not 4x4) and each bone shaking journey is fine but most definitely bumpy. As always here there are no shortage of things to look at, Nomadic camps, livestock, herders, mountains etc. We stop every hour or so for a ten minute break, where Janet and I stretch our legs whilst NK and Choijo enjoy a quick fag!

    By the way our mobile internet has surprisingly worked well across the Gobi as long as we don’t use video data and it’s allowed us to keep the blog running to time. A little bonus we found on the internet today was some information about our Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Camouflage Wearing Ibex Blasting Asshole from California (think there’s a song title there somewhere!) Larry. His calling card alerted us to the fact that he owns a Real Estate business (ironically it should be legal to shoot them) and a web search showed that he had been a very naughty boy in 1998 (aged 45) when he was caught smuggling Cuban cigars into the USA through San Francisco airport (a definite no no). The Newspaper report covered the fact that authorities had him under surveillance as he had previous offences in this area having been caught transporting them back before and posting quantities of them to friends whilst travelling to Mexico. Apparently he was buying them for $5 and selling them for $40. The report was mid-Court case and said he could face up to 2 years in jail but we couldn’t find the outcome. Let’s assume he got banged up!

    Anyway back to Mongolia and we woke at 6am on Tuesday for our Hunnu flight to UB, which was scheduled for 8.20, but actually departed 20 minutes early, which nearly caught us out as all of the hold luggage was already on board when we arrived. When we got to the airport we said a fond farewell to NK and Choijo who have been fantastic companions over the four days. The former, as our guide, has perfect English, however our driver spoke not a word but we all managed to communicate effectively and had a good laugh throughout. As we took off they were starting the long journey back and were hoping that they could be back to UB in about 12 hours with the journey, fortunately, all on tarmac roads.

    We are sad to leave the Gobi but are so pleased to have had the opportunity to see a unique and wonderful place, steeped in traditions virtually unchanged for centuries. Mongolia has a huge land mass, being the 18th largest country in the World. It has a population of just 3 million people, 1.5 million of who live in the Capital, UB, a big city not dissimilar to any modern bustling metropolis in the Western World.

    However away from UB there are 1.5 million people including 230,000 herding families who make up a huge percentage of the rural population and many of these are nomads like the ones we encountered yesterday.

    Livestock numbers in Mongolia are quite staggering and in last years audit numbered 84 million in total, made up almost exclusively of 38 million Sheep, 35 million Goats, 5 million Horses and 5 million Cattle.

    We have never seen a country split so definitively between City dwellers and the countryside inhabitants (they have absolutely zero in common apart from being Mongolian) but fortunately the sheer volume of established self-sufficient livestock herding families should ensure that their traditions are able to survive for several more generations. We really hope so.
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  • Day68

    Wo die Dinosaurier wohnten

    October 23, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☁️ -2 °C

    Weiter fahren wir auf Feldwegen und Sandpisten in Richtung Süden. Unser nächster Halt sind die Flamming Cliffs (Bayan Zag) . Das sind rote Formationen aus Erde und rotem Sandstein. Hier wurden viele Dinosaurierskelette gefunden. Er sieht ein bisschen aus wie der Grand Canyon in sehr klein.
    Wir übernachten in einem die Touristenattraktion gewöhnlich umgebenden Ger Camps. Wir bitten um genug Holz, da es in den Morgenstunden in den Jurten sehr kalt wird, während es Abends, wenn der Ofen in der Mitte angeheizt ist es eher einem indianischen Schwitzzelt gleicht. Das liegt daran, dass es sich um Metallöfen handelt, die kaum Wärme speichern können und auch die Jurte nur geringfügig isoliert ist. So empfiehlt es sich Nachts das Feuer immer wieder zu nähren, da das Thermometer unter den Gefrierpunkt fällt.
    Weiter geht es durch die Wüste in Richtung des nächsten Highlights. Auf dem Weg halten wir regelmäßig in kleinen Orten, die sich hervorragend für einen Western eignen würden. Es gibt immer einen verstaubten Platz in der Mitte, der von Minimarkets, einer Bank und einem Restaurant umgeben ist. Da die Saison schon vorbei ist, kann unser Fahrer nur mit Mühe die Restaurantbesitzer überreden für uns zu kochen.

    In den Minimarkets gibt es jede Menge auch deutsche Snacks aber nur selten Obst und Gemüse. Frisches ist in den abgelegenen Wüstennestern eben ein seltener Luxus.
    Als Dienstleistung wird Duschen für umgerechnet einen EUR angeboten, was in dieser wasserarmen Region ein Luxus ist und in den Ger Camps nur selten angeboten wird.

    Samuel ist wegen seines Aussehens eine Art Promi. Die Leute machen zusammen mit den eigenen so anders aussehenden Kindern Fotos oder wollen ihn auf den Schoß nehmen. Die Mädchen erfahren weniger Beachtung obwohl insbesondere Madlin viel lieber bereit wäre Fotos zu machen als Samuel.
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  • Day70

    Sanddünen im Schneesturm

    October 25, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☀️ -4 °C

    Unser nächstes Ziel ist eine riesige bis zu 300 m hohe und 280 km lange Sanddüne.
    Die Landschaft ist extrem kontrastreich, da direkt vor der Sanddüne ein Fluss in einem sumpfartigen Gelände verläuft. Der feine Sand begeistert uns und wir genießen es ihn durch die Hand rieseln zu lassen. Als wir im Sonnenuntergang zurück zum nahegelegenen Ger Camp gehen bietet sich uns ein einmaliges Farbspiel: Hinter uns die gelbe Düne gegenüber die roten und wo die Sonne nicht mehr hinscheint blauen Berge und unter uns die grüne Steppe.
    Zum Glück haben wir den Abend genutzt, denn der nächste Tag ist kalt, bewölkt und windig.
    Zuerst machen wir einen kleinen Ausritt auf Kamelen und schließen die gutmütigen, genügsamen Tiere sofort in unsere Herzen.
    Wir kämpfen uns mit viel Mühe teilweise auf allen Vieren auf einen hohen Gipfel der Düne und hören das berühmte Singen der Düne: ein tiefer Laut ähnlich einem Didgeridoo, das durch herunterrieselnden Sand entsteht.
    Als wir aber erschöpft wieder unten ankommen sind unsere Kleidung und Körper voller Sand, der uns noch Tage begleitet.
    Als wir am nächsten Morgen aus dem Fenster schauen ist alles weiß und ein eiskalter Wind weht.
    Da wir uns die ganze Zeit auf ca. 2000 m Meereshöhe befinden ist Schnee im Oktober aber nicht unüblich.
    Leider ist durch den Schneeeinbruch unser nächstes Ziel, eine Schlucht in den Bergen nicht erreichbar und wir fahren in die Kleinstadt Dalanzadgad, wo wir in einem Hotel unterkommen. Wir genießen den Luxus einer heißen Dusche und eines warmen Zimmers und schauen dem weihnachtlichen Schneetreiben vom Fenster aus zu. Zu unserer Überraschung sprechen die Hotelbesitzer gut deutsch. Sie haben beide mehrere Jahre in Deutschland bzw. Österreich gelebt und sich auch dort kennengelernt bevor sie vor zehn Jahren zurück gekommen und das Familienhotel weitergeführt haben. Wir müssen uns erst daran gewöhnen wieder deutsch zu sprechen und verfallen aus Versehen immer wieder ins Englische.
    Sie erzählen uns einige interessante Dinge: Die Stadt floriert wegen des nahegelegenen Kohleabbau und Kinder gehen nachmittags oder vormittags in die Schule. Es gibt also zwei Schichten, so dass sich ihre Tochter und ihr Sohn unter der Woche kaum sehen, da sie unterschiedliche Schichten haben.
    Am nächsten Tag ist, wie fast immer in der Mongolei, wieder strahlend blauer Himmel und wir fahren durch die glitzernde Winterlandschaft weiter.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Ömnögovi Province, OEmnoegovi Province, Ömnögovĭ, Yuzhno-Gobiyskiy Aymak

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