Walking on the DuneSeptember 16 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.Read more