The town of Dalanzadgad (those last two syllables are kind of grunts) is small and scruffy, but it does have internet! I got a scruffy hotel room with a bathroom (cold shower) and then went exploring. Finding a restaurant in which to have lunch was difficult but after asking several people by making eating gestures, I finally found a tiny place (no sign) that was making and selling mutton dumplings which I had for my lunch. Later I found a real restaurant, but again, no sign and it was off from a shop that I just stumbled upon.
I went to Enkhe’s Guesthouse to see about a tour of the Gobi. Lucky me—she was just explaining a tour to a 30’s French couple who asked me to join them for a three-day tour by jeep and driver. Luckily for me, they are fluent in English as most younger Europeans are. The three of us shopped for groceries as there would be little or no food available for the three days.
We set off the next morning and drove to Yolyn Am where they were just beginning opening ceremonies for a tiny local Naadam. Small boys, in costume, were getting ready to wrestle and there were lots of horses, probably readying for a race.
We visited a small museum with dinosaur eggs and parts, as well as many stuffed animals and birds. This led to a lovely two mile hike along a stream through a dramatic gorge which fills with ice in winter up to 35 feet high and runs for six miles. Interestingly, in spite of the Gobi heat, there was still about four feet of ice in two small patches because of the high shear rock cliffs keeping out the sun.
The gorge ended at the ruins of the Gurj Lamlin monastery where workers were busy building a small Buddhist monument.
The scenery was superlative with that wide open blue sky with poofy clouds, then horses, camels, sheep and goats here and there, and in this location, beautiful hills overlooking a completely flat plain, still slightly green from more rain than usual this summer.
From here to our sleeping place—I, in a ger, and the French couple in their tent. They cooked pasta on their alcohol burner, and with creamish cheese spread on it, along with watermelon and potato chips, we had a satisfactory meal.
Using the car instead of oxen to move the ger—modern day Mongolia!
The next day we drove for a total of five hours stopping at midday for a stretch and lunch provided by a local woman for $1 each. She broke off several pieces of semi-dried mutton that were hanging from the ceiling of the ger. This, along with noodles and a bit of green vegetable made a soup—quite satisfactory, if a little muttony. We had milk tea to drink.
About 4:30 we reached the Khongoryn Els which are sand dunes up to 1000 feet high. The dunes form a narrow strip that collects in front of some mountains running for 10 km. I suppose the small range of mountains behind the dunes acts like a snowfence in Minnesota. When the wind blows the Gobi sand, it deposits it in front of the mountains. We climbed them—I only reached the first level but the French couple persevered all the way to the top and didn’t get back to the ger camp until it was dark and I was getting quite worried about them.
The proprietor of this ger camp ‘chatted’ with us, and using gestures told us that he had 60 sheep and goats, 30 camels, and eight horses. I watched them milking the mares, out of which milk they make airag by allowing the milk to become fermented. I tasted some—it’s quite pungent/sour tasting even when fresh, but its distinctive taste is probably one I could acquire.
The third day of the tour in the Gobi was spent driving to the Flaming Cliffs at Bayanzag where Roy Chapman Andrews did his 1920’s digs for Dinosaurs. They are spectacular! Red desert sand dug/formed into huge formations in a gigantic pit have technicolor shapes surrounded by a flat, now greenish plain and topped with the blue sky.
And yesterday, back to Dalanzagad, to my goofy hotel, but in a gentle rain! I hope the plane can land on the grass/sand runway today to take me back to Ulaan Baatar.