21 Days In Mongolia

Day 6:

I woke up with the fullest bladder ever (as I had drunk lots of water to get rid of the sore throat that had been creeping up on me yesterday). However, my throat was even worse and my nose was blocked. This, in a way, was a good thing as it made me (and Andy) get up as although this was our first 2 night camp and therefore we could lay in, Andy and I wanted to catch the dunes in a good early morning light. So at 7.30am we got up and left camp at 8.05am to climb the sand dunes.  On our walk towards the dunes (about 500m) we could see Diana coming down. We smiled to ourselves as we realised that only Diana had obviously got up for sun rise and everyone else was still asleep in their tents, apart from us..

We passed Diana and she told us the route up she had taken. It was a hard walk, as we were both reasonably unfit, but definitely worth it. It was fairly windy but not cold. The low light from the sun, cast amazing shadows over the massive dunes.  When we got to the peak of one of the front, lower dunes we could see for miles.  We decided to continue to the top of a steep dune in front of us and walked along a ridge of sand but at the very top I had to get on my hands and knees as the sand was giving way…plus the fact my legs were tired. From the top of the dunes we could see the other side and what met us was a landscape of even more dunes that went on for miles and that hadn’t been visible from the camp.  We spent a fair bit of time up on the dunes before deciding to come back down. As we did so, the rest of camp were up and eating a late breakfast (about 11am) of french toast so two hungry dune climbers who had taken a couple of cereal bars up the dunes with them, couldn’t have been welcomed by a better sight.

About 11.30am the majority of the camp went off up the dunes (what do they say about only mad men and English men and the midday sun….although this time it was not only the English).  Therefore, Andy and I spent a very quiet and relaxing afternoon. We slept, repacked our ruck sacks, read, watched the drivers mend and clean the vans and did nothing really. We could always see the dots that were the rest of the group, walking along the top of the dunes.  Later on in the afternoon, Anita, Antoinette, Andy, Solongo and myself walked over to one of the local gers to meet with a local family.  In Mongolia, basically all people are made welcome if they arrive at a ger. It was good that Solongo came with us as she translated for us and was able to translate the questions and answers between the family and ourselves.

We were offered the traditional fermented mares milk that tastes a little like salty natural yogurt and also some hard biscuit like bread and cheese. Everything is very salty and is not welcomed by most western palates, although there were a few of the group who could eat or drink what was offered at various places, not that they necessarily enjoyed it.  We asked questions about the family, the ages of the children how they managed to keep their ger so clean when it was so dusty outside. The mother of the house gave the same answer as any mother of any house "through hard work”.  This family had 3 children aged 4, 6 and 9.  The boy of 4 had just had his hair cut for the first time (tradition) two days before.  We made our goodbyes and walked back to the camp.

When we arrived back, the others were down from the dunes and we talked about where they had climbed. In the early evening, it began to turn cool and the group went on an one hour camel ride along the edge of the dunes. Paul had arranged this earlier with a local family who lived in a ger not far from our camp and had a large group of camels.  The sunset from camel back was great. The ride was enjoyable but I couldn’t help feeling it was touristy – even though we were probably the only westerners for miles and miles.  Diana, being the super fit one of the group, climbed to the top of the dunes again for sunset and to capture the light for the photos.

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