Travelling In The Gobi A Vagabond Life
Gobi Desert Mongolia – Day One
Ulaanbator to Ich Nart Nature Reserve
Distance: 340 km Paved 240
Our journey into the Gobi Desert Mongolia started on a bitterly cold windy day in Ulaanbator (UB) – destination Ich Nart Nature Reserve in the Eastern Gobi in hope of seeing the endangered Ibex Goat and Argali Sheep.
For the first five days of our journey we would be travelling roads less travelled and visiting places very few people visit.
Our mode of transportation was a Russian UAZ – a kind of Russian Kombi van, initially we were a little sceptical at this ancient looking van but we came to understand that this car could and did go just about anywhere off road.
We were an hour late in leaving as dust storms had closed the main, or rather only, paved north / south road through the Gobi Desert. We eventually got going heading south east toward China climbing steadily from 4300 feet to 5400 feet. The views were treeless rolling hills with snow still laying in places and heaps of horses, sheep and goats roaming free, it was very cold.
We stopped along the way for lunch and toilet break at a road side cafe. Lunch was mutton with noodles – a dish we came to know very very well over the next 11 days.
Toilets are a bit of a rare thing in rural Mongolia, usually one makes the most of a rock or ditch but when you do encounter a toilet it is usually a long drop squat with 2 planks of wood for your feet and the wind whipping up from the hole beneath you, often the rock is a better option.
At 4pm & 200km into our journey we stopped for petrol and to investigate the alternator which seemed to be faulty. Gambaa whipped out a new alternator from the depths of the car replaced the faulty one and voila we were back on our way. It seems drivers here have to be able to repair anything on the fly.
At the 250km mark we turned off the paved road into the desert, we would not see another paved road for 5 days.
Originally we were to camp in the Gobi Desert on our first night however due to the high winds It had been decided that we would search for a Nomad family to spend the night with just outside the Nature Park. It is not uncommon for visitors to stay with Nomad families who in such a vast and desolate place are used to people arriving on their doorstep looking for shelter.
Finding a Nomad family to stay with was easier said than done. Due to drought many of the Nomads had not returned to this part of the Gobi or if they had they had only set up their small Gers. We spent an hour or so bumping along until we came across a family who said yes they would have us.
This young family ran horses, camels, and over 600 goats and sheep and lived in the traditional Ger that all Nomads live in. They took us in provided us with hot tea and soup with noodles and dried mutton, another dish we were to become very very familiar with.
At bed time they produced mats to sleep on and we all settled down for our first night in the Gobi and we fell asleep listening to the wind whistling around the Ger.
Such generous people, I couldn’t help and wonder what I would do if a van load of strangers turned up on my door step. I would like to think I was this generous but i somehow doubt it.
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