After my third day in Ulaanbataar I managed to meet up with a Scottish couple called John & Alison and Swiss brother and sister John & Rachel. Together we decided to head out on a 9 day tour that would take us deep into the gobi desert, loop back to Ulaanbataar through central Mongolia and take in all the sights of the surrounding areas. Our ride was a old Soviet Russian van that could literally go anywhere and was built like a tank, it was definitely built with strength in mind rather than comfort! Accompanying us on our journey was Nima our male driver and Colon ‘yes as in part of the large intestine!’ our female cook/guide. However it soon became apparent that Colon’s only english was “we eat here” , “we sleep here” and “now go”! she meant well though.
As we headed south out of Ulaanbataar it began to snow and get very cold. This is what I was after I really wanted to see snow in Mongolia, but the snow was short lived and as we drove deeper into the gobi the snow began subside and the temperature in the van began to rise as did the petrol fumes from the stacks of full jerry cans behind us. After driving for hours in the vast emptiness of a landscape on the worst roads I have ever experienced we eventually stopped for lunch. Nima pulled the van over and Colon tells us “we eat here”. When we opened the doors to go and explore this vast emptiness we would soon be dining in and more importantly take a much needed piss. We were pretty much blown off our feet by freezing gale force winds that blow in all directions. The sun was scorching hot but the wind was bitingly cold and taking a piss in it was more than a little challenging! We ate our lunch of soup and mutton dumplings in the safety of the van and when done carried on into the vast empty landscape. Occasionally we would see the odd Ger in the distance and huge herds of goats, sheep and horses grazing on whatever vegetation the poor sod’s could find in a landscape with a clear deficiency of the colour green!
Eventually we arrived at the family her camp we would be staying at after driving for what seemed like an eternity. When Nima turned off the ignition Colon piped up for the first time since lunch and announces “we sleep here” We all piled out and were greeted by a guy wearing traditional mongolian clothing who showed us to the ger we would all be staying in and proceeded to light the fire in the centre of the ger. The ger began to warm uo nicely and Colon brought us our dinner of pasta type noodles with mutton and potato that had been made by the family. After dinner we took in the space around us, it was a vast open space with only little shrubs and the odd bit of long grass growing out of the rocky ground in the distance were some mountains that were turning a gorgeous pink colour in the setting sun. As the light began to fade the family brought in there horses and goats to be near to the gers and the stars began to shine, I have never seen stars like this before, with no light pollution at all you could literally look into space and see the milky way, there were shooting stars everywhere and visible satellites overhead!
In the morning we had a simple breakfast of bread and jam and were then told “ok go” by Colon as she herded us into the van. We then began our journey of monotonous driving further into the desert. This soon became the daily pattern and don’t get me wrong the driving was monotonous and quite unenjoyable, but I found myself transfixed on the view through the window. We really were in the middle of nowhere and nowhere was fucking huge! I have never seen a space so empty before, I would see the odd sign that would say ‘trees are our future’ but I was still yet to see any trees! The other crazy thing was I have no idea how our driver Nima knew the way to go as we weren’t driving on roads but dirt tracks going across the emptiness. These tracks went all over the place crisscrossing each other and none of them were signposted and Nima was definitely not using a satnav or gps. In short the daily pattern was to get up have breakfast drive for a copious amount of hours then stop for lunch in a place of natural beauty and have a nose around then drive for another copious amount of hours to a ger camp situated in a place of natural beauty where we spend the night and repeat the whole process in the morning.