We are now in the heart of the gobi at the giant 198 kilometre long sand dune and after being in Mongolia for only 10 days I have already found myself riding on a camel! Luckily this was only for a couple of hours to get us up to and on to the huge sand dune. I rode a camel for three days when I was in India and it took my arse crack another three days to recover from the extreme chaffing my cheeks endured! Once back from the desert with only nominal chaffege we ate yet another weird combination of meat pasta and potato and as none of us had thought of bringing any playing cards and with a lack of things to keep us entertained in the ger we stood outside watched the satellites go by and tried to decipher what constellations were up in the sky. The plough or as the Mongols call it ‘the horse’ was about the only one I knew, so while everyone showed of their astrological knowledge I grabbed my 50mm and tripod and began to photograph the milky way.
That night I was woken to the sound of Alison shouting “there’s animals in here!” I grabbed my torch and pointed it to where there was a definite rustling and sure enough there were animals in the ger. It was a gerbil that was rummaging through the box we were using as a bin and shot off under John’s bed. In the morning we found that our gerbil friend had returned in the night and helped itself to pieces of Alison’s toilet roll. When Swiss John woke up in a different bed to the one he had originally gone to sleep in he announced that he had woke up in the middle of the night to find a hamster knobling at his hair! Which was hilarious especially when he said knobling saying it exactly as you spell it!
Today is shower day so we are to drive towards some sort of civilisation born out of the recent mining boom where there will be shops a bath house and more importantly beer! It only took us 10 hours to get there. Along the way though I managed to see some very real nomads when we stopped for lunch in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere and a woman dressed in traditional mongolian clothing appeared over the brow of a hill riding a horse and herding what must of been 400 sheep and goats down the hill to the still green grass on the other side where a herd of camels were grazing. Whilst watching this a herd of horses came galloping in from the distance to join the amazing animals and graze on the scarce green grass.
All clean showered and stocked up on beers that we all desperately needed after the most challenging drive yet we headed back to our urban ger camp for dinner where Colon presented us with the usual concoction of pasta potato and mutton then surprised us with a pack of playing cards she had managed to find in the town. However she had the biggest surprise when we opened them and they all had pictures of naked women on them!
A few days later later we arrived at a place simply known as the waterfall and this was quite easily the most incredible landscape yet. It was a green fertile steppe surrounded by mountains and forest with a few ger’s spread around it where nomadic families had moved here for the winter. Slap bang in the middle of it was a huge ravine with a thundering waterfall at the end of it. The family we were staying with had a herd of yak’s and we had to sample all the yak milk products they had made. The yogurt was nice but the fermented Yaks milk from what I could gather was just another way of describing gone off yaks milk and tasted pretty vile!
We were to stay here for two days which was a relief for us all as the thought of driving for another day was going to be to much to handle. It did mean that we would miss a shower day, but we were given the option of taking a wash in the river. Being someone who never takes cold showers I declined the chance to bathe in the icy cold waters. John and Rachel on the other hand went for a swim in the bloody thing the crazy bastards! I know it gets cold in swizerland but surely they could of just waited one more day for a nice hot real shower! When I asked them how their swim was they told me its nice and warm when you get out because the water is so cold! So while everyone was out freezing there tits off in the river I gave myself a once over with a wet wipe and just finished in time as Colon our cook swung the door open to the ger just as I was putting my boxers on!
Well when we actually arrived at civilisation in another mining town called Arvaikheer the power was out! Meaning we had no shower! The town did have a beer shop though so in absence of a shower we all decided to get a bit pissed and play shit head with our porno playing cards. The fact the power was off didn’t really matter in the case of the beers as it was so bloody cold outside they didn’t need to be in a refrigerator.