Days 22-23: Frozen Lake in the Gobi Desert
We found the Ger camp in the dark and asked for one of the yurts ($6). It was really cozy since the yurt was heated with a wood fire, and it felt so great to finally be out of the wind, cold and sand. There was so much sand everywhere! From our hair to our clothes, to our food bag, and every small crevice of everything!
We changed clothes and tried to brush off as much sand as possible, then cooked dinner and warmed up by the fire. In the morning, we drove over to the frozen lake by the dunes to watch the sunrise.
It’s truly incredible that even after almost 12 years of traveling, the Earth continues to surprise me with its beauty. A frozen lake in the desert and ice streams between mounds of grassy sandhills standing in front of 20 meter high sand dunes- who ever knew that that even existed? :D
We drove back to the yurt after sunrise and noticed some unhappy camels.
The ropes tied to their nose piercings were so short that they couldn’t lift their heads when they were standing up.
We also heard that one of the camels in the Ger camp was attacked and eaten by a wolf.
I wonder if that camel was tied up as well…
Of course, someone by the yurt came out and asked if we wanted to ride these camels. Neither Felix or I would ever want to contribute to the abuse or exploitation of animals, so we kindly said no, but I also thought about the reason that this situation exists in the first place..
Some camels are tied up and given the minimum that they need to live on, waiting for tourists to come around and ride them. This happens because it’s the easiest way for locals to make money. It’s all a part of the money game. And the problem is intensified by over-tourism, which is what inundates the Gobi Desert in the summertime. You can try to teach the locals all you want about why you should treat camels better, but the truth is, if you don’t remove the reason that abuse exists in the first place, you will have little chance of doing anything but patch work to improve the situation. This goes for all animals, forests, coral reef systems, and basically everything on Earth that’s suffering from human exploitation.
So, if you pay for a packaged deal, someone will most likely pick you up from Ulaanbaatar, drive you to the desert, show you all the most popular spots, and take you on a camel ride. You have no control over how the camel you paid to ride is being treated. If you say no to the camel ride, you still already pre-paid for the environment that keeps the camel pierced to a two foot rope.
…Then we hit the road back to Dalanzadgad.
We stayed in Baatar’s yurt one more night ($4), ate some khuushuur ($1), and found the public shower ($1). It was so nice to finally get the rest of the sand off our bodies :). We weren’t sure where we would go next; we thought about camping in the Yolin Am Canyon or the mountains by Dalanzadgad, but Baatar freaked us out a bit with all of his wolf stories. Apparently there are a lot of wolves in the Gobi.
Next thing you know, we hear a knock on our yurt and in comes a tall happy French guy named Bryan. We immediately bonded with our Mongolian travel stories and he invited us to the yurt next door.
In Bryan’s yurt there was also a Filipino guy who was riding a motorbike around Mongolia on his own- in November! Both Bryan and Zach were struggling a bit with the cold. Bryan slept alone in a tent, and sometimes had to stay up all night collecting horse poop to keep a fire going and not freeze to death. Zach would sometimes lose feeling in this hands while riding his bike in -20° or so. Both were really interesting people. Bryan actually managed to sort-of hitch through the desert. He met an Argentinian couple who had been traveling for six months on only $1,000, and they managed to bargain a cheap ride from from Bayandalai to the desert. I think they were dropped off there and then roamed around on their own for 10 or so days.
That’s the thing about traveling “off season”, you get to meet real travelers, not just tourists on vacation. Bryan started traveling when he was 15 and had some crazy stories. I can’t repeat them all but you can check out his site if you know French ;)
These guys also gave us some good advice about the canyon- they said, “DO IT!” :) They told us that it was very beautiful and that you should not be afraid of wolves because in Mongolia, there are only lone wolves, and a lone wolf would never attack a grown human, let alone two humans together.
So we packed up our stuff and got ready to hitch to the canyon in the morning.
Total expenses of Days 22-23 in Mongolia: $12.00
$10- yurt (2 nights)
$1- khuushuur (meet dumpling)
*We cooked almost all of our meals on a camping stove
Total expenses so far of 23 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):