Unusual Experiences in Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China 11 Days Itinerary : Days 1-3

20th Mar 2015
Photo of Unusual Experiences in Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China 11 Days Itinerary : Days 1-3 by deepanshu garg

When we think of the Gobi desert, we immediately think of the golden sand dunes, which we would like to tread barefoot. We can say that our trip to Mongolia was rich in adventures. The Gobi Desert was the first big stop on our road trip in Mongolia. We discovered its many facets with its snow-capped mountains, huge sand dunes, and flaming red canyons.

The Gobi is first and foremost a desert and we have to travel several hundred kilometers on barren roads before reaching one of its wonders. Fortunately, we had a great team, and the hours spent in our 4x4 van do not seem so long. Moreover, our way of traveling is really nice.

We take the time to live and our guide, our cook and our driver pamper us by preparing tasty meals and always good. Let's be one of the lucky few who does not eat lamb meat every day! So we ended up doing our own sushi or fries in the middle of the desert and it was excellent!

As we say right now, this is not what you read when browsing this article. We could have rented a 4x4 and the services of a local guide, in order to get lost in these spaces to live a tailor-made high-marked adventure.

Moreover, to be quite honest and not hide anything, I probably would have appreciated. During my second trip to the Mauritanian Sahara, I had the chance to camp for a week in small oases with a guide. He knew at his fingertips these tracks in the sand, invisible to any foreign tourist. I still keep an indelible memory today.

This time, however, it was otherwise. Our tight budget and a strong desire to go off the beaten track have won over these images of postcards, which we had in spite of ourselves in mind. Finally, except for the stifling heat, our crossing of the Gobi desert trek proved to be perfect, or almost.

Day 1 - Moscow

I start this notebook in the sky, somewhere above the clouds, in the direction of Moscow, where we have to stop before leaving for Ulaanbaatar. The plane has just made a detour to get around a storm, but we still cross a small area of disturbances. A few hours later another storm prevents us from landing in Moscow. We are shooting in the sky. But no, we finally land! In a few minutes, the Russian officials, straight in their boots, refuse us access. There are fragrances from the former Soviet Union.

We wait 24 hours locked in the airport, with no exit in Moscow. We are still provided with a small room, after 3 hours at the aptly-named mini hotel. We go share a lean salad! We have not yet set foot in Mongolia but the trip is already full of meetings.

I have always been surrounded by unrepentant travelers who took me to all corners of the world! And that's how I went to lost places where I would never have imagined setting foot in the deserts of Syria, along the precipices of the Caucasus, on the Korean islands, and in the Brazilian jungle.

At 3 am in Moscow my sleep breaks in the middle of the night, as it's already dawn. The question turns me vaguely in the head in my half-sleep. Why is it day in the middle of the night?

I think at first that it's about the lights of the airport. Then I remember it's June and not much closer in the Arctic Circle. The dark night is not here. I write these lines without a lamp, just in the light of the night. I have not slept all night, because of the Russian polar night.

Photo of China by deepanshu garg

Day 2 - Ulaanbaatar

We could not get our luggage, and we obviously have no toothbrush or anything. We finally took off past Siberia. We took a flight to Beijing where we had a 4-hour stopover. We followed the twilight, leaving at 7 pm from Beijing. We arrive at 10 pm in Ulaanbaatar, but at no point in the journey have we fallen into darkness.

The evening light simply replaced the morning light. This phenomenon always fascinates me when traveling to Central Asia or the Far East. I write this notebook again in the middle of the night, but in the light of a dawn in the sky.

As expected, we found our friend at the airport and took the same flight to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Our friend had already arrived the day before and was waiting for us in the youth hostel. Our flight to Ulaanbaatar was long because we waited 1 hour before taking off. Only we did not land because the pilot of our plane felt that there was too much wind.

An announcement was made on the plane to warn us that we were returning to Beijing. So we have 6 hours of waiting at the airport. We finally boarded the plane to Beijing and landed at Ulaanbaatar 12 hours after our initial arrival time. Fortunately, our guide was waiting for us at the airport and took us to the hostel.

We first went for a walk in the Ulaanbaatar town market, where our guide bought food and showed us the traditional clothes of the country. Then we drove to the Terelj National Park where we had our first yurt experience. The nomad family shares with us the traditional camel milk tea accompanied by dry cakes.

We also taste their famous Genghis Khan vodka, that Mongolians drink, without any diluent! We were prepared for a road trip in a Russian van, accompanied by our cook, guide and our driver.

Day 3 - Gobi Desert

At 4am, I woke up because of a flashlight. Someone was standing in the yurt. As the light went out as soon as I moved, it was obvious that someone had entered our yurt, though not very big. We had several valuables, including wallet, passport, and our iPad. We continued our road trip by redoubling our vigilance.

We headed south to reach the northern Gobi Desert. The road is long and deserted and there is nothing except some yurts here and there. The vegetation cannot grow on such arid land and the wind is at times violent. The guide explained to us that in the south of Mongolia it rains only once a month and this day is the happiness of the few inhabitants.

Then we descend into the heart of the Gobi Desert, where we saw many camels, wild horses, goats, some foxes, vultures and white marmots. Fortunately, our van is off-road because the roads are often steep and it happens to our driver to take shortcuts in stony paths. We walk to the top of the highest desert dune to admire the sunset.

For the night, we meet the Mongolian family who provides a yurt for us. The yurt is very modern and even equipped with TV and wifi. There is a stove in the middle of the room, and dry camel dung to fuel the fire! We would like to talk to families, but so far none of them spoke an English word. It's a bit frustrating for us, but we're watching their way of life with a lot of curiosity.

Our guide gives us a lot of explanations about the traditions. In the evening, we go to a bar in a small town in the Gobi desert. We had a great time that allowed us to forget our misadventures!

Photo of Unusual Experiences in Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China 11 Days Itinerary : Days 1-3 by deepanshu garg
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