…is that they tend to move a bit I guess. Mongolia doesn’t really have proper roads anyway, only dirt tracks across the steppe so on our way south our driver frequently had to stop at other Ger camps en route to ask for directions. I think the content of these conversations might have ran like this:
DRIVER: Hey is this where the Jones family live? (NB Mongolians don’t speak English and it is highly unlikely that the Mongolians were called Jones – I’m using artistic license)
1st Ger camp: No they moved three hundred miles that way [nomads point at some distant speck on the horizon]
DRIVER: Okay cool, I’ll drive that way
Some time later, 2nd Ger camp.
DRIVER: Hey do the Joneses live around here?
2nd Ger camp: Over that way 200 miles [points in another random direction]
In this manner we proceeded to zigzag our way across the great steppe of Mongolia, which looks uncannily like a big, bumpy, sandy lawn, which has been cut through with dirt tracks. That is until you reach the real Gobi, at which point enormous three hundred meter high sand dunes rear up out of the ground.
On the the first night we arrived at our Ger and were wondering how to occupy ourselves for the next few hours after sunset but before we slept. At this point the nomads uncovered a huge satellite dish, an ancient plastic black and white television and a car battery that had been charging off a solar panel all day long. I have no words to describe how impressed I was that they could get any kind of signal out in the middle of nowhere with only the most basic equipment. They must have spent an hour trying to tune the TV making minute changes to the dish and decoder but ultimately could get it tuned right.
We eventually reached the Gobi on the third day of driving south to be confronted by the dunes. We awoke one morning opened the Ger door only to have a small family of goats attempt to join in our breakfast. Using bar stools as battering ramps we pushed the recalcitrant goats back out of the tent (in the same tent we also discovered some sort of desert rat). We got one of the locals, a kindly only man with a deeply tanned face and James Brown rayban sunglasses, to make us a lunch before we headed up the dunes. It took a long time to make it up under the sandlanch which occurred with every step but we eventually made it up and looked out across the dune sea heading off into the distance towards China. It was the most Star Wars thing I’ve ever seen (a sight helped by the moonbase like structure of the Gers). Later on we rode evil smelling camels into the sunset (it is worth noting that the nomads make evil smelling camel cheese from the evil smelling camels).
I’m back in Ulaan Bataar now, having washed of the sand and the camel smells. I should make the Chinese border toward the end of the week. Maybe I’ll have time for another update before then