Sunday, August 17, 2008

Khongor Sand Dunes

After a very long ride from our first stop (oh, did I forget to mention, outside of the UB, there aren't really roads. Or signs. So the drivers really need to know where they are going. And as great as our driver, Bor, was, we definitely seemed to get lost on more than occasion), we headed to the Khongor Sand Dunes.

First activity on the list was a camel ride. We got to the nomadic family who owns the camel herd right after another tour group, so we had to wait a while with the family for them to finish. It was extremely warm out, so we were welcomed into one of the family's gers, where we were given agir, fermented mare's milk, and homemade cheese and biscuits.

The fermented mare's milk tastes kind of like sourish yogurt. Its ok, but not my favorite. Then we sat around and watched some Naadam wrestling on the tv, since they had a solar panel and satellite dish. They even had a washing machine sitting out on their "front lawn". We also got to see the daughters milking the mares - they bring a foal over to its mother and have them start nursing, and then pull the foal away and milk the mare. By this point, the camels were on their way back and we hopped on the camels for a fun ride around the base of the sand dunes.

We headed back to the camp for lunch and a rest for the afternoon since it was really hot in the sun. We planned to wait for the late afternoon for a hike on the sand dunes, but when we peaked out of our gers after a nap, it was clear that we weren't to be making our hike. A yellow/brown cloud was heading quickly towards our camp from the west, and we hid out in the dinning room while it blew past.

Since we missed the hike the evening before, we decided to get up early and hike the sand dunes before breakfast. This ended up being great timing because the sandstorm had some significant rainfall accompany it, so the dunes had a layer of wet sand on top, making it much easier to walk on. Also, being early in the morning, it was a lot cooler than it would have been the day before. That said, by the time we half way up, the sand had dried out a lot and it was incredibly painful to reach the top since the sand fell away with every step. We made it though and it was just gorgeous at the top. Sand dunes for miles in either direction, and on the other side of the dunes, the Kazakh mountain range stretched on. Coming down was a ton of fun because the sand just slid away with every step. Sam took a great video of how easy it was to run down.

+ More photos of the sand dunes
+ All Mongolian photos
+ And photos from my brother, dad and Sam

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