Driving in the Gobi is rough. Our Russian jeep has no seatbelts so it’s just super bouncy as we rumble along the dirt roads. Most of the way isn’t even an actual road but a collection of jeep tracks all heading the same direction. Bahggy the driver speeds along the flat areas and then suddenly slows or stops when a ditch comes along that needs navigating. It’s wild and tough, but today both kids amazingly fell asleep for part of our 4ish hours from the mountains to the sand.
The desert isn’t all sand. In fact it seems that most of this portion is just rocks. There is a thin layer of wild onion growing in the gravel which gives the plac a greenish look across the miles. But really when you look at the ground it’s either gravelly rocks or just dirt and sand.
Eventually the huge rocky mountains gave way to a range of sand dunes out our left window. It got bigger and bigger until the dunes made up a gigantic mountain range if their own and the ground changed into all sand with clumps of prickly shrubs.
Bahggy stopped at a ger camp – a collection on 4 gers where tourists can pay to stay- near the dunes but not right at them. The kids woke and were so excited about the animals these folks herded: camels! After some confusion about where we could or couldn’t camp we figured out an awesome plan. From the ger camp owners we hired four camels to take us and our gear out to the dunes, drop us off and return tomorrow morning to pick us up. The ride was about 2 km. Zoe got her own camel, Avi road with Bryan, and I was on a camel in the back, followed by another camel carrying our stuff. We each had to carry the rope harness from the camel behind us to stay in line behind the kid guiding our first camel. It was awesome!!
Zoe and I laughed so hard at the last camel because she kept rubbing against my leg unless I was scratching her fuzz head. Camel heads are big, too!! It started to hurt my leg. We called her Sheila. Then my camel started rubbing in Zoe. It was so funny. We walked along the scrubby area and down a sizeable sand bank into a muddy creek and then up the other side until the scrub turned into sand.
Camels stink. They are cute and all but they fart all the time, poop down their legs and have horrid breath. At least these ones did; might have been their desert diet. When we arrived at the dunes, we wandered over a few small dunes to a nice flat spot with a bit of grass. As soon as we got there Sheila started rolling around like a dog scratching it’s back and farting all the while. So funny and nasty. It has now become a family joke that camels make the “pppbbbttt” (fart) sound, and anyone who also does so is like a camel.
Our day and night at the dunes has been my favorite time. There were dunes of all sizes for the kids to play, shady spots and a cloud cover so it wasn’t unbearably hot. We ran around, dug for water, built castles, climbed to the top, ran down, and got full of sand.
The kids have been amazing on these long bumpy car rides, and it was so fun to spend time just running around playing. We stayed up until dark, and after, playing our Uno card game in the tent and looking at the incredible star display.
Just after we got to sleep a motorbike came zipping around and Bryan went out to see what was happening – we are so far from anything it was weird! Well, our driver was worried about us! He sent the camel herding kid out with an English speaking guide from another tour group to check on us. It was a lady we would come to call Grandma! I guess Bahggy was scared of the wolves in the area. He said they are wild and bad sometimes, and called them “Zombie wolves”!!! We were fine and Grandma wasn’t worried. It was cute and funny that Bahggy was that concerned. He is a nice guy.
A wind storm came through at night, though. It was strong and pulled out one part of our staked tent fly. Easily fixed, but there was so much sand flying about that when I went out with the headlamp it just absorbed all my light. I could only see a few feet around myself. Felt very odd to be so dark. The storm got quite strong so as to really bend down the tent, but it held firm!
In the morning it was still breezy but not knocking us over anymore. The camels came to get us and we rode back to the ger camp. Bryan got to be his own camel train and led our pack camel by himself while I pulled Zoe’s camel and the guide pulled Avi and I. He really wanted to ride his own but was too little.
Dark clouds and thunder grew, and just as we returned, the rain broke free and drenched us. It was cold!! And fat drops! We ran for the van and waited out the storm.
Later Bahggy drove us down to the BIG dune – 300 meters high – and Bryan and I attempted to scale it. I gave up about half way, but Bryan made it further. Still not the top though, it’s huge!! Avi slept in the van and Zoe waited with him. She was tired and it was sunny and hot and windy….very desert feeling today.
When we got back to the ger camp the wind was picking up again and we needed a nap. Had Bahggy drive us out near the river we crossed on the camels, and drop us off with our junk. Both kids had fun playing in the river – more like a creek trickling through a riverbed – they floated stuff down and got their feet all wet. It was super shallow. Kind of grossed me out since we saw our camels pee and poop in it and there were a bunch if camels upstream slurping water.
The herders let their animals range free. There are no fences or anything, but the animals are rounded up in the evening.
After we tired of the river, we set up the tent and took a long afternoon rest! It was still so hot and windy when we woke. This is the oppressive desert I expected. We lucked out with such a mild day yesterday. Zoe spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the breezy tent. Avi and I explored the river again, but got so much sand in our eyes. We had fun tucking low behind sand banks to avoid the bluster and walking in the creek. He also loves to climb dunes and watch all the sand that falls behind him.
Bryan rested in the tent too, he has been having digestive issues these last two days. Though he did wander around and find some pottery! I wandered for a bit and found a bit of a sheltered spot, so we moved the tent and got dinner ready without much sand in it.
The evening was wonderful again. The wind died down a bit. Zoe spent hours playing in a sand dune that had a large beetle population. She built them a hotel and waterfall and spa. Avi dug holes and ran around and spent some time getting fun jumping pictures with me.
We watched the sun set from a dune perched above the river and the wind calmed. Had a great night sleeping in that spot, and Bahggy drove out to get us in the morning.