The Gobi Desert, Mongolia, July 2014


Sain bainu! My latest adventure finds me in Central Asia doing an overland trip across Mongolia. I’ll take you on the journey from the Southern Gobi Desert to the northern ‘taiga’ forests that border Siberia.
I’ve started my trek in the Gobi Desert. The terrain we’ve rolled across is a massive parched plain, pockmarked by gopher holes and covered with a stubble of whiskery grass. The land is vast and the skies are big. Some low mountain ranges line the landscape like the gnarled spine of the Gobi. Amongst them are hidden narrow gorges home to the lammergeier and the near mythical snow leopard. We hiked through Yolyn Am (Vulture Canyon) at nearly 2800m altitude where a near permanent sheet of ice (the ‘Gobi Glacier’) fills its floor in sections, melting away only briefly sometimes at the end of summer.
From ice then to blistering heat and shifting yellow sand dunes hundreds of metres high that we scaled at Khongoryn Els. Mongolia is very much about an attachment to the earth and the sky – dramatic landscapes shaped by a harsh climate.
Much of the Mongol population still lives as nomadic herders – their white, round felt-covered yurts dot the landscape surrounded by herds of sheep, goats and Bactrian (two humped) camels in the Gobi region to the south, and yaks in the north. It’s a country with few roads (we covered around 1700km on this trip with less than 300km on paved roads) and few trees. The grassy steppe stretches for eternity- the emptiness devoid of trees seems to emphasize the panorama.

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