Mongolia, with Josh and group.
A ten day trip with Josh, Crystal, Susana, Ward(for a day), Ochiro our awesome guide, and Ganba our comedic driver.
The first thing we learned in the city is that more than a third of the countries entire population lives here. The next thing I noticed was large scale construction of apartment buildings everywhere, as I learned that the country is trying to get everyone away from living in Gers and burning coal as it is a big pollution problem for the city. Still, the city has some very nice areas and things to see. The central square was quite large and had a nice statue of Genghis Khan [actually pronounced Chinghis Khan]. We saw some monasteries, enjoyed the National Museum of Mongolian History, and enjoyed a great view of the city from the Zaisan Hill War Memorial. The last thing before we left the city was go to the amusement park, and for only $7got to go on 5 rides. Being a weekday evening the park was almost deserted, but everything was still running and we had a great time.
The next day we took a small airplane down south to the Gobi desert. After a quick stop at the Gobi museum, we started hiking down the valley as it started to rain. Yet even with the rain, the cliffs were beautiful and the rodents were running about. I got ahead of the group and went a bit further than the usual turn around spot and the guide had to come chase me down. That night we spent our first night in a Ger camp.
Khongor Sand Dunes:
Maybe one of my favorite parts of the trip was the camel ride to the sand dunes and the hike up the near vertical face of them. By the time everyone else made it to the top we had a great view of the sunset.
Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs):
Made famous in the 1920s when American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews found a lot of dinosaur fossils and made the first discovery of fossilized dinosaur eggs. It was a very interesting place to hike around, take pictures, and pretend to look for fossils. In the evening when the sun goes down the cliffs do glow red and look like they are on fire.
Actually temple ruins. Once a large Buddhist temple complex straddling the river, it was destroyed in 1939 when the communists took control of Mongolia. After we walked through and toured the area I took off on my own to go on a little hike to the top of the nearest peak. That evening at the Ger camp there was a very nice traditional costume show where even our guide got all dressed up.
Driving on mostly unpaved roads to our next location I realized how large the Gobi desert was. Along with the surrounding steppe there was a lot of driving and downtime in the car, which we did fill a lot with car games and music. The city of Karakorum where the monastery is located was the old capital of the Mongolian empire, but again not much is left. The current monastery and accompanying museum was still an interesting cultural visit.
A large freshwater lake with some nice lake activities. There was an archery area. We all took a boat ride and did some fishing. A Northern Pike followed my lure to the boat but decided not to bite. We went on a fun banana boat ride and did some swimming in the lake. We had fish for dinner while watching the sunset over the lake.
Hustai National Park:
We took a short horse ride when we arrived at the park, but the main attraction here was going to see the Takhi, the wild horses native to the area.
Terelj National Park:
Maybe my second favorite place on the trip because.. trees, in fall colors, and mountains. The beauty of the area was such a very different view than what we had been seeing in the Gobi desert. We visited a monastery in the mountains and a rock formation that looks like a turtle. I also took an early morning hike to not quite the top of the mountain behind our camp.
Back to Ulaanbataar:
We had one last day in the capital for some shopping, to visit the dinosaur museum, play some games at an arcade, eat Mongolian BBQ, and watch a concert complete with throat singing, dancing, and contortionists. An amazing end to an amazing trip.
See all the pictures here: