Mongolia, it’s time to clean our shovel*

After the rollercoaster in the west of Mongolia, we stayed a couple of days in Ulaanbaatar before leaving for the Gobi, which would be our final stop in this beautiful and big country. 
On Saturday the 14th of October, our driver Ogie picked us up at our appartement to take us to the Golden Gobi Hostel. 
There, we met our guide Zootla, David from Scotland and Daniel from the USA. Together, we would roam the desert roads for 8 days and 7 nights.
First stop of the trip was a monastery that was destroyed during the communist ideological campaign in Mongolia (one of many). Not so far from this monastery was a cave in which some of the monks would hide to save their lives. As the peak tourist season for the Gobi runs from June till September, most tourist camps had already closed and packed up by the time we started our tour 😊. So, for the first night, we were the guests of a lovely couple living close to the monastery and the caves. After dinner, we played a game of horse race with the ankle bones of a goat. Our host won, Remo came in second. 
 
On our second day, Remo and I started to realize how big the Gobi was. Travelling the Gobi means spending a lot of day hours inside the car. Not our favourite way of travelling but there is not really another option to explore this area. The pattern of our days all kind of looked like this; getting up, rushing to the bathroom (as no one wanted to get out of their sleeping bags at night), eating a royal breakfast cooked by Zootla, getting in the car, driving until we saw the first town, going to the shop and buying a huge amount of sweets and random bottles of red wine (we had a chocolate flavoured red wine), having lunch, driving towards the goal of the day. On day 2 the highlight was the Tsagaan Suvurga or the White Cliffs. A long time ago there was a lake at this spot, now we could walk around at the bottom of the cliffs.
Time for a shower and some culture on Day 3. After a visit to the bath house in Dalanzadgad we paid a visit to a museum somewhere in South Gobi. We saw some badly stuffed animals, a lot of spelling mistakes on the explanatory cards and fake Dinosaur eggs 😊. Really impressed, as it was our first and only museum in Mongolia. The day ended with us taking a walk through a beautiful gorge. 
 
The highlight of this trip, for us, was planned on day 4 & 5. After all these countless hours in the car we would arrive at the famous Sand Dunes of the Gobi. Yes! Although somewhat disappointed at first ( we imagined the whole area to be covered in sand), we truly enjoyed our stay there. They put us on a camel and had us take a ride for one hour. After 5 minutes everyone wanted to get off (mine was also burping the whole time) but we got used to it. And to top it all off we got to watch the sun set on top of a Sand

 Dune. Our guide didn’t really mention that we had to climb a steep Sand Dune first. We all started to climb enthusiastically but at a certain point it gets really depressing to see sand disappearing and moving every time you take a step. So we all arrived sweaty, exhausted and covered in sand. But it was just magical. 
As we left the natural highlight of the trip behind us, it was time for the 4 of us to each make one Mongolian dream come true 😊. For Remo it was drinking airag (fermented mare’s milk) & David just really wanted to milk an animal (didn’t really matter which one, as long as it was standing on 4 legs). So in order for that to happen, Ogie (our driver) arranged for us to stay at his brother’s place. So, after spending some time at the Flaming Cliffs (thé place where the first Dinosaur fossils in Mongolia were found) we drove to his brother’s place. Before agreeing to this plan, we didn’t really realize how far his brother’s ger was. At a certain point we thought that we were in a race! Ogie was constantly driving 80 km per hour on those Mongolian highways that are made out of dirt and potholes. I think I lost a couple of brain cells just because my head kept bumping into the roof of the car. Anyway, after sunset we arrived at his brother’s place where we were welcomed as important guests. We drank airag and ate the meat of a goat’s head. I think I ate a piece of his tongue. Looked like marshmallow but didn’t taste like it.
 
In the morning David got to milk the goats. He was happy as a hippo. After driving the whole day, we arrived at our last sleeping place for this tour. Our hosts were a young couple (they were both 23 years old) who had a baby of 4 years old. When I (Lisa) heard that they were making dumplings for dinner I didn’t hesitate a second to ask if I could help. Now, it was my turn to make my Mongolian dream come true 😊. Of course, they were the best dumplings I ever ate. 
 
Last but not least, on our final day it was Daniels turn to be the happiest person on earth. After 8 days of talking about & dreaming of Mongolian gerbils (a kind of hamster that lives in a hole and is really fast), he was able to photograph one 😊. Before going back to Ulaanbaatar we stopped at the holy mountain for Chinggis Khan. Perfect stop to take a moment and look back on our adventures. We loved everything about Mongolia, it’s land, it’s people & it’s history.
 
And that’s not only the end to our story in the Gobi but also the end to our story in Mongolia. We had a lot of fun on this tour, especially because of our company. But to be honest, the Gobi as a region did not win over our hearts (don’t think we would take the tour again if we knew what we know now). We were more attracted to the nature and the adventure we experienced in Central & West Mongolia. 
 
Upon arriving in the capital city of the country where we spent two months, we were really exhausted but we had to celebrate our time here and we decided to go out for a nice dinner. But the Mongolian gods & spirits had a special surprise for us in store because when we entered the restaurant Dori (if you don’t know who she is then you should read the previous blog post) was sitting at a table and called out our names in surprise. Well, after this it was time to say goodbye to Mongolia, it was time to clean our shovel*. 

*literal translation of: Mongolie, het is tijd om onze schup hier af te kuisen
English: Mongolia, it’s time to leave. 

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