This is Day 1 of our Seven Day Roadtrip into the Gobi Desert.
After a pretty uneventful night in Ulaanbaatar “UB” we left the next morning for a 7 day trip to the Gobi. We met the 4 other people who would be traveling with us on our Gobi trek. We later found out that all of us ate at the same Indian restaurant, Namaste, the night before our departure. It seemed that we were fated to meet for this trip:
- Rinchen is originally from Bhutan and currently residing in the U.K. Richen’s upbringing is a rich tapestry of cultures including a Tibetan dad, a Bhutanese mom, and an Indian boarding school education where she met Nidup. She is also a wealth of anecdotes, stories, and British humor that provided great levity to the trip. We all strongly believe she should have her own YouTube channel as we could be entertained by her for hours.
- Nidup is originally from Nepal and currently in the UK. Nidup comes from the famed Sherpa lineage of Nepal, her grandmother’s brother’s wife was the first Nepalese woman to summit Everest. Her mother summited Annapurna Base Camp while 3 months pregnant with Nidup. Nidup is a modern day Sherpa scaling new summits of modern day matchmaking. On the trip she invented GoBinder, Tinder in the Gobi where you are matched by eagle with a potential prospect. She later became known within the group as our Mongolian Princess.
- Elisa is originally from the Canary Island but moved to Portogual to live with her boyfriend Ze. They are also on a one year RTW trip having just crossed all of Russia on the Trans Siberian Railroad. Elisa left her corporate job and successfully set up a consulting company focused on sustainability. She also has courses to teach other Spanish speakers the pathway to freedom from the 9-5.
- Ze is from Portugal where he was a tennis instructor and an AirBnb entrepreneur. While he respects all culture’s measurement systems, he is adamant about the superiority of the metric system. The only thing Ze hates more than non metric system measurements is the act of squatting. The outdoor latrines on the trip stretched his comfort zone as well as his squatting muscles.
We also had an amazing crew of Mongolian drivers, guide, and cook who would accompany us for the trip. In
- Davka, our driver, knew the Gobi like the back of his hands. Always the fastest driver on the road, he effortlessly navigated us from ger to ger. Rosy cheeked and good humored, his laugh (more like a giggle) was our favorite thing to hear on the long drives. Davka bases himself during the high season (April – November) in UB where he drives tours around Mongolia. He spends the remainder of the year with his wife and two kids in the Middle Gobi.
- Aya, our guide, is originally from Western Mongolia but now lives in UB with her parents. She was a wealth of information about the Gobi, Mongolian culture, and was a great bridge for us to meet the nomad families we stayed with. She is one of the few girls who is tough enough to lead Gobi tours. She is also preparing to leave on a backpacking trip of her own across SEA!
We were thrilled that we had a really great crew that we would bond with over the next week. The trip started with a trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies for the week. All meals are provided for on the trip but we advise to stock up on snacks, canned tuna, and instant noodles. These came in handy on the long car rides as well as when the cold temperatures made us extra hungry. We also advise on buying toilet paper and baby wipes. You will go for days without a shower and baby wipes become your best cleaning system.
We drove another hour after the supermarket for lunch together. The food choices become more slim as you get further from UB, you will have plenty of mutton soup and dumplings in your time in the Gobi. For the first two days’ lunch stop, we advise having the fried chicken or egg dish with meat. These dishes get harder to find as you get deeper in the Gobi. Chicken specifically is non existent in the Gobi as they tend to eat beef, goat, and other red meat. Thankfully no one on the trip was vegetarian as it would be quite difficult to eat in Mongolia. Our guide Aya told us that the Mongolian mentality about a meal is that if there’s no meat it’s not a meal.
After lunch we had another few hours of driving to reach our ger. Ger is the Mongolian word for yurt and are the main home structures for the nomadic families of the Gobi. Half of the Mongolian population are Nomads, we stayed with different Nomad families across the Gobi on our trip.
Our driver had a hard time locating the first ger as the family had just moved the Ger camp 2 days before for the winter season. The families move for the seasons in order to access better pasture for their livestock. Each families’ camps are also located far from one another to allow space for their animals to graze. They also have water sources that they access for each camp site.
After about 45 minutes we found our Ger thanks to a horseman who pointed the way. There were 3 Gers there and a fourth Ger was built that evening. It only took the family about 2 hours to build a new Ger which is constructed of a wooden frame, wrapped in cloth, with an opening at the top for a furnace.
The Ger camp was at the base of the Khugnu Khan mountain. The setting was green planes with hills surrounding them. Some have rock piles and blue prayer flags in Mongolian Buddhist tradition you should not climb on those rocks. To make a wish, walk clockwise around the rock structures three times and add a rock to the pile.
We hiked up one of the hills with Ze and Elisa before dinner. As with the remainder of the yurt stays, all 6 of us shared a Ger in a concentric dorm room style. The “beds” are usually no more than hard elevated boards. We were provided with thick sleeping bags which came in handy as the furnace usually only burns until after dinner. As we were arriving for a newly set up camp, the family forgot to close the top flap to our Ger. Overnight as the temperatures dropped, sand blew into the Ger. In Nidup’s diary entry about the first night she felt as if she were in a coffin (the sleeping bag) getting buried alive in the cold ground. We were lucky that jet lag was in our favor and we slept through that cold hard night like a baby. We were also seasoned travelers in terms of sleeping in difficult conditions from 10 days travelling on the Pamir Highway.
Day 2: Erden Zuu Monastery