Sunday, June 04, 2006

Camping in the Gobi

Camping in the Gobi Desert was one awesome experience! I must say it ranks pretty high up there with the Tibetan overland. We never knew this was even an option and I for sure never thought we'd be riding a camel in China. We've heard that the camel rides were pretty touristy and wanted to skip them. To our pleasant surprise we found out they can arrange a camel ride out to the desert with a night of camping!! We've read many raving reviews about this experience from other travelers and were totally sold.

Lucky for us, we were the only ones who had signed up for this on that day and we met up with our guide,“Mr. Li” in the late afternoon with bare essentials. He hailed a cab and brought us to his home in a small village nearby (also where the camels were!). We got to hang out for a little bit in his house while he got the camels ready. After a while, he led us out back where we met our companions for the next 16 hours. Meet Gung Ho’and Grumpy Old Maid’ (will explain later).

After almost falling off the camels while trying to get on, we were on our way! We were going to ride the camel for about 2 hours into the desert. The trip in was pretty amazing. We soon left the small village and was greeted with a brown landscape of sand dunes. Gorgeous. Along the path, we passed a large cemetery, very interesting.

Surprisingly, it was quite a comfortable ride in for me (Ian will tell you otherwise). Slow and fairly steady. The only excitement was when we had to crest a small dune and go down again. The camels don't handle that very well. Specially mine, she liked to bob a lot.
After and amazing ride of going past many dunes, we arrived at our campsite. A small valley among the dunes. Mr. Li set up our tents and the fire while we went off to explore the dunes. They had wooden sleds there which we could use to toboggan down the dunes so up we went along the crest. Let me tell you, climbing dunes is hard work!

Anyways, we made it to a point where we thought we could head down on the sled so I hopped on ready to stick my feet out for brakes! I let go and hung on for dear life to find that I pretty much went nowhere! What the heck! I pushed off with my feet and went down a couple feet more and stopped. I tried leaning back, pushing some more, no luck! What a disappointment! I was ready for fast action! Finally gave up and got of the stupid sled and ran down the hill. That was kind of fun. It felt like real fluid motion.

We then crested a smaller dune nearby to watch the sunset. It was amazing being there. It was exceptionally peaceful there; you couldn't hear a thing except for an annoying fly once in a while. It is by far the quietest place I've ever been to in my life, who would have thought that would be in China?!

We headed back after the sun had set at 9:15ish to find Mr. Li waiting for us with a small firepot of boiling water over a small fire. Out comes the instant noodles and we had a grand feast that night. It got dark quickly and we laid back on the sand and gazed at the star ridden sky. We thought we'd see more here than in Algonquin but to our surprise, we didn't. The moon was amazingly bright but it was still so beautiful there and so very peaceful. After a couple hours we decided to call it a night.

After a windy night, we got up the next morning just before 6 to catch the sunrise. We climbed up a nearby crest and just sat there enjoying the coolness of the morning. It was nice to be able to see this sunrise after our Namtso Lake experience. We were a little worried as it was a little cloudy the day before but we lucked out.

After Mr. Li found Gung Ho and Grumpy Old Maid who were wandering off quite a distance, we packed everything up, and tried to get on our camels. Gung Ho was pretty good and kneeled so Ian could get on but was quick to get up the minute he's on.
Grumpy Old Maid lived up to her name again and refused to kneel so I could mount her. After much yelling from Mr. Li and much whining from the old maid, she finally succumbed. However, the minute I tried touch her, she got right up again! Mr. Li had to hold her down while I got on quickly. The camel ride this morning was a little harsher on the behind since it was mostly downhill and was I ever glad to get off the camel at the end.

I still can't believe we were at the base of Everest about 3 weeks ago, and now we've just camped in the Gobi desert. What an awesome experience. So good to get a dose of camping in, hopefully we can do more along the Silk Road!


At 8:26 AM, Anonymous felix said...

amazing... and amazing pictures too! i could totally imagine how peaceful it was. we'll have to switch up algonquin with the gobi for labour day weekend!

are all your drivers/tour guides named mr. Li?!

was it really hot and dry in the desert? it looked quite bearable...

i bet ian was looking for some nice jumps on those sand hills! too bad you guys had the wrong wax... :P

At 11:42 PM, Blogger Jenni said...

Who else did we have named Mr.Li? I don't remember.

The Gobi wasn't so bad. It was hot and dry but definitely bearable. I thought it would be worse.

Hee, that sled could have used some good waxing. It was terribly slow.


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