Monday, July 03, 2006

Road trip..

Ha ha!
No, i'm kidding... there weren't any roads! it was just a roadless trip!

2 kilometers to get out of town, a left turn out of the road and off we are for 20 days of bouncing around on all the bumps and holes we could find.. heading south to the Gobi (i could say the Gobi desert but Gobi means desert in mongolian so it wouldn't make sense, although none of you know that, or care so it wouldn't make much of difference.. anyway)

To those of you who think the desert is nothing but a boring infinity of nothingness, i say think again! It is actually a fascinating infinity of nothingness!
After Arizona, the Sahara and the Thar, the Gobi is the fourth desert i visit, and from what i've seen it's probably the most interesting.. The Gobi is not just one desert, but dozens of different deserts.. plains, rocks, cliffs, sand dunes, moutains.. you name it.. and after 4 days of driving through non stop desert dryness, you end up just behind the next hill into a paradise of mountainous greenery and... an ice valley! then you're really blown away!

Like many deserts, the Gobi is the bottom of an ancien sea.. so at some point i started to think of Mishka -our driver, very nice- as a sailor.. a sailor on a long gone sea but that was not to stop him! His destiny is to sail this sea, so as the water dried out and the waves petrified into rocky bumps and sand dunes, Mishka (he's our driver) (very nice man) exchanged his old sail boat for a rock solid russian van and just kept going like nothing had changed...

I don't know if i introduced Mishka.. he was our driver for 20 days.. a really nice man.. The stereotypical desert sailor! if any such stereotype exists! Tough short body, mongolian moustache, his skin burned by the sun (only the arms actually, under his shirt he's super white!), not talking too much (especially since he doesn't speak english!), but just put him in front of a kid and he melts like an ice cream in the Gobi!

So we camped the first night in the mongolian wilderness.. the second night we arrived at a small ger camp.. the gers are the typical mongolian nomads houses, that some of you might know as "yourts" but that's the russian name.. the proper name is ger, which is cool cause it allows extremely funny people like me to come up with hilarious play on words in french, such as "a la ger comme a la ger", "ger et pets" or many others that you probably don't want to know..
so anyway we arrived at the ger and realised that it was so much more comfortable, fresh, typical, nice... than our tent that we just kept sleeping in gers for the rest of the trip.. Being with families, we also got to see some typical nomadic lifestyle activities.. such as the killing and skinning and cutting and emptying of a goat by two men and a pocket knife.. while the woman and kid were cutting a sheep's wool with a pair of scissors.. we also helped mounting a couple of gers, that was pretty cool..

camping the first night..

our first ger in the middle of the desert..
some desert roads.. (this camera only sees yellow so you'll have imagine some more colors!)

a herd of horses by the ice valley..
and then we found this ibex(?) up on a cliff!
so i went to ride it!

and Mishka touched its balls for good luck!
a place of worship of some kind?

of course i had to try it on!

Terry shares his experience and teaches me how to recognise a dinosaur bone when you find one; supposedly, only dinosaur bones stick to the tongue, like this one! (i'm glad he didn't find a femur!)

The 3rd night (or was it the 4th?) we reached the first shower place!.. When Bobby showed us our itinerary at the UB guesthouse, on a map of the whole country she pointed 3 spots: "you can take a shower here, there and there" she said! After 3 days of driving in the dust, our 1000Tg (~1$) for a shower were no luxury!

After the desert, we drove up north to the central part of the country, to the white lake and up north to Hovskol lake and then back east and south back to Ulaan Baatar.

Yet, after 20 days of driving all around this huge country, i still have one question: is there any part of it that sucks?? everywhere we'd look was just endless beauty.. it's one of these places that make you think that the whole world would be just like that if it wasn't for man to mess everything up...

The central and north parts of the country look just like switzerland! A gigantic version of switzerland i mean, with lower mountains.. like switwerland mashed and spread by a giant rolling pin.. and with yaks instead of cows, and gers instead of wooden houses and herds of wild horses and real cowboys horseriding everywhere...
ok at that point i may as well admit it's got nothing to do with switzerland except for the color of the grass!
In many ways it's actually closer to being in a western movie.. the towns are so far west like, with their wooden constructions and empty wide dirt streets.. not to mention the evening bal! That was an awesome exprience.. one big wooden room, with chairs all around and everybody sitting.. people of all age, from kids to teenagers to adults to babouchkas.. the music starts, the light gets dimer.. people looking at each other for a few seconds and the bolder ones getting up and starting to dance, soon joined by more until the dance floor is packed.. then the music stops, the light is turned back on and everybody runs back to their seats! and it starts all over again with the next song!! hilarious! but i had so much fun.. learning the mongolian valse and dancing with local ladies..

leaving the desert..
lunch break
a herd of yaks..

the volcano close to white lakecrossing rivers!
one of our last squats..

And i shot these two with Patricia's camera.. amazing what you can do with a digital camera, a 300 zoom.. and an eagle!!

So much beauty, so much to see, so much that is hard -when not impossible- to translate into words or images...

It's a hell of a lot of driving.. but the view is really worth the trip!


neha said...

did you try for your good luck

soy panday said...

où sont les photos de la ice valley?

avec le prix qu'on paie, ce serait quand meme la moindre des choses.

ah ça, pour faire le zouave sur un phallus en pierre, y a du monde, mais dès qu'il s'agit de bosser cinq minutes, hop, on s'évapore dans la nature...


remarque, t'as raison, j'aurais fait pareil.


Eric said...

ouaw putain
jamais vu un mouflon aussi sympa !!!