Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A camel ride and a walk on the sand dunes

Top row - Ulzicka, myself, Elder and Sister Stewart, and Darlene - front row - camels posing in unison - thank you very much!
It is highly unlikely we will make it to the Gobi desert during our mission. The next best thing is making one's way to the Mongol Els (Els means sand dunes) near Kharkhorin, the ancient Mongolian capital from the days of Chinggis Khan.
Ulzicka and our Russian van
We could justify this route to Bulgan if we could find an experienced driver to take us by back country roads. We did!
Green contrasted against the sand
In many ways these sand dunes are better than the Gobi but not as extensive.
Sand, trees, pasture, mountains  - but what about accommodations?
They are surrounded by green grass, framed by mountains, and provide contrasting colors compared to the sand dunes in the Gobi. They are also a lot more accessible than the sand dunes in the Gobi.
Ger camp next to the dunes - view of the steppes, a mountainous horizon and a big sky
The sand dunes at Mongols Els have camel herders who specialize in giving rides to tourists. In our case, they were 16 and 17 year old boys. They were real cute and displayed a sense of humor. One cheeky camel herder said to Ulzicka, age 24, "My camel wants to know your phone number."
Our guides were good sports and very patient with us
Camel riding a two-humped Bacterian camel should be a cinch, right? Well in my case, not necessarily. It took a measure of flexibility and dexterity to lift one's leg over the second hump in mounting the camel.
It looks easier than it is
I have never been too flexible and this experience illustrated how aging has reduced what flexibility I do have. I won't describe my ordeal in mounting and dismounting the camel but let's put it this way, I needed assistance.
Dr. Stewart taking my picture while I am taking his
Once you are 10 feet in the air on a swaying animal, it is imperative to stay on and this occupied most of our attention. The sitting position stretches infrequently used pelvic muscles and your legs rub against hard metallic surfaces related to the saddle and stirrups.

Our camels were shedding their winter hairy coats - actually it is combed off and sold
We climbed sand dunes and descended sand dunes. We got our money's worth but both Darlene and I were grateful to be back on solid ground again. I don't need to ride another camel in Mongolia. We liked it but it won't become our new obsession, that is for sure.
Darlene of Arabia - of the Gobi - or of the Mongol Els? You'll never know. Sand is sand. 
After the camel rides, we walked on the sand dunes. Now this was fun! The scenery was unbelievable! Goats and sheep came to graze next to the dunes. Wow!
Dr. Stewart loaned me his orange jacket for contrast - a good idea
Goats will eat anything - leaves if you can reach them

Or go anywhere
We could have spent more time there but we had an agenda to meet...like lunch at the Ger Camp and to move on to Kharkhorin to stay the night at another Ger Camp.

Now we feel like we've been to Mongolia

Would you believe the road goes in front of the sign instead of through the sign?
Mongolian language lesson. There are two written versions of Mongolian that Mongolians read and understand and foreigners don't - Cyrillic and Roman.The "X" in Cyrillic is "Kh" in the Romanized alphabet, the "p" in Cyrillic is a Romanized "r", the backward "n" is an "i", and the "h" is an "n".
King and Queen entryway into a Ger Camp at Kharkhorin


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