Suitcase and World: Riding camels on the dunes of the Bayan Gobi.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Riding camels on the dunes of the Bayan Gobi.

he sand dunes of Bayan Gobi were as close as we were going to get to any landscape that remotely resembles the famed Gobi Desert.

We arrived into the ger camp around mid-afternoon, after our visit to Erdene Zuu. After more than a week of seeing rolling green landscape, it was a pleasant surprise to, all of a sudden, see sand dunes!

We pulled into the ger camp and Adam quickly got us all settled in. From the ger camp, we could see the dunes in the distance. My plan was to plop down my bags, get oriented around the camp and then head for a walk towards the dunes. Should be a good way to burn off some calories before dinner :-)

As we were all mingling around the camp, Puji and Adam delivered the word to us that we would have the opportunity to ride on camels across the dunes. Of course, I wanted to go. We could either do a half hour ride or a full hour ride. Why come all the way to Mongolia to only do a half hour ride?? That was not an option for me. One hour on the camel or bust!

We had to wait for the camels to arrive and by now, I had learned that *soon* in Mongolian terms can be anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. It was more like the latter before camels showed up and it was a small herd of bactrians that showed up! Mamas, pappas and babies. The baby camels were especially cute!

Camels have the reputation of being smelly and belligerent. I didn't think the camels smelt bad but the most certainly were belligerent but then again, could you blame them if you had a rod stuck through your nose? Ouch!

Those who elected to do the 1/2 hour ride left first. Those of us who opted for the hour long ride would have to wait for the first set of riders to depart before it would be our turn.

I patiently waited my turn to get on a camel. First, they had to convince it to kneel down, which it reluctantly did. I remember hoping this stubborn behavior was not a sign of things to come! Mounting the camel while it was laying down....not a problem. But I did have to hang on tight to the front hump as it raised itself up on to all four feet. Luckily, the hump was there to hold on to because this was not a graceful camel :-)

I rode in a caravan along with Adam, Eric and Forrest.

As soon as the guys were all atop their camels, we headed out towards the dunes. The camels were led by guys walking on foot.

I found myself gently swaying as the camels trodded over the grassy ground. I think it's their huge *padded* feet that produce a gait that resulted in the swaying motion. As we rode, I turned my attention to the surrounding landscape.

Open grassy field turned quickly to sand dunes and soon I forgot I was in Mongolia.

As we rode along, we could see our tour mates riding over the crest of a big dune. We wanted to head in the same direction so Adam tried to tell this to our guys. Too bad they didn't understand a word he was saying.

We clopped along at a very leisurely pace. A short while after we had started from the camp, we had arrived at the top of a sand dune. Riding uphill on a camel is very interesting experience. I found myself hanging onto the front hump while my back was hard pressed into the rear hump. I just hoping I wasn't hurting the poor creature otherwise, I was sure it would throw me off to relieve itself of any pain!

Once we reached the crest of the dune, we dismounted. As soon as I got off, my camel plopped down on the ground. Geez....I didn't think I was that heavy :-)

As our trusty mounts took a breather, we enjoyed views of the surrounding landscape. For a moment, I didn't feel like I was in Mongolia. Almost reminded me of being in the desert area around Dubai and Oman....sandy with patches of scraggly shrubbery and scrawny trees.

After a few minutes, we got back up on our camels for the ride back to camp. By now, Adam and Forrest and I had started up a conversation to bide the time. Topic? Where to go for dinner on our last day....which was going to be tomorrow. As we talked, we all agreed it was hard to believe that our time in Mongolia was soon going to be over. But it will be experiences like this simple camel ride through sand dunes that will always remind of how special my visit to Mongolia was.