The Camel caravan
A unique expedition through the sand dunes and canyons of the largest desert in the world. A journey through time to the roots of Mongolian tradition.
From Ulaanbaatar the route goes south. Soon after leaving the capital the asphalt disappears and rest of the tour will be unpaved. In the beginning the landscape consists of rolling green grasslands, later it becomes dry steppe, although summer rain turns this green. Camp will be at the mountain range Zorgol Khairkhan Uul near a natural spring or near the sand dunes of Ar Burdiin els.
We pass the province Dundgov and the village Erdenedalay with a quaint Buddhist monastery arriving in the province Omngov. This is the largest province of Mongolia with a population of only 48.000. many nomads have camels in this area. Wells are important for nomads and cattle, but also for us. Bayan Zag is an area of rock –formations, red cliffs, scrub and emptiness, where dinosaur skeletons are found. Here we will stay with a nomadic family which has lots of prepare ourselves for the camel trek starting the following day.
We will trek though the beautiful desert landscape of the South Gobi riding camels, and take additional camels to carry our luggage. A herdsman from a nomadic family will go with us a local guide and work the camels. This area has few villages and almost no nomads, so we have to take all our food for the trek. For water we have to visit wells. From Bayan Zag we will go northeast to the sand dunes of Moltsog Els. The area here is famous for big herds of gazelles.
Further south we see the mountain range Gurvan Saikhan Nuruu, part of the Altai mountains it is possible to have farms in the surrounding area. Melons, tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables. The harvest is in September/ beginning of October. The Gurvan Saikhan Nuruu mountain range an altitude of more than 2800m and will be passed on the mountain range are the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, one of the largest areas of sand dunes in Mongolia.
From Khongoryn Els eastwards to the mountains. Just south of the mountains is a ruin of an old monastery; like most of the monasteries in Mongolia it was destroyed in 1936/37 the Stalinistic period. If possible we will cross the mountains over a 2200m high pass, but during spring this road could be blocked by snow. In that case we have to go east of the range northwards via the village of Hurmen.
It is fantastic to visit Yolyn am, a narrow canyon high in the mountains with a sheet of ice until late summer. The canyon can be only visited on foot. This area is home to lots of wildlife, like ibex, Argali sheep, the rare Gobi bear and snow leopards. At the point where we leave the mountain is a small and interesting nature museum.
North to the provincial capital of Dalanzadgad across a plain often scattered with gazelles. Dalanzadgad is a dusty town with about 15.000 people, a lively market and small museum. We will camp near Dalanzadgad.
From Dalanzadgad across dry steppe north to Mandalgov, the small capital of Dundgov. Although the road connects two provincial capitals, in parts the road is rough.
Baga Gazriin Chuluu is situated about 60km northwest of Mandelgov in a remote area of desert plain. The rocks are worshiped by local people and Chinggis Khan is said to have camped in the area too. The rock formation contains a cave with an underground lake. There are plenty of mineral springs in the area. After this, we proceed further north back to Ulaanbaatar.