10 Aug 2009

Silence in The Sands of the Gobi Desert.

The next morning I had to decide to either go to Terelj Natural Reserve Area or to Khor Khorin. Tours in Mongolia are quite expensive and time consuming. I may sound banal, though at this point of the trip, I have to make every dime worth as I reach Europe, money is finishing, and I don’t want to be stranded far away from my return ticket nor to pass by without smelling the flavour of each beautiful place I have been through, it would otherwise be a pitty and missing the opportunity of this amazing trip.

Terelj seemed too “normal” though it was an unexpensive, one day trekking. On the other hand, Khor Khorin, is 8 hours away and any decent tour to the Gobi Desert involves at least 10 day trip which are rated in Euros (80 Euros, the very cheapest one).

At the hostel I met some other travellers, two girls, Jaime and Jessica, both from the US. Jessica had been a month or so in Mongolia, being robbed once, and a second time, when she discovered the missing money, the people at the ger where she stayed and who were going to transport her back, took everything she had “as payment”. Not very encouraging for emergency cases, I think. So, when in Mongolia, really pay attention to just everything.

She suggested me to go to Mongol Els, a place near Khor Khorin that is in the middle of nowhere and it is a transition area between the estepes and desert sands. That seemed to me more appealing. So, I took a bus to Khor Khorin and asked the driver to stop at the Bichigt Khad Ger Camp, just a small Nomadic (I assume now all must be tourist attractions) group site. Got off, and just started to walk north, towards the steppes and to some mountains you could see far away. Walked all day long, got to the mountains climbed a bit and around 9pm I set my Bivy Sack in a small flat place sorrounded by rocks, underneath a tree. Enjoyed the pleasant sound of silence again, just looking at the moon for hours.

Silence in the midst of nature, is one of the most overwhelming sensations for me, It makes me feel so many things constantly, I wrote once my heart can play from happiness and laughter to deep sadness all in a day journey when I feel the broad magistry of nature and… Silence.

Woke up the next morning for some early photos and to climb up to the summit of this small rocky mountain, again, many feelings and appreciating the wonder of the local nature, unknown to me until then. I felt again lucky of being able to do such travel adventure.

Walked all day again. For some reason, being used to walking all day, and not being a very hot day, I was really tired and dehidrated. Got to the Ger Camp beside the road and ask for some sodas, which were five times the average price. There I met an Italian who was just amazingly surprised of my trip and the possibility of doing it on my own. He had an accompanying translator because of his fear of being in an unknown country, unable to communicate. I just said I did not find it so difficult. His name, Giuliano Carceo. At the end he said Tu sei folle a Pazzo, something like you are really crazy for doing such a mad trip, in a good sense, he said. He told me that if I went to Italy, he would be happy to meet again and learn from this experience. I said I would love to.

I then proceeded to go beside the road and asked for a hitchhike, I first got an offer from a commercial driver to take me for almost ten times the price of the bus ticket. I refused evidently!! I just waited around ten minutes and a car stopped. A family, asking where I was heading to, Ulaan Baatar or Erdenesant would do too.

They gave me the lift, it seemed they were travelling in caravan with another family in another car, they went to Khor Khorin for the weekend. On the other car, the husband of the Mongolian woman was a Peruvian, and we spoke in spanish off course. He explained to me that in Mongolia only 10 spanish speaking people live there, 3 Peruvians, 3 Spanish and 4 Cubans. Some coincidence he said. Not difficult to know, as Mongolia's population is two million, of whom half live in the Capital Ulaanbaatar. He says that weather makes people not want to live there. Summer is pleasant but winter might be minus 30º C. and a bit tough on the countryside.

Got back to Ulaanbaatar and picked up my other backpack from the hostel. There I was told that there was a 9pm train to Russia, it was 8pm then. I almost ran to the train station, hard with all my stuff. Got there and discovered that I was on time for the train, but the international ticket office was closed now. Damn!!! I asked if it was possible to buy the ticket on board. I was told by the Information booth girl to ask the Train Manager. The Train Manager was a very attractive woman in her mid forties, perhaps fifties, very strong character, called Marina. Who during the whole trip, enjoyed to attend on a sort of bathtub robe and sleepers, she got of her uniform as soon as the train started to move. Some kind of service!!

With another girl's help while translating, I was 'ordered' to get on the train, and explained how much I had to pay, at the end, I had been smuggled into the train. I paid the price, but no ticket of course!! I slept at the Train Manager Cabin. Well, a bit original this time, though no discounts anyway.

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