Khongoryn Els – The Singing Dunes

The Gobi desert has been an absolute treat.

Such is the hospitality, we were bid farewell by the lovely lady all decked out in her traditional dress, who, by tradition, as we were going on a long journey, wished to bid us a good journey. This is normally done by sprinkling milk on the stirrups of the horse. However, as this was not possible she sprinkled it on the tyres.

Whilst travelling, we had the chance to watch a family sheer their sheep and goats. Best done after it has rained as it cleans their coats and makes it easier to sheer. I even did my bit on the farm when a suicidal young goat deliberately lassoed himself on the end of the pole and then ran off with the pole attached causing mayhem in the ranks of his fellow goats. I eventually grabbed the long pole and rescues the your animal and the owners lasso.

As it turns out, Tudevee is quite the fixer. He has worked on quite few BBC productions as well as National Geographic and a certain Mr Pilkington. So with all these local contacts we headed 1km up from the ger camp to the family of the one that featured in BBCs human planet. However, because of the nomadic nature of life out here, the lack of local vegetation due to lack of water had forced the parents to head some 65km north to graze their camels. Leaving daughter and son (23 and 13 respectively), to manage the 8 camels left. These they use for tourists like me to ride on for a 2 hour camel trek into the nearby dunes. Being a dromedary camel it was a bit easier, as there is less likelihood of falling either forward or backwards off the camel once the camel gets up and going.

When we got back to their ger, it was time for a snack of course. Eating 6 month old air dried (in the shade of course) goat meat and rice porridge. Tasty, but not the most tender meat I have eaten. However, a dry climate and a very cold winter means that storage outside is the same as the freezer back home in the UK.

After even more food at the ger camp, I decided to walk some of it off by going for a little jaunt into the famous dunes for a number of hours. Walking up hill in sand is never easy, but the lack of perspective helps when you realise you are the top that you thought was far further. During this amble there was a brief rain shower. It had a magical effect on the desert by bring the monotone beige colour to life. Different hues of orange, brown and black shone through as they fine sand particles glistened with moisture.

What does become apparent fairly quickly is the importance of water, for both humans and animals. Natural springs, the very occasional stream or wells dug some 130M down in Soviet times. No water means no life. If humans and animals have to move then so be it.

The nomadic herds mans life is simple but hard work. Animal husbandry at its best. In this part of the world this also means protecting against predators. Doing or using just what is required. Large scale storage is an alien concept. This ensures that your camels, sheep, goats, horses or cattle are well looked after and you get a good return on your hard work looking after them. Drinking, eating and selling the produce. A single camel slaughtered in early winter will, if processed properly, lasts family of 5 until spring the next year.

I also joined playing a rather complicated (to me at least at the start) card game whilst watching Argentina v Nigeria on TV. Yes even in the Gobi desert you can still see all the matches.

4 thoughts on “Khongoryn Els – The Singing Dunes

  1. You are very funny Mr Weaver – “are we nearly there yet?” I hope you haven’t been saying that to Tudevee! Fab photos and captions as always… The inside of my car smells like old milk, so it’ll be a home away from home when you get back…. happy travelling twinkle toes! xxx

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