Visiting Mongolia in May

by Beidjee
(Hilversum, Netherlands)

Gobi Desert in snow in May

Gobi Desert in snow in May

Visiting Mongolia in May 28, 2008

When I opened the curtains of our room in the morning I was in for a shock: snow! And not just a little bit, no, the streets and roofs were covered in about 20 centimeters of snow.

We had seen the weather forecast where they had predicted an extreme drop in temperature (just like we'd experienced in Irkutsk/Baikal) but yesterday it had been sunny and some 25 degrees, not at all like the 10 degrees and rain that was forecasted. But the weather man was right after all - the weather had followed us from Siberia, and our desert trip was to start in the cold snow.

We took a cab to the UB guesthouse, where we met up with the German couple, Nathalie and Bertram, and with Maciek. We met Nora, our Mongolian driver for the next seven days, and his car.

Nora spoke about five words of English, but none of that mattered - communication turned out to be fairly easy. To give an example, each night he would tell us what time we would leave in the morning, simply uttering: "Morrow: eight!", or, "Morrow: nine!"

In the rare case where we got to sleep in he looked a bit troublesome when he didn't know the English word for 10 o'clock, so he simply wrote the number 10 in the sand. Easy communication, that is what I like.
Other useful phrases were "stop: shop", "stop: photo" or "stop: pee".

If Nora was a wonderful character, his car was perhaps even more so! I always like to travel through a country using some form of 'classic' transport, and his battered 'Uaz', a Russian four-wheel drive army vehicle was perfect for our desert trip in every sense. It just had so much character, that the van became by far the most photographed object of our trip.

We set off and it looked more as if we were going on some winter sport trip than a desert trip, though that didn't lower our spirits: the surroundings were beautiful!

The light brown desert floor surrounded by snow capped mountains reminded me of the desert in the Andes between Chile and Bolivia - even the icy cold wind felt the same!

Bobby, the owner of the guesthouse, had recommended us to start the trip in anti-clockwise direction, because then we would have the longest and most boring drive on the first day. Boring? Where did she get that impression? Our noses were literally glued to the windows all day long, staring at the wonderful surroundings as we passed through an ever-changing landscape.

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