After the warmest night I ever experienced (in a Mongolian Yurt of all places!) we got op quite early to continue our way to the sand dunes of Khongoriin Els. Around 09:00 am we left the Yollin Am area and by the time of 13:00 we arrived at the dunes. We first checked- in at a yurt camp. There was a super old lady in front of a yurt and she seemed to be the only person around. She wore colourful clothes and looked friendly. She showed us our place, again a nice and comfortable yurt. With pretty orange decorations and enough space to fit the five of us.
Because we hadn’t eating a thing yet we first decided to have our breakfast/lunch. Again, a super place to have a lunch, in the middle of the Gobi desert. Sand dunes on the left side and a whole lot of nothing on the other side. The sun was shining and the temperature was actually quite nice. I could’ve been there without my long sleeves, but I felt it burning after a few seconds. Protection is everything and we are in the dessert. Being tired from the journey we slept a bit and around 15:20 we drove towards the sand dunes.
Getting there was quite easy, climbing to the top was a true challenge! The sand dunes cover around 965 square kilometers and raise to a height of 80 to 300 meters. I don’t know how high the dunes were that we climbed, but it took a lot of effort to get to the top!
The first part we climbed with our shoes on, but after a while we ditched the shoes. This made the climbing a lot more comfortable, but still a big struggle.
I was super happy when I reached the top and for the first few seconds I just had to recover from the climb, catching my breath again. After this I was mesmerized by the amazing view of the long stretched sand dunes. The sun was quite low, giving the dunes a beautiful yellow color.
There was so much wind at the top! It felt like you could just be blown away if you’re not solid on your feet. Having regained new energy, the fun could begin! I was walking, running, making pictures, listening to the sound of the rushing sand. At one point you could see the sand almost dance from below to the top. Making a singing sound. Sometimes slapping you in the face. The wind was so strong that it blew loads of sand over the top, making it visible to see your shadow reflected in the blowing sand. Mind blowing!
This whole experience was giving me so much energy! The warm sand on the sunny side, the cold sand at the shadow side. I couldn’t resist to go down one hill and to climb up again, and again. So much sand! It made me feel like a child again. Just playing around. Sweeping it and kicking it. Making patterns with my hands and feet. It was so much fun to just push the sand over the top and watch the wind immediately blow it away. To see your shadow in the air is just amazing!
We stayed to see a spectacular sunset. And we could feel the temperature drop incredibly after the sun had set. We ran and rolled of the dunes, making our way back down.
This was for sure one of the best days ever! Adventurous, playful, challenging and amazing!
The next day I woke up after the coldest night so far! It had become so cold that it woke me up. I should have put on some more clothes but that thought was so uncomfortable that I bared the cold and try to get some more sleep.
Before we got back on the road again the driver invited us to the old lady’s yurt.
It was nice to see her yurt from the inside. With a bed, some cupboards, a stove and nice wall decorations it was quite a cosy home. Way different from the yurts we’ve been sleeping in so far. (Mostly having just five beds in it, making it a good place to spend the night at)
We were offered hot, sweet yak milk, sweets and cheese. I decided to go for one of the sweets which turned out to be the best choice for me. Sid chose the cheese instead and let me have a taste. The chunk of cheese was super hard. So hard, it was impossible for me to bite a bit off. There was also a super strong taste. Honestly, I felt pretty happy about not choosing that option! Not my taste at all!
In the meantime a woman prepared us a noodle, carrot and potato soup. It was quite tasty and was good for a breakfast. After this pleasant surprise we went back on track. A four hour drive to the Flaming Cliffs, also called Bayanzag. Famous for its many dinosaur excavations and the discovery of wold’s first dinosaur egg. (of which we didn’t see a thing)
We checked in at a super deluxe yurt camp that had a toilet building with as many as 8 flushing toilets, paper, hand soap and, for the first time since our trip, (four) showers! The yurt itself was pretty spacious. After a nice lunch we all fell asleep on our beds, waking up after 1,5 hours.
With new energy we got up and drove to the flaming cliffs. A red colored rock formation shaped by wind and erosion. Because it was cloudy today, we couldn’t see the sunset and the orange glow the formation is famous for. Still, we had a good time walking around and exploring the site. We even experienced a bit of rain. Quite cool knowing it only rains a few days a year in Mongolia 😉
From what I’ve seen so far, Mongolia is a super diverse country with many changes of scenery. Interesting to see!