Huge bathroom!
Huge bathroom!
Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)
Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)
We found camels!
We found camels!

What a wake up call today has been. I knew that the Mongolian steppe would be desolate but what we crossed today was a shock. Heading south from UB the roads, if you can call them that, were horrendously bumpy. Our Russian-built minivan handled them with ease but it was readily apparent that a large portion of the vehicles in UB never leave the city, at least not in this direction. Once we broke out into the open plains the driving surfaces got a little smoother but we still had to be constantly vigilant of being thrown from our seats by the surprise bump.

Walking around a ovoo (cairn) for good luck.  Three times around with it on your right.
Walking around a ovoo (cairn) for good luck. Three times around with it on your right.

Some more about the vehicle. We are traveling in a year 2000 Russian minivan that has been outfitted with five seats in the back. It looks like the seats are from a Japanese or Korean car but they have been welded to a sturdy steel frame which has been bolted to the floor. The rest of the interior appears to be mostly stock with the exception of a few pieces of angle-iron that have been bolted to the interior columns for added strength. There are no seatbelts which is a pity because they would be excellent countermeasures for the incessant bumps in the “road.”

We stopped for lunch at a small shack someplace in the middle of of nowhere. The fare was vegetable soup for Amy and I (we are both eating vegetarian on the tour) and for the others it was a big bowl of mutton soup, heavy on the fat. I suspect we will become very familiar with these dishes over the coming days.

The first camels of our RTW trip
The first camels of our RTW trip

Seemingly endless hills and grasslands were finally interrupted with something very exciting. Camels! I’ve been on the lookout for camels almost the entire trip and I am happy to report we finally sighted some of the bactrian variety on September 21 at 4:06pm.

In the evening, we visited the ruins of a monastery and a rock with magic water. We rolled into our first ger camp around sunset and our tour assistant got to work preparing dinner. As soon as the sun set the temperature plummeted and the old lady who ran the camp helped us light up our ger’s stove. The camp had six gers all of which were vacant so Amy and I got our own while our two tour companions took another. The driver and our tour assistant stayed in the family’s ger.

Shortly after dinner our stove went out and I received my first lesson in ger stove operation from our driver. There was a large plastic sack filled with dried dung that we were to feed the stove from time to time. Much to our surprise, the dung really doesn’t smell all that much when it burns.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home

Overnight we were both very cold. We only had enough dung for about an hour worth of fuel and we did our best to compensate with some extra blankets from the owner. I wore all my clothes to bed that night, including my new down parka, and I was still cold!

Minivan odometer: 271km

Walking around a ovoo (cairn) for good luck.  Three times around with it on your right.
Walking around a ovoo (cairn) for good luck. Three times around with it on your right.
All sorts of interesting offerings on the ovoo: skulls, cash and vodka bottles to name a few.
All sorts of interesting offerings on the ovoo: skulls, cash and vodka bottles to name a few.
We found camels!
We found camels!
The first camels of our RTW trip
The first camels of our RTW trip
High five!
High five!
Ultzi fishing some water out of the magic rock
Ultzi fishing some water out of the magic rock
This is supposed to make your eyesight better
This is supposed to make your eyesight better
Home sweet home
Home sweet home

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