Namibia has some great roads
Namibia has some great roads
Mongolia!
Mongolia!

Day 5

After visiting the cliffs in the morning we continued driving westward and eventually arrived at the Khongor sand dunes! They don’t stretch endlessly to the horizon but they are impressively tall.

Random dairy products on the roof
Random dairy products on the roof

Late in the evening the lady at the ger camp invited us in to her ger to sample some of the dairy products. This was the one moment in my envisioned Mongolia travel adventure that I had been fearing the most.

On the menu today was fermented camel milk. I tried a little and I have to say that it certainly isn’t my favorite beverage. Like buttermilk but runnier and with chunks. I also tried some Mongolian butter which is the congealed film that is collected off a boiling cauldron of mixed milks (goat, sheep and camel). The slightly crispy texture was appealing but it still had the pungent odor of everything else in the ger.

The sun setting behind the dunes made for some nice photos and made me late to the evening’s cooking class. Ultzi was showing the group how to make booz which are a traditional Mongolian dumpling. Normally they are filled with mutton and fat but tonight we were also made a vegetarian version. The simple flour & water dough was kneaded and rolled out on a small board and then everyone worked to form and stuff them. Lots of labor but they made for a delicious and filling dinner.

Minivan odometer at end of day 5: 1059km (157km today)

Day 6

Leftover (pan-fried) booz for breakfast with a delicious tomato cucumber salad
Leftover (pan-fried) booz for breakfast with a delicious tomato cucumber salad

We didn’t get in the van at all today! That was certainly nice for a change.  Ultzi pan-fried some of the leftover booz from last night and served those along with a nice cucumber tomato salad for breakfast. It was excellent – even better than the fresh booz. With bellies full of dumplings we headed out for our first go at camel riding.

Our mode of transportation for the day
Our mode of transportation for the day

One of the men who lives at the ger camp acted as our guide and he showed us the rope (there is only one on a camel) so to speak. Now, here in Mongolia you find camels of the bactrian variety. Bactrians have two humps as opposed to dromedaries which have a single hump. Dromedaries are the ones that you see hauling tourists around the pyramids in Egypt.

Getting on the camel was easy. There is a small saddle made of carpet between the two humps and you climb on them while they are laying down.

They weren’t nearly as stinky as we were expecting. All of us were saving our dirtiest of clothes for the camels but honestly they weren’t that bad. We cameled for about 90 minutes before arriving at a low spot in the long chain of sand dunes. We stopped for a bit and I taught myself how hard it is to climb a sand dune.

In the late afternoon we climbed the dunes next to the ger camp to catch a glimpse of the setting sun. It was much much harder than expected but the view from the top was well worth it.  Racing back down them was also good fun.

Later in the night the goat/sheep herd returned for the day and set up camp immediately next to our ger. The gas production of a herd of ~100 animals who have had a full day of grazing is impressive. Impressive in both the olfactory sense and aural sense. That was the evening (actually all night long) entertainment.

Having a break from the minivan was nice for a change.  But tomorrow is to be our longest day of driving yet!

Minivan odometer at end of day 6: 1059km (0km today)

Camel odometer at end of day 6: A positive, real number!

Mongolia Tour Days 5-6
We stopped here for a bathroom break
We stopped here for a bathroom break
The ger camp at the Khongoryn dunes
The ger camp at the Khongoryn dunes
The baby camels would cry out for their mother's each night
The baby camels would cry out for their mother’s each night
Random dairy products on the roof
Random dairy products on the roof
The booz (Mongolian dumplings) are served
The booz (Mongolian dumplings) are served
Wake-up call from our camp's friendly dog
Wake-up call from our camp’s friendly dog
Leftover (pan-fried) booz for breakfast with a delicious tomato cucumber salad
Leftover (pan-fried) booz for breakfast with a delicious tomato cucumber salad
Certainly the most interesting padlock I've ever come across. Handmade in Mongolia.
Certainly the most interesting padlock I’ve ever come across. Handmade in Mongolia.
Our mode of transportation for the day
Our mode of transportation for the day
Amy having her check-out ride
Amy having her check-out ride
Before we reached the top, my camel decided to take a break
Before we reached the top, my camel decided to take a break
Annoyed that they had to haul us up the sand dunes
Annoyed that they had to haul us up the sand dunes
No way around it: socks filled with sand
No way around it: socks filled with sand
Amy and Bonnie racing down the dune
Amy and Bonnie racing down the dune

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, which is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.  Amy and I have both been to peninsular Malaysia on prior trips and we were eager to dive back in to some of the local cuisine.  The food in Malaysia in an interesting mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay creations.  KK has a lively night market along the waterfront where a few dozen vendors setup restaurants under tents.  Most of these are serving up freshly caught seafood.  We indulged in the night market at least three times during our stay.

The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu
The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu

One of the oddities of Malaysian cuisine is the ABC or Ais Kacang that you can get from just about any drink vendor.  It’s somewhere between a drink and snack and consists of shaved ice, corn kernels, sweet beans and grass jelly all dowsed with a sugary pink syrup and condensed milk.  It sounds strange and they certainly look weird but they make for a refreshing snack in the hot weather.  Amy discovered a local variant that includes avocado that she quickly took a liking to.

Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)
Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)

Just off the coast from KK is Tunku Abdul Rahman park which is comprised of a handful of jungle-covered islands.  The regular ferry service to these islands makes them a popular day-trip for locals and tourists alike.  We went to Pulau Sapi (Pulau means “island” in Malay and many of the other languages in this area) for an afternoon of snorkeling.

The island’s popularity was evident when we arrived.  In contrast to the Cooks where we commonly had a couple hundred yards of beach to ourselves, here on Sapi we had about a hundred yards of beach to share with maybe 500 other people!  As afternoon wore on it quieted down as people returned to town.

Amy went snorkeling and was reminded of how warm water is in this part of the world – “like bath water” as she puts it.  There was a nice variety of fish but seeing them was hard because of the poor visibility.  I entertained myself with some reading and a short hike across the island.  I was hoping to see some birds but in the end all I spotted was a monitor lizard looking for food scraps behind the island restaurants.

Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island...I promise better photos in a future post!
Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island…I promise better photos in a future post!
Kota Kinabalu
The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu
The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu
The main drag in KK
The main drag in KK
In Sabah they like to fill their traffic circles with animal statues.
In Sabah they like to fill their traffic circles with animal statues.
Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island...I promise better photos in a future post!
Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island…I promise better photos in a future post!
Blended dragon-fruit
Blended dragon-fruit
Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)
Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)
Lunch at an Indian place served on a banana leaf.
Lunch at an Indian place served on a banana leaf.
Picking out some meat-on-a-stick at the night market
Picking out some meat-on-a-stick at the night market
Vegetarian soto mee hoon soup (noodles, fake chicken, cucumber and various spices)
Vegetarian soto mee hoon soup (noodles, fake chicken, cucumber and various spices)

Valle de la Luna

Chile Comments Off
May 122011

We enjoyed sleeping in on our second day in San Pedro.  The only tour we had lined up for the day was an evening excursion to some of the nearby rock formations.

Valle de la Muerte
Valle de la Muerte

The first stop on the tour was to Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) to see some nice canyons and sand dunes.  Some of the large sand dunes are formed against the stone cliffs.  We hiked a little ways along one of the stone cliffs and then walked/ran down the dunes barefoot.  The pictures don’t really convey the size of these dunes but I would say that they were close to 200ft tall!

After the dunes we walked down a narrow rock canyon and explored a small cave.  The rocks along the canyon walls make an eerie popping noise due to thermal expansion/contraction.  Another interesting spectacle in the canyon was the salt crystals that coat the walls.

The final stop on the tour was the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) for sunset.  We hiked along a ridgeline to get a nice view of the mountains and the crazy colors made by the setting sun.

Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Muerte
Valle de la Muerte
Walking/running/jumping down the dunes
Walking/running/jumping down the dunes
Not as clean as they were when the trip started!
Not as clean as they were when the trip started!

© 2011-2012 RoamingRyan.com Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha