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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Mongolia - 10 August, 2003



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Ger at Khongoryn Els N4346.565' E10216.918' 1,368 meters .
Khongoryn Els . . . .
Entrance to Gurvansaikhan National Park . . . .
Yolyn Am (ice gorge) . . . .
Finish Camp near entrance to Gurvansaikhan National Park at Yolyn Am N4332.705' E10401.906' 2,159 meters 206 km

Total (by train):

5,991 km

Total (Mongolia):

2,089 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

199 km


9,598 km


Weather: In the morning, clear (cloudless), sunny, hot and a cool breeze.  In the afternoon, partly cloudy, sunny, very hot and a cool breeze.  Overnight, clear and cold.



We need to get up a bit earlier this morning as we want to go and walk over to the dunes and check them out.  After a quick look at the great sun rise and breakfast, we pack up our stuff and get ready to go.  Gerlee has returned with the jeep, so we load up our stuff.


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Just after 9 AM we begin our walk over to the dunes.  We cannot drive the distance, as the stream that runs parallel to the dunes is filled with water.  The jeep would just sink right in and get stuck.  It takes about 35 minutes to walk to the dunes.  Crossing the stream is no problem - our feet just get a bit muddy in the process.  We walk barefoot until our feet our dry and then put our sandals back on.  There are too many thorns and dry sticks jutting out of the sand - it slows us down too much and the splinters are quite painful when in the soles of our feet.


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At the edge of the dunes, we watch some horses and camels wandering around in the distance and then begin the long climb to the top of the nearest dunes.  The walk is not as difficult as it might have been due to the recent rains.  The sands are quite hard and we do not sink in very far.


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It is really a beautiful place.  The morning sun throws a very warm glow onto the sand and the long shadows are intriguing and make wonderful photo opportunities.  The contrast between the dark and light is startling in its beauty.


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We reach the top of the first ridge of dunes and still cannot see where the dunes end on the other side.  But we decide that this is far enough and take the time to sit down on the top of the ridge of the dune and soak up what we can of the view.


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Going down is, of course, easier than going up and rather than walk up the ridge as we did getting to the top, we just run down the side of the dunes.  It is good fun.  Once back down at the edge of the dune, we note the direction to the ger and make our way back across the shrub and mound covered ground to the ger.  Once again, we had to cross the stream, just making sure that we did not accidentally walk over the small cliff the water had craved out of one of the banks on this side of the stream.


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We arrived back at our ger just at 11 AM as promised and were ready to go.  But the owner was there and had some souvenirs that they wanted to sell.  We politely looked through the stuff, but there was nothing special.  So, we were soon on our way.  Our next destination is also in the same national park, but we will be leaving and entering as we drive there.  We were hoping to drive to the Yolyn Am gorge through the spectacular Dungenee Am gorge, but it is closed due to the wet conditions.  We would just get stuck, so we have to take the long way around.  While we have not had too much rain ourselves, the recent wet weather has caused some major disruptions to our trip so far.


We drive east heading parallel to the dunes.  From where we stayed the night, the dunes last for over 50 km.  The drive is pretty straight forward, along dirt tracks that go parallel to the dunes on one side and a mountain ridge on the other.  At around 2 PM, we stop at a ger where we are invited in for tea and snacks.  There is a lengthy discussion between Gerlee and the owner about the conditions of the roads.  This man confirms that we really do need to drive around the long way.


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After a brief lunch break, we turn north and head up into the Gurvansaikhan Nuruu mountain range.  We have to completely cross over the mountain range and approach the gorge from the north, rather than from the south.  It is a beautiful drive up into the mountains, which are very green (and wet) from the recent rains, but it is a long drive.  For part of the way, we once again follow a dried up river bed.  It certainly does make for fast going.


Just after 5 PM we arrive at the entrance to the Gurvansaikhan Nuruu national park.  We have a quick look at the museum (nothing much, but we buy the small booklet on the area) and the shops that line the track.  If we had known that this evening is our only chance to see the gorge, we would have passed on the museum and shops and gone straight to the gorge before the sun set any further.  But we only discovered later that one cannot camp in the park, so we had to see the gorge and then leave the park.


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So, anyway, we pay our park fee and drive the bumpy 10 km or so to the trailhead from where we have to walk (or ride) to and up the gorge.  The gorge here is very narrow with steep, high walls.  In addition to being very beautiful, it is famous for the ice that remains in the bottom of the gorge for almost the whole year.  In the winter time, the ice can reach a thickness of over 10 meters and often lasts through July.  As we are now in August, we can only hope that some of the ice still remains.


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It is a beautiful walk down and into the gorge (we decide not too rent any of the horses available - we are glad.  We do not want to contribute any more to the piles of horse manure that we find along the way).  The sun is at our back and lights up the walls of the cliffs around us.  The trail is lined with gorgeous purple flowers.


Soon we have entered the steep walls of the gorge itself.  While it is still light out, no direct sunlight reaches us down here.  After about 25 minutes walking, during which we pass a number of ovoo, we turn a bend and are rewarded for our efforts with some large patches of ice.  We are fortunate - the ice has survived until now.  While they are not huge patches, it is still interesting to see how this ice can survive down here through the summer.


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We walk for a ways further down into the gorge, finding additional patches of remaining ice.  At some of the narrower sections of the gorge, just a few arm spans wide, the going can get more difficult and requires all fours to be used.  We soon turn around and slowly make our way back to the trail head.  As we go, we take the opportunity to try to find some wildlife.  High up in the sky, we can occasionally see some vultures soaring.  But they are too far away.  We do see a small, red bird darting along the cliff face, presumably looking for food.  At one point, it appears to catch something.  We quietly stand there for some minutes watching it, but unfortunately, a noisy group approaches, and the bird flitters away.


When we leave the narrow part of the gorge and are walking up the wider valley, we notice lots of whistling around us.  We soon spot some small rodents that are like marmots.  They run around here and there and if we get too close, they dart down into a nearby hole in the ground.  We are soon spotting them everywhere.  They must come out just before the sunsets to get their last meal, or maybe some warmth.


Back at the trailhead, we pile into the jeep and are soon making our way back to the entrance to the park.  We are sorry that we cannot stay in the park nearer the gorge, so that we can view it in the morning.  But, what to do.  After exiting the park, we drive a short distance to go look for a camp site.  Gerlee is a bit upset when he notices his favorite spot is taken.  The winds are strong here, so it is important to find a sheltered spot so the tents are not blown down.


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We have to go a bit further up into a small valley, but soon find a nice spot.  Not as flat, but it will do.  In addition, we are pretty far away from the other, large, group.  We have found that some of these groups can be very noisy.  In the end, we are happy with it.  Great views over the valley below.  No bugs and no winds.  After finding a relatively flat spot, we set up our tent and then prepare dinner.  While dinner is on the stove, Lars climbs one of the nearby hills for a view of the sun set.


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But what is even better than the sunset, is the moon rise that is taking place just opposite the sunset.  The moon is nearly full.  It has just come up over the ridge.  The fluffy, small clouds surrounding it are orange from the last traces of the sun light.  And our small camp site is situated just below.  A wonderful sight.


Back down at the camp, we have our dinner - rice and chicken rendang - while we admire the near full moon and clear night sky.  Soon, it is time to get ready for bed.  It will be another cold one (we are at over 2,000 meters).


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