Aug 24, 2013

Gobi Desert

Sometime between sleeping in a teepee and the forever memorable full gallop horse ride through an enormous grassy meadow, my toe developed a fairly nasty infection. This was likely due to the fact that we had come to Mongolia but my socks had not. I did buy three pairs at the enormous, maze-like black market in Ulaanbataar, but apparently three pairs of socks does not make for happy feet over a period of nine days.

Our plan was fly back from northern Mongolia to the capital where our next guide and driver would be waiting for us at the airport. Thankfully once we landed in UB, our luggage was there waiting for us, albeit 9 days later than expected. Amanda and I were relieved to be reunited with our possessions. Unfortunately, the usefulness of the warm weather gear had expired as our next leg of the journey would take us south to the sweltering Gobi desert. Our guide Khisgee arrived an hour late without any supplies. Apparently our scheduled guide canceled last minute and Khisgee was summoned just one hour before. She was traveling back from a family reunion and had only the clothes on her back as her husband dropped her at the airport to pick us up.

Luckily for Khisgee, Amanda and I now had extra clothes, toothpaste, a flashlight, a jacket, and a hat. Our first stop was the grocery as Khisgee would be cooking all of our meals. She bought a cart full of food but had no way of cooking it. Of course Amanda and I did not know this until about three hours into our drive when we happened to pass a second Golden Gobi tour headed home. She was miraculously able to wave them down as they passed us on the paved road at 50 mph and that tour loaned us their stove and pot. We then stopped for dinner at a road-side restaurant. As we were leaving Khisgee purchased some dishes and utensils from the restaurant. She is very resourceful.

All the while my toe was not looking too good. After a day of touring the ancient capital of Kharkorin, we arrived in the tiny town of Saikhan-Ovoo. Tiny towns such as Saikhan-Ovoo act as the service capitals for the nomadic people that live within their province. This is where the nomads come for healthcare, haircuts, gas, mail, groceries, car repair, showers, and anything else they might need. As it turns out, tourists traveling for hours on lonely dirt paths in a Landcruiser may require these services as well. We initially stopped here to diagnose a strange noise that had developed in the truck. Then we had showers, I got a haircut, and we all took a trip to the clinic to have my disgusting toe cleaned out and treated.

I think I'll be able to keep my toe. My haircut cost about $1.40 (cheaper than the shower), and we'll start fresh in the morning with a new brake rotor. Tomorrow we head to the Flaming Cliffs.

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