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Sand dunes, camels, and monasteries

sand dunes
After the mini-Nadaam, Peter and Eve and I went on a short walk through the sand dunes. The ones to the north of the camp were stabilised by vegetation, but those to the east were largely bare. This was exciting to me because, though Australia has plenty of them, I'd never seen real desert sand dunes before.

Peter banged his head on the ger door yet again, leaving another nasty cut and bruising — low ger doors turned out to be the biggest threat to life and limb we faced on the trip!

The restaurant ger where we had dinner had images of Buddhist protector deities on the walls — and a swallows nest, complete with two swallows flying in and out, feeding their young.

After dinner there was a musical performance outside, with a horse-hair violin and a singer. Unfortunately the sound system was set with way too much reverb and distortion. And after a while it started getting very windy and looked like rain, so they finished up and we scuttled into our gers before the storm came over.

Sunday 3rd July

It was foggy when I got up at 7.20am.

The camel riding was in two shifts and I was in the second. So, while the first group headed off, I wandered into the dunes, looking at plants, insects, birds (hoopoe, whitear, and Eurasian magpie) and the landscape.

25mm, f/6.3, 1/800s, ISO 100
50mm, f/11.0, 1/250s, ISO 200

The camel riding was fun, but my legs got a bit sore — the stirrups may not have been at the right height — so I got off half way and walked beside the camels. There were nasty bleeding bites on the right side of my camel's neck, where the flies settled and the guide, who stayed on the left of the camel, couldn't shoe them off.

There was a guide for each camel, but it was still difficult getting them to go where we wanted — they'd stop to munch on grass or thorn bushes as they went, and a couple of people in the group got dragged through thorn bushes. As well as the six camels being ridden, there was a juvenile along for training.

my camel
the juvenile camel, in training

After lunch we drove south to the Khogno Khan mountains. Here the tiny Erdene Khombo monastery is nestled in picturesque rock-strewn hillsides.

Buddhist sutras
Erdene Khombo monastery

We walked a few kilometres into the mountains to the ruins of Uvgun Khiid, which was sacked in 1660. It must have been vastly bigger than the current monastery. The creek we walked up had clearly had a small flash flood the night before.

the ruins of Uvgun Khiid

On the way back to our ger camp we came across a bus with a wheel stuck in the sand. It was carting a Korean model and film crew around, and they'd gone out on the dunes to take advantage of the evening light while the bus driver worked at digging the bus out. The whole kit and kaboodle were staying in the same ger camp as us that night.

I got up at 2am to pee and ran into some others going out to look at the stars.

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