We arrived at the oasis of Bayan Tooroi at five in the afternoon and promptly checked into a ger at the headquarters of the Gobi A Protected Area Administration, which manages a huge chunk of the central Gobi, including the part we were heading into. Mishigdorj, the head of the Protected Area, issued us permits and informed us that Sukhee, the preserve ranger who had accompanied me on my last trip, was available and could also go on this trip. Apparently now you are not allowed to take extended trips into the Protected Area unless you are accompanied by a ranger. This was fine with me. I knew Sukhee was a knowledgeable and experienced camel guy. He also told us that at least one of our camel men would have to carry a gun, since there were reports of rabid wolves in the area we will be traveling through. Five people had just recently been attacked by rabid wolves, including two children playing in front of their gers in broad daylight.
Tooroi trees (Populus euphratica) which give Bayan Tooroi its name
From the Park Administration Headquarters we headed out to Tsogoo’s ger about sixteen kilmeters west of Bayan Tooroi, near the famous Eej Khairkhan Mountain. Meeting Tsogoo, we were now informed that he would be unable to go on the trip because of work he had to do connected with the Wild Camel Breeding Program ran by the Preserve Administration but that his older brother Duit would be able to go. He assured us that Brother Duit was an even more experienced camel man than himself. He also confirmed the story about the rabid wolves and added that just the night before a pack of apparently healthy wolves had killed a horse not far from his ger. Local herdsmen were planning to ambush the wolves if they came back again tonight.
Some of our camels with the twin peaks of Eej Khairkhan (Mother Dearest) Mountain in the back. The mountain gets its name for its two mammary-like peaks.
Camels. You can’t help but love them.
Another view of Eej Khairkhan from near Tsogoo’s ger
Tsogoo also introduced us to his twenty-two daughter Solongo, who agreed to go along on the trip as cook and assistant camel wrangler. She had never cooked on an extended trip like this but her camel-handling skills were unquestioned.
The formidable Solongo brooked no nonsense from obstreperous camels
For our larder I bought a fat sheep and a equally fat goat from Tsogoo. The sheep would be made into shuuz, meat cut up into small pieces which was then semi-cooked and salted to preserve it. This we would eat on the last seven days of the trip. On the first seven days we would eat the fresh goat meat, which spoils less easily than fresh sheep meat.
Sister Dulya and Solongo preparing shuuz
After a couple of day of preparation we drove by jeep out Wild Camel Breeding Station about twenty kilometers southwest of Bayan Tooroi where we would actually begin our camel trip. Tsogoo and Brother Duit would bring the camels from their ger and met up with us here. There was a spring nearby known as Zakhyn Us and here we would also get water for the trip. The next place with water on our route was our destination, 178 kilometers to the south, so we would have to take along about 100 liters of water for the five or six days we needed to get there.
Zakhyn Us, one of the few watering holes in this part of the Gobi
Our group ready to leave Zakhyn Us
Sister Dulya ready to ride (click on photo for enlargement)
Proceeding through the Edrin Mountains
Looking south from the southern edge of the Edrin Mountains
Starting across the Edrin Gov, south of the Edrin Mountains