Showing posts with label 2010 Camel Trip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2010 Camel Trip. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Camel Trip | Approaching Atas Bogd Uul



After Solongo’s Fall From Her Camel we rode until the sun went down and then camped for the night. The next morning we were up before dawn, since we still had two long days of riding to reach our destination south of Atas Bogd Uul.





 Camp Boss Sister Dulya supervising the loading of a camel




  Camp Boss Sister Dulya signs off on a perfectly loaded camel 




Sister Dulya ready to ride




Riding into black shale hills




 Typical black shale hills of the Gobi




 After passing through the black shale hills we emerged on a huge gravel flat. This is the view looking west. 




 Crossing the gravel flat. You can’t tell it from this photo, but the wind was blowing a relentless  sixty miles an hour. 




 Looking south across the grave flats toward Atas Bogd Uul, just visible in the distance.  





Atas Bogd Uul from the southern edge of the gravel flats. In the foreground is a range of hills topped by 4,705-foot Arslan Khairkhan Uul, so named because the peak is said to resemble a crouching lion (arslan). 






 Approaching the Arslan Khairkhan Hills 









  Although still smarting from the fall from her camel, Solongo was able to build a fire and brew up fresh tea during our tea break, in this case A Superb 2003 Vintage Puerh




Pass through the Arslan Khairkhan Hills




Near the pass through the Arslan Khairkhan Hills




Beyond the Arslan Khairkhan Hills is a wide strip and sand and gravel desert.




  Continuing on  across the sand and gravel desert . . . Solongo is riding on top of a load on one of the pack camels. Her camel had ran off the day before. 




Taking a break 




We camped for the night just east of 8,842-foot Atas Bogd Uul, a sentinel visible for hundreds of miles around. 

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Camel Trip | Approaching Atas Bogd Uul

After Solongo’s Fall From Her Camel we rode until the sun went down and then camped for the night. The next morning we were up before dawn, since we still had two long days of riding to reach our destination south of Atas Bogd Uul.
 Camp Boss Sister Dulya supervising the loading of a camel
  Camp Boss Sister Dulya signs off on a perfectly loaded camel 
Sister Dulya ready to ride
Riding into black shale hills
 Typical black shale hills of the Gobi
 After passing through the black shale hills we emerged on a huge gravel flat. This is the view looking west. 
 Crossing the gravel flat. You can’t tell it from this photo, but the wind was blowing a relentless  sixty miles an hour. 
 Looking south across the grave flats toward Atas Bogd Uul, just visible in the distance.  
Atas Bogd Uul from the southern edge of the gravel flats. In the foreground is a range of hills topped by 4,705-foot Arslan Khairkhan Uul, so named because the peak is said to resemble a crouching lion (arslan). 
 Approaching the Arslan Khairkhan Hills 
  Although still smarting from the fall from her camel, Solongo was able to build a fire and brew up fresh tea during our tea break, in this case A Superb 2003 Vintage Puerh
Pass through the Arslan Khairkhan Hills
Near the pass through the Arslan Khairkhan Hills
Beyond the Arslan Khairkhan Hills is a wide strip and sand and gravel desert.
  Continuing on  across the sand and gravel desert . . . Solongo is riding on top of a load on one of the pack camels. Her camel had ran off the day before. 
Taking a break 
We camped for the night just east of 8,842-foot Atas Bogd Uul, a sentinel visible for hundreds of miles around. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Camel Trip | Tsenkher Gov | Solongo







The second day we continued south through the Tsenkher Gov. There was no wind at all and quite warm. Indeed in the afternoon it got downright hot and soon even the flies came out and started bothering our camels. This was not at all what I was expecting. During previous camel trips in the Gobi during the first two weeks of October I had experienced numerous days of frigid temperatures and ferocious winds. Now I began to worry that our goat meat might spoil in the heat. Brother Duit and Sukhee allowed that it had been an unusually warm autumn so far. Whether it had anything to do with Global Warming they did not know. 







Continuing across the Tsenkher Gov



At 6:30 in the evening we camped for the night, having covered 36.2 kilometers (22.5 miles) that day. The sky was clear when I turned in, but at about two in the morning I woke up and noticed that it had clouded over completely and not a single star was visible. Also the temperature was falling and the wind was rising. When I got up at six to start the fire I flung on my winter deel which I had not worn yet on this trip but was using as a blanket over my sleeping bag. By 7:22 when the sun rose it was 20º F and the wind was blowing steadily at about 30 to 40 miles an hour. The sky was pewter gray with ragged black clouds scudding overhead. The weather seemed to affect the mood of the camels, who bawled and snorted and several times jumped up while they were being loaded, scattering our gear in all directions. Finally by nine we were back on the trail, everyone wearing their winter deels except for Sister Dulya, who opted for insulated pants and a stylish ski jacket. Since the pack camels seemed still unruly Sukhee said he would walk his camel for the first couple kilometers and lead the two pack camels by hand. Brother Duit, Sister Dulya, and Solongo followed on their camels and I brought up the rear. 




Solongo, left, on her white camel






As usual in the morning I let my camel slow down until the others were a hundred meters or so ahead and began to recite mantras—in the case the familiar OM MANI PADME HUM—while counting them off on my mala. I always did this for the first hour or so on trail as a way of settling into the day. We were passing through ridges of black, crumbly slate and soon the others were out of sight. The wind had picked up considerably, now blowing maybe sixty miles per hour, and it had gotten even colder. The ragged strips of clouds streaming overhead seemed to mirror the black shale underfoot. Ravens wheeled overhead, gliding with the wind and then tacking into it. My camel seemed nervous and kept tossing its head left and right, every so often turning around to give me a baleful look. Then something startled my camel and it leaped forward five or six paces before I could get it under control again. A bit farther on it stopped in its tracks and refused to move until I beat it repeatedly on its hind flanks with my lead rope. 









Coming around a high outcrop of black shale I noticed Sister Dulya and Brother Duit standing by their camels. At their feet sat Solongo. She was hunched over with her head hanging down. When I reached them Sister Dulya explained that Solongo’s camel, the only white one in the bunch, had thrown her and that she had fallen on her head and shoulder. Dulya tried to talk to her but she just kept mumbling that she could not move her right arm. We wrestled her out of her winter deel and Brother Duit carefully felt her arm and shoulder. Nothing seemed to be broken, but her arm was completely immobile. Also, she had a nasty bump on the back of head, but the skin was not broken. We rigged up a sling from Sister Dulya’s long wool scarf, put Solongo’s arm in it, and then tried to get her to stand up. She said her head was spinning and at first she could not get up, but finally we managed to get her to her feet. 










Sukhee had gone on ahead with the pack animals and was already out of sight when Solongo’s camel threw her. Apparently he was unaware that anything had happened. Brother Duit said we should try to catch up with him as soon as possible, since he had all of our food, water, and camping gear. We might have to camp for the day and allow Solongo to rest. Solongo would ride his camel and he would ride the Solongo’s white camel, which still seemed spooked. He made the white camel kneel and swung himself on. The camel got to its feet normally, but as soon as it was standing it went completely berserk again. Camels are normally such placid creatures that it is always a shock to see how out of control they can get when they finally freak out. The camel began bucking like a bull in a rodeo, all four feet off the ground as it twisted and contorted itself in mid-air. Brother Duit didn’t have a chance. The camel bucked him off and he went flying through the air like a rag doll, finally coming to rest on a heap of sharp shale shards.   When he stood up his face and the front of his deel was covered with blood. It was an eerie reenactment of what had happened to his Brother Tsogoo on My Last Camel Trip. After throwing Brother Duit off the white camel had trotted off at full speed and soon disappeared between the black ridges. WIthout even pausing to wipe the blood off his face Brother Duit leaped on his own camel and went off in pursuit of the white camel. 










That left Sister Duit, Solongo, and myself. We were standing in an completely exposed area in sixty mile an hour winds. And there was not a stick of firewood anywhere in the immediate area. About a half mile away I notice some high cliffs with some saksaul bushes at their base. There I thought we might be able to get out of the wind, get a fire going, and get some hot tea into Solongo. Tea is my solution for just about every problem. Solongo wasn’t talking, but when we asked if she could walk to the cliffs she nodded yes. Sister Dulya and I walked our camels. To have any kind of accident and have another camel run off would be a real disaster at this point. 










Among the boulders at the base the cliff we were out of the worse of the wind. Soon I had brewed up a pot of Puerh tea and we lunched on sausage and fried bread. Solongo still could not move her arm at all, but at least she was soon able to talk. She said she had no idea what had gotten into her camel. Like the rest of the camels it had seemed a bit nervous that morning. Then for no apparent reason it just freaked out completely. She said she had landed first on her shoulder and then her head had bounced off a large chunk of slate. Her head still throbbed. We threw out a camel blanket for her and let her lie down to rest. Soon she appeared to be asleep.










Sister Dulya, never one to waste a moment, get out a needle and heavy black thread and began repairing the various rips and tears that had already appeared in some of our duffle bags. I went off and sat by myself. I could not help but wonder if this problem with the white camel was not somehow my fault. Originally the white camel had been meant for me. When Tsogoo had first told us that he had rounded up seven camels for our trip, I had half-jokingly asked if he had gotten a white camel for me. He replied that no, all seven of them were standard brown camels. Too bad, I said, I usually ride white camels. 




My white camel, right of center, from an earlier camel trip






On one of My First Trip Camel Trips I had been doing research on the notorious bandit and warlord Dambijantsan, who was also known as “The Two White Camel Lama” because of his habit of always riding a white camel and leading one white pack camel. The local camel men, who I had questioned extensively about Dambijantsan, had given me a white camel to ride, explaining that since I was so interesting in Dambijantsan I should ride a white camel also. This become a kind of tradition for me, and on several subsequent camel trips I had also ridden white camels. Camel men had even called me “One White Camel Don.” It was no big deal, however, and when Tsogoo saId he had seven brown camels for us I certainly did not tell him to get me a white camel. When he showed up with the camels at our starting point of Zakhyn Us, however, he had six brown camels and one white camel. He explained that he had gone out and rounded up the white camel just for me. It had not yet been ridden that year and was a bit wild, so I should let his daughter Solongo, who he knew was very experienced with camels, ride it the first day or two. 








By the third day, today, I had forgotten all about the white camel business and Solongo had ridden the white camel as usual. Then it had thrown her off and now she was hurt. The white camel should never have been on the trip in the first place. There is a legend that anything connected with Dambijantsan turns out badly—the so-called “Curse of Dambijantsan,” and sitting there by myself among the rocks at the base of the cliff with a black raven wheeling and cawing overhead—there is another legend that the spirit of Dambijantsan to this day rides on the winds of the Gobi in the corporeal form of a raven—I could not help but wonder if the Curse had struck again. 






Solongo’s white camel 






An hour or so later Brother Duit came back. He had been unable to track down the white camel. And now Sukhee was far out ahead of us somewhere, unaware that anything had happened. First Brother Duit would have to go get him and bring him and our supplies back to where we were now. Brother Duit and Sukhee and the pack camels did not return for another two hours. They then decided they would go again and together try to find the white camel. Three hours later they returned. The white camel was gone and would probably return by itself to Tsogoo’s herd about seventy kilometers to the north. It had however thrown off its saddle and they did find that. Solongo said she was able to ride so we decided to continue on. Sukhee put her saddle over the top of the load on one of the pack camels and she climbed aboard, her arm still in a sling. We had only traveled four kilometers that morning before the accident. Starting again we soon crossed a low pass in the slate hills and came out onto the Nomin Gov, the fourth of the govs we would travel through. We rode until the sun went down and managed to cover another 18.1 kilometers before camping.










Sister Dulya did the cooking that night. Solongo sat on a corner of the carpet with her arm in a sling. Finally she told us a little more about the accident. She said that after landing on her shoulder she sat up, only to discover that she was unable to breath. She had of course had the wind knocked out of her, a common occurrence for those playing the rougher sports, but one which had never happened to her before. Unable to draw a breath she had the sudden premonition that she was about to die. “It was so strange,” she said. “I was thinking, I am so young, I have hardly lived. There are so many things I have never done and have never experienced. And now I never will. How strange life is, and how strangely it ends! I am going to die here in the desert, in this empty place surrounded by black hills. Who could have imagined my life would end like this? Then I started to see everything that would have happened if only I had lived. Everything I could have been, everything I could have done, passed before my eyes. Then I started to black out.” At that point she fell backwards. Lying on her back she suddenly discovered that she could breath again. After a couple shallow breaths she was able to take a deep breath, and she realized that she might not die after all. We asked her about what she had seen, what she could be and what she could do if only she had the chance, but she said she did not want to talk about it. She was silent the rest of the evening. 




Solongo, all smiles before the accident



Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Camel Trip | Tsenkher Gov | Solongo

The second day we continued south through the Tsenkher Gov. There was no wind at all and quite warm. Indeed in the afternoon it got downright hot and soon even the flies came out and started bothering our camels. This was not at all what I was expecting. During previous camel trips in the Gobi during the first two weeks of October I had experienced numerous days of frigid temperatures and ferocious winds. Now I began to worry that our goat meat might spoil in the heat. Brother Duit and Sukhee allowed that it had been an unusually warm autumn so far. Whether it had anything to do with Global Warming they did not know. 
Continuing across the Tsenkher Gov
At 6:30 in the evening we camped for the night, having covered 36.2 kilometers (22.5 miles) that day. The sky was clear when I turned in, but at about two in the morning I woke up and noticed that it had clouded over completely and not a single star was visible. Also the temperature was falling and the wind was rising. When I got up at six to start the fire I flung on my winter deel which I had not worn yet on this trip but was using as a blanket over my sleeping bag. By 7:22 when the sun rose it was 20º F and the wind was blowing steadily at about 30 to 40 miles an hour. The sky was pewter gray with ragged black clouds scudding overhead. The weather seemed to affect the mood of the camels, who bawled and snorted and several times jumped up while they were being loaded, scattering our gear in all directions. Finally by nine we were back on the trail, everyone wearing their winter deels except for Sister Dulya, who opted for insulated pants and a stylish ski jacket. Since the pack camels seemed still unruly Sukhee said he would walk his camel for the first couple kilometers and lead the two pack camels by hand. Brother Duit, Sister Dulya, and Solongo followed on their camels and I brought up the rear. 
Solongo, left, on her white camel
As usual in the morning I let my camel slow down until the others were a hundred meters or so ahead and began to recite mantras—in the case the familiar OM MANI PADME HUM—while counting them off on my mala. I always did this for the first hour or so on trail as a way of settling into the day. We were passing through ridges of black, crumbly slate and soon the others were out of sight. The wind had picked up considerably, now blowing maybe sixty miles per hour, and it had gotten even colder. The ragged strips of clouds streaming overhead seemed to mirror the black shale underfoot. Ravens wheeled overhead, gliding with the wind and then tacking into it. My camel seemed nervous and kept tossing its head left and right, every so often turning around to give me a baleful look. Then something startled my camel and it leaped forward five or six paces before I could get it under control again. A bit farther on it stopped in its tracks and refused to move until I beat it repeatedly on its hind flanks with my lead rope. 

Coming around a high outcrop of black shale I noticed Sister Dulya and Brother Duit standing by their camels. At their feet sat Solongo. She was hunched over with her head hanging down. When I reached them Sister Dulya explained that Solongo’s camel, the only white one in the bunch, had thrown her and that she had fallen on her head and shoulder. Dulya tried to talk to her but she just kept mumbling that she could not move her right arm. We wrestled her out of her winter deel and Brother Duit carefully felt her arm and shoulder. Nothing seemed to be broken, but her arm was completely immobile. Also, she had a nasty bump on the back of head, but the skin was not broken. We rigged up a sling from Sister Dulya’s long wool scarf, put Solongo’s arm in it, and then tried to get her to stand up. She said her head was spinning and at first she could not get up, but finally we managed to get her to her feet. 

Sukhee had gone on ahead with the pack animals and was already out of sight when Solongo’s camel threw her. Apparently he was unaware that anything had happened. Brother Duit said we should try to catch up with him as soon as possible, since he had all of our food, water, and camping gear. We might have to camp for the day and allow Solongo to rest. Solongo would ride his camel and he would ride the Solongo’s white camel, which still seemed spooked. He made the white camel kneel and swung himself on. The camel got to its feet normally, but as soon as it was standing it went completely berserk again. Camels are normally such placid creatures that it is always a shock to see how out of control they can get when they finally freak out. The camel began bucking like a bull in a rodeo, all four feet off the ground as it twisted and contorted itself in mid-air. Brother Duit didn’t have a chance. The camel bucked him off and he went flying through the air like a rag doll, finally coming to rest on a heap of sharp shale shards.   When he stood up his face and the front of his deel was covered with blood. It was an eerie reenactment of what had happened to his Brother Tsogoo on My Last Camel Trip. After throwing Brother Duit off the white camel had trotted off at full speed and soon disappeared between the black ridges. WIthout even pausing to wipe the blood off his face Brother Duit leaped on his own camel and went off in pursuit of the white camel. 

That left Sister Duit, Solongo, and myself. We were standing in an completely exposed area in sixty mile an hour winds. And there was not a stick of firewood anywhere in the immediate area. About a half mile away I notice some high cliffs with some saksaul bushes at their base. There I thought we might be able to get out of the wind, get a fire going, and get some hot tea into Solongo. Tea is my solution for just about every problem. Solongo wasn’t talking, but when we asked if she could walk to the cliffs she nodded yes. Sister Dulya and I walked our camels. To have any kind of accident and have another camel run off would be a real disaster at this point. 

Among the boulders at the base the cliff we were out of the worse of the wind. Soon I had brewed up a pot of Puerh tea and we lunched on sausage and fried bread. Solongo still could not move her arm at all, but at least she was soon able to talk. She said she had no idea what had gotten into her camel. Like the rest of the camels it had seemed a bit nervous that morning. Then for no apparent reason it just freaked out completely. She said she had landed first on her shoulder and then her head had bounced off a large chunk of slate. Her head still throbbed. We threw out a camel blanket for her and let her lie down to rest. Soon she appeared to be asleep.

Sister Dulya, never one to waste a moment, get out a needle and heavy black thread and began repairing the various rips and tears that had already appeared in some of our duffle bags. I went off and sat by myself. I could not help but wonder if this problem with the white camel was not somehow my fault. Originally the white camel had been meant for me. When Tsogoo had first told us that he had rounded up seven camels for our trip, I had half-jokingly asked if he had gotten a white camel for me. He replied that no, all seven of them were standard brown camels. Too bad, I said, I usually ride white camels. 
My white camel, right of center, from an earlier camel trip
On one of My First Trip Camel Trips I had been doing research on the notorious bandit and warlord Dambijantsan, who was also known as “The Two White Camel Lama” because of his habit of always riding a white camel and leading one white pack camel. The local camel men, who I had questioned extensively about Dambijantsan, had given me a white camel to ride, explaining that since I was so interesting in Dambijantsan I should ride a white camel also. This become a kind of tradition for me, and on several subsequent camel trips I had also ridden white camels. Camel men had even called me “One White Camel Don.” It was no big deal, however, and when Tsogoo saId he had seven brown camels for us I certainly did not tell him to get me a white camel. When he showed up with the camels at our starting point of Zakhyn Us, however, he had six brown camels and one white camel. He explained that he had gone out and rounded up the white camel just for me. It had not yet been ridden that year and was a bit wild, so I should let his daughter Solongo, who he knew was very experienced with camels, ride it the first day or two. 

By the third day, today, I had forgotten all about the white camel business and Solongo had ridden the white camel as usual. Then it had thrown her off and now she was hurt. The white camel should never have been on the trip in the first place. There is a legend that anything connected with Dambijantsan turns out badly—the so-called “Curse of Dambijantsan,” and sitting there by myself among the rocks at the base of the cliff with a black raven wheeling and cawing overhead—there is another legend that the spirit of Dambijantsan to this day rides on the winds of the Gobi in the corporeal form of a raven—I could not help but wonder if the Curse had struck again. 
Solongo’s white camel 
An hour or so later Brother Duit came back. He had been unable to track down the white camel. And now Sukhee was far out ahead of us somewhere, unaware that anything had happened. First Brother Duit would have to go get him and bring him and our supplies back to where we were now. Brother Duit and Sukhee and the pack camels did not return for another two hours. They then decided they would go again and together try to find the white camel. Three hours later they returned. The white camel was gone and would probably return by itself to Tsogoo’s herd about seventy kilometers to the north. It had however thrown off its saddle and they did find that. Solongo said she was able to ride so we decided to continue on. Sukhee put her saddle over the top of the load on one of the pack camels and she climbed aboard, her arm still in a sling. We had only traveled four kilometers that morning before the accident. Starting again we soon crossed a low pass in the slate hills and came out onto the Nomin Gov, the fourth of the govs we would travel through. We rode until the sun went down and managed to cover another 18.1 kilometers before camping.

Sister Dulya did the cooking that night. Solongo sat on a corner of the carpet with her arm in a sling. Finally she told us a little more about the accident. She said that after landing on her shoulder she sat up, only to discover that she was unable to breath. She had of course had the wind knocked out of her, a common occurrence for those playing the rougher sports, but one which had never happened to her before. Unable to draw a breath she had the sudden premonition that she was about to die. “It was so strange,” she said. “I was thinking, I am so young, I have hardly lived. There are so many things I have never done and have never experienced. And now I never will. How strange life is, and how strangely it ends! I am going to die here in the desert, in this empty place surrounded by black hills. Who could have imagined my life would end like this? Then I started to see everything that would have happened if only I had lived. Everything I could have been, everything I could have done, passed before my eyes. Then I started to black out.” At that point she fell backwards. Lying on her back she suddenly discovered that she could breath again. After a couple shallow breaths she was able to take a deep breath, and she realized that she might not die after all. We asked her about what she had seen, what she could be and what she could do if only she had the chance, but she said she did not want to talk about it. She was silent the rest of the evening. 
Solongo, all smiles before the accident

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Camel Trip | Edrin Gov to Tsenkher Gov


The Gobi is the fifth-largest desert in the world, covering roughly 500,000 square miles (1,295,000 square kilometers). While most of the world might think of the Gobi Desert as a single entity, people within Mongolia recognize thirty-three different gobis, or gov, as they are called in Mongolian. These gov are relatively flat areas, covered with sand or gravel of varying sizes, most trending east-west, and separated from each other by ridges of shale, granite, basalt, and other up-thrusting rocks.






On our trip south from Bayan Tooroi we will pass through four govs. Zakhyn Us, where we started, is in the Zakhui Zartyn Gov, a flat area between the main crest of the Gov-Altai Mountains and the Edrin Mountains to the south. Crossing the Edrin Mountains we passed into the Edrin Gov. Much of this is classic zag desert—gravel flats covering with miniature forests of zag (saxaul bushes = Haloxylon ammodendron)







The barren gravel flats of the northern edge of the Edrin Gov with Eej Khaikhan still visible in the distance. 




 Classic Zag Desert in the middle of the Edrin Gov






Ulaan Budargana—Another common plant in the Edrin Gov



Around two in the afternoon we stopped for a tea break. Among my tea supplies I had two disks of Puerh Tea, one of the so-called Ripe or Cooked Puerh and the other Raw or Green Puerh. I am partial to the smoother Ripe Puerh, but on my Last Horse Trip I discovered that the astringently bitter Green Puerh, with the addition of sugar to take away some of the edge, was by no means unwelcome while lounging on our carpets during an afternoon tea break. And thus it proved to be on this camel trip.  I also brought along four ounces of Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong Tea for the more delicate palates of the ladies. Indeed, I like it too, but I knew from past experience that the camel guys preferred the more robust Puerh. They had also brought some Mongolian brick tea which we would drink for a change of pace, salted as usual. 





Solongo brewing up a pot of ever-welcome Green Puerh tea



After tea we continued on, the camels resuming their usual  slow, stately pace. It is of course possible to trot camels, and fast racing camels can attain prodigious speeds, but camels laden with heavy loads like ours, including 100 liters of water (220 pounds worth) plus food and cooking and sleeping gear, can be trotted only for very short distances if at all. For the long haul they must be walked. In walking mode camels have two speeds: slow, and slower. I have measured their walking speed for hours on end with a GPS and have determined that their slow, or regular, walking mode, when they are relatively well rested, is 4.9 kilometer (3 miles) an hour. People are quick to point out that they can walk faster than that, which is perfectly true.  Humans can easily outpace even a well-rested camel. After four or five eight-to-ten hour days camels tend to tire, and eventually they slip down into a lower gear, covering 4.3 kilometer (2.67 miles) per hour. Now they are practically moving in slow motion, slowly lifting a leg, moving it forward as if through molasses, and then putting the foot down again with great deliberateness. The liberal use of a taishir, the short cane which the camel men use to prod their camels, will speed them back up to their regular pace for short distances, but until they are rested at least overnight they will always will slip back into lower gear if left to their own devices.  





By late afternoon we had reached the gravel flats at the southern edge of the Edrin Gov






A low range of hills separates the Edrin Gov from the Tsenkher Gov



We camped for the night in amidst the sparse zag bushes between the Edrin Gov and the Tsenkher Gov, having covered 34.5 kilometers for the day. The camel men set up one tent for themselves and another for Sister Dulya and Solongo, but as usual in the desert I opted to sleep out under the stars, or as they say in Siberia, “in the Big Tent.” Usually I would throw out my carpets and sleep a hundred feet or so away from the campfire and the tents so that I could fully enjoy the solitude of the desert. Tonight, however, both Sukhee and Brother Duit insisted that I sleep right beside the two tents, since we were still in the area where rabid wolves had been reported. Presumably a rabid wolf would be more inclined to pick off what appeared to be a straggler from the group. I had my doubts that a rabid wolf would be making any such distinctions but did not want to argue with the camel guys.They assured me that tomorrow night we would be out of the danger zone and I could resume what they considered my misanthropic ways.





Between the Edrin Gov and the Tsenkher Gov



One of the great pleasures of traveling in the Gobi is gazing at the night skies. Few places in the world offer a better view of the stars than the Gobi Desert. On most nights there is very little if any any cloud cover, leaving a perfect view of the Heavens from horizon to horizon. There is absolutely no light pollution from towns or cities and the nearest source of any kind of industrial pollution is many hundred of miles away if not more. Also the almost complete absence of humidity in the air means that star light is not refracted by moisture. In today’s world most people have probably never even had a real unimpeded view of the night skies. In many cities no stars at all are visible. Before I left I emailed someone in the United States about this trip and mentioned how clear the skies were in the Gobi. This person asked in reply whether it would be possible to see the Milky Way in the Gobi, implying that the Milky Way was now thought to be some kind of rare phenomenon which most people never saw anymore. In the Gobi the Milky Way (which has the same name in Mongolian [Suun Zam = Milky Road]) is a near solid belt of light arcing across the sky almost horizon to horizon. 





On this trip we would also be treated to a New Moon in three days, which would of course  maximize the star-viewing potential, but even tonight there was quite a show. First out was not a star at all, but the planet Jupiter on the southeast horizon. It would remain for most of the night as the brightest object in the skies. Indeed, much of this month it is the biggest it will appear at any time between 1963 and 2022.  The first star out was twinkling Capella in the northeast, only forty-one light years away, which makes it virtually our neighbor. Actually Capella is two stars revolving so closely around each other that they appear as one. The light we now see from this binary star left it when I was twenty years old, certainly a sobering thought.  One by one the full panoply of constellations popped into view: Big Dipper,  Draco, LIttle Dipper, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Pegasus, and Cynus being the most prominent up until midnight, after which Orion dominated the Heavens.