Camp 6 – Mountain Ice in the Gobi Desert

We sleep well in the ger. There is something special about the comfort of a well set up ger, and a good stove to keep the space warm. The stove we had last night was extremely efficient while it was hot, but once the wood had burnt we had the hole in the roof and the night chill crept in, just a little. To wake up and look around, first thing at the walls of a ger is really great. Don’t want to get out of the warmth. Know it will be cold as we are high in altitude and in the mountains.

Mervyn lit a small fire with the wood left from last night and we made tea and coffee and slowly worked our way into the new day. It has been a longtime since i have relaxed and I think I am just beginning to remember how it is. Knowing we have another night here and a day exploring the wild mountains we traversed late yesterday in an attempt to find this camp…

Tugsoo and Unench came into our ger for a pre breakfast Italian coffee. My coffee pot is the only one I have seen in Mongolia and am pleased I bothered to pack it. Remember from two years ago thinking it would be possible to buy a coffee pot anywhere in the world, but I was wrong. I have been looking and still none on stores, only filter or electric machines. My little coffee pot is stainless steel and if we make the coffee strong enough can be shared between three. I will gift the pot to Tugsoo and Unench who has become addicted to the Italian coffee.

After breakfast we drove to the Gurvansaikhan National Park. What a wild place. We were early and felt like the only people around. The single lane track meandered high through the wild rock outcrops of multicolored hard rock. We don’t know what the rock type except that is is not like anything I have seen in Australia. Most of it is a dark grey or green with quartz lines running through. Occasionally there are red rocks or seams of various colors.

It was about seven kilometers to the edge of the ice and then a three kilometer walk to the end of the valley. There was only one fork in the road and we chose well.

At the gate to the hike was a fence and several horses tethered which could be hired for a h Ike up the valley. A family was set up with a stall as well as the horses. It was a scene from an old Mongolian movie, all dressed in deel, even the young child. The family sat on the ground and seemed relaxed and at home. Most fascinating was the woman whom was selling and hand stitching embroidered fabrics of Mongolian life. I have not seen these thread paintings anywhere in Mongolia at any tourist or other stores. These were original. The man was selling carved stone and carved timber pieces of local animals. There were all kinds of artifacts laid out on a small table. I bought one of the fabrics immediately and a second one later as I had been taken with them in my mind as I walked. The fabrics were a little like my mother Grace’s thread paintings. Mervyn was taken with one of the small stone carvings. I took a short video of the woman working.

Along the road to the top of the range we passed many gorges as the track narrowed and opened. This country has many wild animals of which we saw none. We did see, however many small mammals that looked like guinea pigs, or hamsters. There were two kinds, one with a tail and one without. The animal with a trail was quite rat like, until it stood up on it’s tail like a prairie dog.

The wildlife we did not see include, Mongolian sheep, the native ones, wolves and bears. There are also rare sightings here of the snow leopard. Many birds seemed to hassle after the mammals and several wedge tail type eagles soared through the thermals above. There was much food for them in these ranges.

The vegetation was also very interesting with an array of scented herbs. Wild rhubarb was growing all through the mountain along with a ground hugging conifer. There were no trees taller than the conifer. A yellow poppy similar to the arctic poppy I saw in Greenland, though smaller and wild iris, a parsley like plant that tasted like parsley though spicier. I picked and smelt many of the herbs but without knowing what they were was not brave enough to taste.

A fresh water stream ran Along much of the track. Then we came across the first patch of frozen ice. And the temperature was cold. The whole mountain was cold and we we’re rugged up with several layers of clothes for the hike and still the wind was like an Antarctic summer on the face. But the spot where the ice was still frozen on the stream was unbelievable cold and windy. We kept on hiking until we reached the end of the gorge and the last weeks of the glacial winter freeze. It was still large and stained with the gravel from storms and landslides. It was visible melting with fountains of dripping ice water trickling into the creek below.

After we had reached the end of the valley and the ice we had coffee back at the car and hoped we could paint but the wind was once more far too strong to allow us to work.

We decided to explore the forked track and once again headed into wild country, up steep mountain tracks and down so steep you couldn’t see where the car was going. At the bottom we were in another river like yesterday’s convoluted jouney. We started to head down the river and after about five kilometers turned back so as to not end up driving to distraction again.

It was four in the afternoon by the time we returned ger camp. We had a rest and painted from the comfort of the ger. The ger makes a great studio!

The most extraordinary thing about where we are now is that we are still in the middle of the southern Gobi Desert. The cold, the ice, the mountains, easy to forget we are in the desert. Apparently the ice can continue for ten kilometers and there are waterfalls visible at times. We were this time unable to reach these parts. Tugsoo has been here twice before and this is the first time she has been able to see the ice. Most tourists come next month and by them it will have melted.