Circle the Arctic 2015

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June 14 and 15, 2015

On the 14th, we were scheduled to leave Kyoto for Mongolia. That meant waking up around 5:30 a.m. Our bags had to be in the lobby by 7 and we were to leave at 8:30 for the plane. Leaving for the plane meant a two-hour bus ride (Kyoto to Osaka). Once there, we were an hour late getting on our jet because the engineer had forgotten to check the toilets the day before. We had to wait while they were made functional — and one was permanently out of service on our 4 ½ hour flight to UlaanBaator, Mongolia. We then had to transfer to a Mongolian charter plane, but that plane was a half hour late. Once we boarded we flew for 1 ½ hours to an airport deep in the Gobi Desert. Were we done with traveling yet? You've got to be kidding. After the feeder plane landed we got in four-wheel vehicles and drove for another hour and a half over bumpy, dusty non-roads across the Gobi to our destination, the Three Camel Lodge.

Wrestling in the GobiWe got the keys to our gur ("yurt" in Turkish) but were told to return immediately for a show that consisted of wrestling, archery, and pony riding. We sat down for dinner at around ten and it was still light. After dinner there was a show of music, singing and dancing.

The next morning we left the lodge at 8:30 for hour ride across the Gobi again to visit a native family. Carol got to ride a camel. We then went on to visit the Flaming Gorge.

The Flaming Gorge, the focal point of this trip to the Gobi, was advertised as the huge red sandstone outcrop that was spectacularly fossiliferous.

This was the sight we traveled approximately 30 hours to see:

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Almost There





The Flaming GorgeFossils ???

That was it — a small sand pile and a collection of what looked like chicken bones.

We then drove an hour back to the lodge, watched a movie, climbed a hill to see some ancient carvings in a stony outcropping, climbed back in four-wheelers for a ride to the airport, flew for an hour and a half and got to UB at 6 p.m.

At this point we'd been traveling for about 36 hours.

If we had known that this odyssey was to unfold as it did, there is some question whether any rational person would go. In spite of the above, there were some interesting moments. The round gur is a good idea but when also trying to be an environmental showcase with solar power, its rustic nature becomes harder to deal with. The bathroom was attached to our gur but was four steep steps down. There was no or inadequate lighting. A 3 a.m. "facilities" visit becomes a challenge.

The Gobi desert is hard to describe. It is vast. The landscape is dotted with the nomads plus their herds. The air is the purest I have encountered in a long time (except when mixed with the dust from the four-wheelers or motorcycles). Interestingly, livestock is herded by people on motorcycles not ponies. The gurs are guarded by dogs that sleep outside the door to challenge anyone they don't know.

The ride in the four wheelers was actually fun. Kind of like an amusement park ride. There are no real roads. Drivers tend to follow the tracks of the cars that have gone before them. When these tracks get too bumpy or deep, they switch to another set or make their own.

A I said, not a total loss but hard to justify the effort it takes to get there by Private Jet + commercial jet + jeep. (Carol's minority report: in spite of- - or maybe because of- -the grueling trip to get to the Gobi (using modern technology), the unique beauty of these vast and majestic open spaces, green-tinged landscape (thanks to late winter rains), crystal clear air, and enveloping stillness was powerfully intensified.)

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