Khongoryn Els cannot be explained through pictures and words. In fact, I would allot that sentiment to all of Mongolia. One has to witness the endless barren terrain, feel the oddly soft camel down, and experience a goat stampede around a Ger camp.
In late April, the summer crowd has not yet preyed upon the land and tourist camps are still closed. The drive from Yolin Am (the Ice Valley), takes a long 6 hours. And while the varying mountain range is beautiful, the grazing herds will at some point become monotonous. But I would suggest getting lost in the supposed nothingness. Recall upon the countless nomads who call this region their home. And appreciate the stillness.
In the morning, wake up to see the sun climbing over the horizon and make the strenuous journey up the sand dunes. It’s hot within the first hours of sunlight and even with Tume’s expertise, the trek up involves slipping into the sand. Just ten meters, becomes a mantra. The view becomes more inspiring with each leg, and spent effort is personified by a trail of footsteps. It becomes wasteful to give up at this point.
Almost there, Tume closes my eyes, and leads me up the last 20 steps. The only other sand dunes I’ve climbed, had the Japanese Sea behind it, so idiotic surprise rushes over me as I open my eyes, not to a sea of water, but an ocean of sand.
Then the most incredible thing happens. Tume starts to run along the summit, and the greatest sound groans under the heavy rolling sand. I can only associate what I heard with that of a huge truck’s tires burning on the asphalt as it brakes to a halt. Rolling, sliding, and running down takes a fraction of a minute and my heart returns to adolescence. The moaning sand follows every jubilus step taken.
If only the bottling of experiences was possible. I would treasure this day like an expensive perfume and during times where I need to be reminded of the joy of life, I would dab a bit behind my ears.
Three stampedes and a ger move later, a camel trek completes the day. Tume is left behind and the only conversation exists between the camp elder and his camels. An occasional tsk or whoop moves us slowly around the lakes. My guilt for riding the beautiful animal builds on occasion, but the light breeze carries it away. And no sooner, away we drive. Back into the nothingness of the Gobi Desert.