Blog written by Lucas, Constantin and Martin.
Time : 21:00 Location : N 43°43.770’ E 102°33.474’
Today was a special day for all of us. Spirits were high this morning as everybody woke to see camels hovering around our campsite as opposed to horses. The new method of transport was exciting and served as hopeful relief from the hours spent on Mongolian horse saddles.
We were awake at 7am in preparation for our 9am departure. It was a stunning morning – clear skies and amazing views of the mountain ranges and the beginning of the Hongoryn Els. Once everybody had packed their gear and loaded the jeeps, we were given a short briefing on how to ride camels and how they operate. The Mongolian camels are more dangerous than horses and have the ability to do more damage to humans. As we had no experience with these creatures this meant we had to take caution and prepare ourselves in a more fastidious manner.
At the beginning, we were all totally fascinated by the looks, noises and movements of the camels. They look somewhat prehistoric and the sound they make is completely unique. This is in addition to their incredible size which was a little intimidating at first.
We set off on what we anticipated was going to be a relatively short day after the 150km horse trek over the previous few. We were however, wrong. The slow speed and discomfort quickly trumped the hopefulness of a short day as all the YEPs and Mike Horn Team members settled in for what was going to be a tough slog.
The lunch break was welcomed by all as everyone searched for clothing to make the saddles a little more comfortable. Despite this, everybody pushed through and endured the slow pace for what was an amazing experience that could not be left out when on an expedition in a desert.
Everybody was in awe as we approached the larger dunes of the Hongoryn Els – an amazing sight. We arrived at approximately 5:30pm and watched the sunset over the dunes while doing our soil analysis. We managed to complete all the testing of the samples we had taken from the saline lake near Lake Hovsgol and in the Gobi Desert. It has been really interesting to see firsthand the effects of a changing climate on such unique landscapes, inspiring us to act on such issues.
Everybody is in bed early tonight in preparation for a very early start tomorrow morning to summit the highest dune in the Hongoryn Els. Very exciting!
The Great Gobi provides the last home for the wild Bactrian camel, one of the rarest and least studied mammals on earth. The Gobi's wild camels are the last surviving wild ancestors of the world's domestic Bactrian (two-humped) camels. An estimated 300 wild camels remain, and that the population is declining. They were domesticated before 2500 BC in the plateau of northern Iran and southwestern Turkestan and then spread east to Iraq, India and China. Domesticated Bactrians are well known as beast of burden, often carrying 1000 pounds for as many as 30 miles in the scorching heat and sand of their native environment, or in the very cold. Bactrian camels have long, shaggy hair which keeps them warm in the winter. In the summer months they shed, leaving them almost naked.