A sad thought has overcome Mike Horn and the Young Explorers.. the Mongolia Expedition is winding down and soon the YEPs will be back home with their families, telling them of the amazing experiences they have had in this majestic country.
Back on the bikes once again (ouch – the backsides!!) Mike Horn leads the Young Explorers through the Gegeet Valley passing the sectacular Flaming Cliffs, which as the name implies, nearly comes alive with its orange glow during the sunrise and sunset of the Gobi Desert.
As history says, the Flaming cliffs are famous for the first nest of dinosaur eggs and other fossils found in the 1920s. Sure enough (and to the delight of our geography spectalist, Dr Roswitha Stolz) it wasn't long before the YEPs discovered bones and fossils resting on the sand. More amazing lessoons for the YEPs!
The last few days were very long and the one thing the YEPs will be looking forward to after returning home is a liitle rest and relaxation.
Today, the 6th of September, the Young Explorers said 'Goodbye' to Mike and are currently on driving back to Ulaanbaatar where they will sleep overnight and tomorrow morning early will take their flights.
Blog written by Lucas and Inge
Our biking adventures started on the 14th day at 4am in the morning. We had a very small breakfast of Mongolian biscuits before embarking on our 70km journey from the Hongoryn Els to our campsite for the evening. In the darkness we headed out with our Petzl headlamps, gaining 500m in altitude over the first couple of hours towards the Gegeet Valley. After riding through the valley we were all relieved to see the flat plains that lay ahead of us – but we soon found out that the going would not be easy. With food and water being difficult to come by in a desert environment, we were forced to ration our supplies and test the limits of our bodies. Everybody found the ride incredibly difficult due to this and the corrugated dirt roads that often found us in sandy patches. Navigating which of the various paths to take was also draining since it required constant concentration and movement. Despite the difficult and pain suffered by all, the challenge was an incredibly worthwhile experience since we were required to push ourselves through difficult weather and circumstances. Upon arriving at the campsite, all the YEPs ate a late, well deserved lunch and headed to the tents for an afternoon nap. This didn't last long however since we soon had to get back to work on soil and vegetation sampling. Roswitha explained to us how to go about selecting suitable sample points in order to gain accurate measurements with limited resources. We were surprised by the abundancy in such a seemingly dry landscape.
The 15th and final day of the Gobi leg for the expedition saw all the YEPs back on the bikes to complete the remaining 50km. We once again awoke at 4:30am and were blessed with cooler temperatures in comparison to the heat of the previous day. Although we were all tired from the previous day, spirits were high since we had nearly completed what has been a tough, but amazing expedition through the desert. All the Young Explorers came together from the word go and used the drafting technique to obtain maximum efficiency against a strong headwind. With the end in sight and a positive attitude we completed the 50km by midday before jumping in the jeeps to head out to a Ger camp for our final night together in the Gobi.
After settling in to our gers, we headed out to the dinosaur fossils and the Flaming Cliffs. It was quite amazing to see firsthand how these fossils have been preserved and remain in tact after millions and millions of years. The Flaming Cliffs were definitely a spectacle, turning a glowing red in the right light of sunrise and sunset to form a magnificent panorama across the horizon. We were also lucky enough to use this time to visit the last remaining Saxual Forest in the world – a unique form of vegetation with roots up to 40 metres deep that are designed the desert landscape.
As Mike, Martin and Moose would not be travelling back to Ulaanbataar with us, it was nice to be able to close the expedition with a team dinner, sharing of stories, exchanging of gifts and a few inspiring words.
The next morning after a 'short' photo shoot at the Flaming Cliffs, we said our final goodbyes and began the long journey back to Ulaanbataar. We headed off at 7am and travelled 500km across the desert steppe, arriving at 10:30pm. Since we were too late for dinner in the hotel, we ordered pizzas, coke and sat around chatting until the early hours of the morning. We crawled in to bed for about an hour's sleep before having to wake up and load the jeeps to go the airport.
This experience has been amazing. We have learnt so much from the team, each other and the Mongolian people we met along the way. Although sections of the expedition were both mentally and physically demanding, we have all grown as young adults and have become more aware of the importance of teamwork, leadership and respect. We are all inspired and motivated to make a difference in the world and use the opportunities given to us to spread Mike's vision for a healthy planet.
Where are we? We're in MONGOLIA!!
The Flaming cliffs – this area of the Gobi desert is most famous for the first nest of dinosaur eggs and other fossils found by the American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews in the 1920s. He nicknamed this site "Flaming Cliffs" for the surreal glowing orange colour of the rock.
In this region researchers also unearthed many other dinosaur skeletons and other fossils. When dinosaurs died at Flaming Cliffs, they died quickly: burial by fierce sandstorms is the only way to account for the discovery of this dinosaur pair as well as numerous, articulated Protoceratops skeletons found standing in the upright position.