Friday, June 13, 2008

Going to the Gobi

The Gobi Desert. It is hard to imagine a more forbidden name. Sandstorms, nomads, camels with two humps. And no water.

I unfolded my legs from an eight-hour train ride from the Gobi. It is indeed dry. Sandstorms are awesome but not fun. But the camels are a blast.

We spent three days wandering around in the desert in a Russian van that had no first gear and only worked in four-wheel-drive for a few feet. Gritty sand blew into everything -- I doubt my camera will last much longer.

But the Gobi is not without life. small lizards scurry across the sand and large green insects vaguely akin to grasshoppers cling to the thorny brush.

The people in the Gobi are mining the region's new gold -- tourists. A monk wearing a cartoon-emblazoned towel led us through a new-age "World Energy Center." A group of believers chanted then plopped onto the sand to suck up energy. Ger camps are blossoming everywhere.

My favorite adventure was a stop at the ger of a young couple who raise camels. Bactrian camels are almost like big dogs. I loved them, expecially when they gave me the reins and I got to jog through the desert unaccompanied.

But the Gobi has long been conquered. As far as I walked and rode into this vast and legendary desert, the tracks of inconsiderate man were everywhere. The discarded beer can is the universal symbol for "We Were Here." Garbage is our legacy.

Here are more photos.

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