30 March 2015

Helping to protect the Gobi Desert one tree at a time

Those of you who have travelled with us, will know that I take the term 'responsible travel' very seriously. 

Responsible, sustainable or ethical travel - in recent years, it has developed many labels and is now a widely-used selling tool in the tourism industry. But, what does it mean? Although there is no real clear definition, it has to be more than ensuring that we collect all of our rubbish, asking before taking a photograph or being aware of the cultural norms. As travellers, that’s what we should be automatically doing anyway.

Turuu and I with locals from Tariat and Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park community in Arkhangai Aimag. We arranged and fully-funded a two-day clean up of the area in late September 2014. More details to come in a later blog post and we will be repeating the event in 2015.

For me,  this is about our responsibility to Mongolia. Travel can, and should be, a positive experience for both you, the visitor, and for Mongolia – its natural environment, people, culture and traditions. I believe that travel has to be beneficial to all concerned. That for me is responsible travel.

When I set up Eternal Landscapes, I wanted to have responsible travel goals that were realistic and attainable - ones that we could actually achieve. I also wanted to be able to show real evidence of our practise.

We are not perfect and do at times struggle with certain aspects of our sustainable travel Mongolia philosophy. But, I believe in improvement and re-evaluate each year our achievements and weaknesses.  This then gets updated on our website. I also welcome any suggestions or feedback on how our guests feel we can increase our commitment to sustainable travel in Mongolia.

The local projects that I actively support may come across as a way of trying to up our responsible travel credentials but, between them, they provide greater opportunities and benefits for local communities within Mongolia and that’s worth supporting.    Yes, I make a yearly financial donation but (as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work) try to take that project support further. 

The children sponsored by Asral NGO through the Hot Meal Project. I provide a yearly donation to Asral NGO and we also provide support by offering a ger district walking tour arranged through Asral. More details to come in another blog post but we don't  allow cameras on the walk though. 
One of the projects we support is Gobi Oasis  - based in Dundgobi Aimag's provincial town - Mandalgobi. Located in the middle Gobi in an area of desert steppe, Gobi Oasis is a  family operated project  formed in 1975 - planting trees in the Gobi Desert to help stop desertification and erosion.  

Byamba is the main founder of Gobi Oasis and she is seen here with her husband Radnaa
Byamba established the Gobi Oasis tree planting project in 1975 after gradutating from the University of Agriculture in Ulaanbaatar as a Forest Engineer. During her many years of hard work, she has been honoured with national awards including 'The State Honoured Worker of Environment', 'The National Ranger of Mongolia', and 'The Golden Star'.

Byamba has been on several trips to China, Russia and England to visit other tree planting projects. She also does classroom training for students & experts, and hosts local & foreign volunteers at the nursery from April through to autumn. 

Seedlings prepared at Gobi Oasis for planting at the project and elsewhere throughout the Gobi region
Trees? In the Gobi? Yes! And here's your introduction as to what they plant at Gobi Oasis and why.


Saxaul trees (Haloxylon ammodendron or saksaul) only exist in Central Asia. Known as 'Zag' in Mongolian, this a one of the most important vegetation features of the Gobi - with one quarter of Mongolia's  forested area being covered by this woody shrub. 

Especially in areas of desert and semi-desert, saxaul forests protect the soil from erosion, provide diverse habitants for animals, fodder for wildlife and livestock, and firewood for people.

The saxaul ranges in size from a large shrub to a small tree. The wood is heavy and coarse and the bark is spongy and water-soaked. The leaves of the tree are so small that it appears to be without leaves, giving it a dull grey appearance. However, the branches of young trees are green and pendulous and it has small yellow flowers. 

It is effective against erosion because it sends out horizontal roots in addition to very deep roots to reach the underground water. Those plants that have reached an age of 25 years are the most effective for erosion control. 

There are about 6200 different sizes of saxaul trees growing at Gobi Oasis today. They are grown from little seeds and some are then transplanted to other desert areas nearby.


This is the species that a majority of my clients plant. Elm trees are scientifically known as Ulmus Pumila. Ulmus is the ancient Latin name for elm and Pumila is Latin for dwarf in reference to the small leaves. 

The type of elm trees that are found in Mongolia are Siberian elms in shrub sizes and actually originate from Mongolia, Turkestan, Eastern Siberia and Korea.  They usually grow between 10 and 20 metres high with a trunk of about 80 centimetres in diameter. In colder areas like Mongolia, the Siberian elm features deciduous leaves. 

The Siberian Elm are resistant to drought, severe cold, and disease such as Dutch Elm Disease which affects many of its counterparts. They form a great habitat for bio-diversity and are used as windbreakers in the dusty windy steppe terrain. 

There are about 1500 elm trees growing at  Gobi Oasis and they sell young branches for re-plantation.

The first EL tree. Planted by Turuu back in 2011. We each planted one and they're still going strong.
There are also a small number of Aspen and Almond trees as well as a vegetable plot at Gobi Oasis. A typical crop is  750 kg of potatoes, 25 kg of onions and 25kg of carrots shared among the local family members that took part in this scheme. 

In  2012, Gobi Oasis planted 1,300 tree seedlings and saplings therefore helping to consolidate the desert soil on the lee side of Mandalgobi. Since 2011, our EL  guests have planted over 45 trees between them (each EL team member also plants a tree.) Small steps yes but I like to think steps in the right direction.

Dorothy, Deborah and Lynn together with Byamba. Planting their elm saplings in June 2014. 

Untamed Mongolia 2012 standing proudly next to their saplings

Our guests Brittany and Dylan, 2013

Wolfgang and Gloria, September 2014

Violaine and Radnaa, July 2014

Lynn, Susan and Shelley from our Mountains, Monasteries and Nomads September 2014 trip

Enkhee together with Byamba's daughter-in-law Urnaa and our Spring Journey guests  - Karen, Carol and Kirsty. May 2014

Leslie and Naomi - July 2013

The Gee Family, August 2014

I love this photo of Byamba. Every person that visits and plants a tree is listed in 'the book'. She can remember their names, the organisation they travelled with and just the best, she remembers where they planted their tree. 

Our first visit of 2015 to Gobi Oasis is on April 6th. If you'd like more information, then please get in touch :-) Jess

26 March 2015

The Tale Of The Weeping Camel

Right then. Have you seen the Tale of the Weeping Camel? In case the answer is no, it is a 2003 German documentary drama which was released internationally in 2004. The movie was directed and written by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni. The plot is about a family of nomadic herders in the Gobi Desert trying to save the life of a Bactrian camel calf after it was rejected by its mother.

In Bulgan, a small community in Omnogobi Aimag that holds the Thousand Camel Festival

21 March 2015

Gobi Explorer

The Gobi. No need to put 'desert' after it as in Mongolian ‘Говь’ is the word for desert. Unless you want to say desert desert of course.

Sunrise at Khongoryn Els with our guests Leslie and Naomi
Anyway. Why this blog post about the Gobi?

The immensity of the Gobi through the lens of our guest Lynn McCaw
I have just received two bookings on our (slightly revised) July 12th Gobi Explorer and thought an introduction would be useful. And here it is....through the words of an author, two of our 2014 clients, a US based non-profit organisation and a few 20th century explorers. All the images are by our guests or the EL team as well.

Khermen Tsav 
‘The Gobi Desert seems like earth reduced to its most basic elements: rock, sky, glaring sunlight and little else. The apparent emptiness is both compelling and intimidating. But the Gobi is not empty, it is filled with space, sky, history and landscapes.'

Conservation Ink

Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park

'The word gobi denotes a desert or a waterless place but doesn't really mean anything by itself. The Mongolians have many descriptive words for types of gobi, like the Eskimo and Scandinavians with their words for snow. There are supposed to be thirty-three Mongolian words for gobi - such as gravel, sand, bare earth, rock, mountain, dune, watering place, and those describing various types of vegetation. The ancient Gobi was more like an East African savannah - long grasses and some trees, with lakes and marshes. Successive waves of drought turned it into the more barren land it is today.'

John Man, Tracking The Gobi

Zorgol Khairkhan by our guest Hui Wyn Ong
'With the rising of the moon the desert takes on its most captivating appearance, and though the long hours while she travels from one side of the horizon to the other she has her own way with human imagination, softening the austere outlines and investing the barest formations with subtle charm. She is mistress of magic and with one touch can turn the wilderness into a dream world.'

Mildred Cable and Francesca French, The Gobi Desert  

Ikh Gazriin Chuluu 
'The dunes of Khongoryn Els sweep up against Zöölön Uul, a mountain range that is at the easterly reach of the Gobi Altai. You could say the dunes were a mountain range themselves. They are mammoth, the highest peak of sand being approximately 300m. They present the stereotypical beauty I think of in relation to a desert; sweeping lines and sharp contrasting forms lit by an unforgiving sun. 
There is certainly a beauty here, however, it is the gravel plains of the Gobi that stop my heart and leave my mind gaping in painful awe.
The plains feel harsh, presenting a seeming endless barren desolation that is difficult to comprehend. Yet I sit and gaze into their expansive horizon, as I do into my evening fire, seeing nothing and everything in the vastness of this place.
Each time we stop and I look around it takes a while for me to recover from the immensity and seduction of it all, and from the knowledge that I could not survive here unsupported.'

Our guest Sovay Berriman, Wild Gobi Research Trip, August 2014, Molluscs Hunt Wizards
Taken by Turuu en route to the 2015 Thousand Camel Festival in Bulgan Sum 
'The ground was speckled with tuffs of grass, livestock were huddled around a ger and there were drops of water obscuring my view. RAIN?! 
The Gobi will make you question everything you thought you knew about the desert. It will strip the layers of expectation, familiarity and ‘seen it all before’ mentality from the harshest of critics. No longer will you compartmentalise landscapes into preconceived boxes. 
Barren rocky outcrops, glistening natural springs bordered by lush green trees, wind swept dunes and blazing sunsets amongst the ghosts of prehistoric creatures. From the furgon, the back of a camel and on foot I moved through these changing scenes like the sole actress on a deserted film set. 
Hours spent with eyes squinted, brow furrowed in concentration. How could I possibly describe in words the immense space that was in front of me? 
The remoteness lends itself to a sense of freedom and unconscious ownership. Just when you feel an element of power over the landscape, mother earth will remind you of your perilous position in the world. 
This tap on the shoulder came to me deep in the middle of the night. The wind embraced the tent with the full force of a bear hug, using my body as a barrier against the side bending to it’s demands, I felt as minuscule as an ant in the wide open steppe.'
Our guest Megan Greentree,  Wild Gobi Research Trip, August 2014, The Happiest Traveller

In the shadow of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan

‘We rolled ourselves in our blankets and slept for the first time on Asiatic ground and under the clear sky of Asia. The next morning, whips cracked, the horses snorted, and the caravan rolled off on a new day’s march. We had to work hard at once, for the caravan mounted that day from 2400 feet to 6400 feet. We all helped, we pulled and lashed, we yelled and shoved...We climbed the remaining three hundred feet, which brought us breathless but exultant to the top of the pass. We stood on the threshold of the wide plateau at the entrance of the land of the nomads. We could not have  dreamed of a more captivating entrance to a new country, and when the sun sank upon that day, we felt as though born into a new life – a life which had the strength of the hills, the depth of the heavens and the beauty of the sunrise.’
Danish Explorer, Henning Haslund-Christensen, 1923. Riding with the camel caravans on the Tea Road crossing from China onto the high plateau of the Mongolian Gobi. 

 Driving through Gobi Gurvan Saikhan

And one of my favourites, from my on first trip to the Gobi Desert with Turuu as lead driver back in the days of yore.

Jess: When was the Gobi a sea? 
Turuu: Back when I was a fish.

Training for Naadam, by our guest Lynn McCaw,  June 2014

And. Just in case the thought of travelling through the Gobi inspires, you can find the details of the Gobi Explorer here. However, the dates have been changed slightly from July 12th to 24th. This trip includes a free (information and relaxed) walking tour of Ulaanbaatar on Day One (July 12th) as well as the Horse Trainer's Naadam on July 13th. It also includes two homestays - one with a female camel herder and the other with the families of the EL drivers. And....a two day camel trek at the stunning Khongoryn Els. Please get in touch for more details.

(We also have availability in April, May and June on guaranteed departures to the Gobi. 

A storm passing through Arts Bogd by our guest Lynn McCaw

18 March 2015

The ultimate packing list for Mongolia.....possibly....

So. Mongolia. Definitely not a pack-light destination. Actually, consider purchasing some of those vacuum storage bags. 

To put it into perspective. Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world, with the average altitude at 1580 metres above sea level - over 80% is over 1000m. The high central Asian mountain ranges protect the country against the humid air masses which basically creates an extreme continental climate with a temperature range to suit. 

Mongolian weather has  a reputation and  is known for its sharp fluctuations with warm, short summers and long, dry and very cold winters. There’s not much point in detailing averages as anything is possible, from 30°C and no wind in May, to 15°C and snow in August.  On the plus side, weather systems do tend to move through quickly!

Stephen being introduced to summer in Mongolia - yes, that's snow!
Everyone's packing style is different and we all have our own travel needs so these are only my ideas and there will be gaps*! Personally, every year in the week leading up to my departure to Mongolia I struggle with my packing.  I hate having to choose between my favourite things and am often tempted to just bring it all and to hell with it. Yes, I am that person struggling at the airport with an over-packed bag. 

* The list is quite generic and I have not focused on horse trekking equipment or if you're travelling independently. If you are doing either then that's a whole different blog post!

The ultimate packing list for Mongolia.....possibly....

Of course, you could just bring your own horse and cart - photo by John Holman who joined us in 2009, 2012 and 2013±

Think layers, think comfortable and think practical. Dark colours are usually better than light so that dirt doesn't show up so much, but if you're heading to the Gobi when it's really hot some lighter colours may be preferable.

  • Warm Days

Loose-fitting, lightweight cotton materials. Bring swimming stuff for a dip in a lake or river. Also very useful on camping trips for having an outdoor wash.
  • Colder Days

Thermal layers, fleece tops, jumpers, hat and gloves. If you're really concerned about the cold then consider a down jacket and 'hand warmers'.
  • Inclement Weather

Water/windproof jacket (and waterproof trousers for trekking). 
  • Horse or Camel Trekking

Suitable trousers - not too loose as they will definitely rub. 

Practical Items (in no particular order)

  • Money Belt/Pouch
  • A lock for your bag
  • A headlight 
  • Plastic/Ziploc bags  - good for wrapping camera equipment/shampoo bottles etc
  • Binoculars  - great for early morning wildlife spotting
  • Wash Cloth
  • Travel plug adaptor (for Mongolia a European plug with two circular metal pins). Bring for a standard socket as well as a vehicle cigarette lighter. Bring a USB adaptor with you as well. 
  • Spare memory cards for your camera – although a good selection are available in UB
  • Solar charger
  • Light-weight travel towels (towels are not typically available at any accommodation outside of UB apart from higher level provincial hotels and the larger tourist ger camps)
  • Lip Balm/Moisturiser (Mongolia can have a very dry environment due to its altitude)
  • Suncream and sunglasses
  • Insect Repellent (no need to bring a mosquito net - I've never needed one in 10 years)
  • Anti – Bacterial ‘Dry’ Soap
  • Laundry Soap/Travel Wash – biodegradable if possible
  • Pain Killers/Medication (for bad backs, headaches, muscle pulls, constipation etc). Generic antibiotic such as Amoxicillin.
  • Wet Wipes (good for instant washes) 
  • Travel Pillow
  • Sarong
  • Water Filter or Purifying Tablets 
  • Multipurpose bandana 
  • Trekking Poles
Also. If you're  a keen photographer seriously consider bringing  a Polaroid camera with you.  Taking a photo and just showing it on the digital screen or promising to send it is no longer enough. Bring a Polaroid camera and leave the photo  as a small thank you gift. 

Available in Mongolia

Yes, items you can buy at home will probably be more expensive in Mongolia but we're only talking a few pounds or dollars and exploring the Ikh Delguur (State Department Store) or the Black Market is all part of the experience. You may even find yourself shipping an entire ger home when you were only looking to buy some cashmere socks!

True, once you head out of UB your shopping options will become more limited - unless you're looking to buy six different brands of vodka or a large selection of plastic Chinese buckets?!

Shopping options in rural Mongolia - by Violaine Coard on our 2014 Untamed Mongolia

In UB, you can purchase everything from shampoo through to binoculars and on to insect repellent, wet wipes, spare memory cards and trekking poles. There is also a Louis Vuitton if you're looking for something slightly upmarket?!  Guide books are also available - but if you're convinced that you need all four of the ones you have lovingly researched and purchased then who am I to argue! 

Final Thoughts 

Gluten free? You might want to bring some rice crackers with you. Going trekking? Consider bringing some cup a soups - perfect for cold days for a quick hot lunch option. Even if your itinerary states you will be staying at tourist ger camps you may still want to consider bringing a sleeping bag liner or a sleeping bag. Summer gers are erected quite informally and so there are always plenty of gaps where the air flows through. The insulating felt can be quite thin as well.

Vegetarian? You don't have to worry....

14 March 2015

Food of the Nomads - Your insight to the Tsagaan Sar table!

Following are some wonderful images from Ross who joined us on our 2015 Mongolia winter tour Tsagaan Sar Insight  - Mongolian Lunar New Year.

I absolutely love this photo of Ross wearing his cashmere deel (bought in the Black Market in UB with the help of the EL team together with Turuu and Enkhee who led the trip.

11 March 2015

From one wilderness to another......

OK. You have three guesses. Where in the world? You can have one clue. It isn't Mongolia. 
Walking off Steeperton Tor towards Taw Marshes with Belstone Ridge off to the left
The answer is Dartmoor National Park in Devon in the UK. 2015 is my tenth year of living and working in Mongolia and a five-year anniversary for Eternal Landscapes. I wanted to do something to celebrate and as I've been privileged to meet some truly wonderful people in Mongolia as well as from elsewhere in the world, I thought it had to be about the people.
I've opted to hold mostly free anniversary events throughout the year and the first was my EL Dartmoor Weekend held back in February. 
It was a chance for friends and past and future EL guests to come and enjoy being in wide open landscapes once more and reminisce and talk about all things Mongolian.
Don't we look a great bunch of people? That's Walter in the front - one of my two dogs.
So. Here's your introduction. Covering an area of 368 sq miles (954 sq km), Dartmoor National Park contains the largest and wildest area of open country in the south of England. I like to call Mongolia my 'number one' office and Dartmoor my 'number two' office. Both make sure I continue my slightly 'weathered' look.

  • A large part of Dartmoor (65%) is made up of granite.
  • There are over 40 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) with the DNP covering 26,169 hectares (64,664 acres). The two main sites of North Dartmoor and South Dartmoor total over 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres). I spend most of my time on North Dartmoor.
  • Dartmoor’s landscape is of great archaeological importance with over 1,000 Scheduled Ancient Monuments. On our walk on the Sunday, I took the group to see a standing stone circle around a Bronze Age burial site.

Dartmoor's highest point is High Willhays (621m) - considered the highest point in SW England south of the Peak District. I included it as part of our route on the Saturday (we covered roughly 16 miles!). 

We may have been wind blasted and rained upon and hiked through snow flurries but the company was excellent as was the food and drink. And of course, it supported local - from the youth hostel accommodation in a converted railway goods shed, to Saturday night dinner in a great restaurant in my home town that is 
owned in partnership by the local butcher and Sunday lunch in the Tors pub Belstone village - which we walked to. 

As you can probably tell by the long list of adjectives I like to use, I am biased when it comes to Mongolia. I am also extremely fond of Dartmoor as well. So. What did my EL guests think of the weekend?

'I had a fabulous weekend and really loved getting out into the country, wild open spaces again. I hope to be able to join you in Mongolia again soon….'

'Thank you so much for the weekend Jess. I really enjoyed it, the company, the walks, the wildness, the laughing - even the weather! You are an amazing person - full of enthusiasm, generosity and kindness, and am really glad I found you and EL :-)'

If you're thinking of travelling to Mongolia with EL and want to come and have a chat, I'm more than happy to help put a Devon weekend together for you and to take you on a guided walk 'up on the Moor.' I took a potential client out on such an experience a few weeks ago and their response? 
'Thank you so much for such a wonderful afternoon. You really make it easy to fall in love with landscapes, travel and people.'
I will be holding a second Dartmoor weekend in November on my return from Mongolia so let me know if you're interested as it's open to all. 

6 March 2015

Mongolia - By Our Guest, Ross Briggs

Why visit Mongolia? I could provide a list...but it would just be a long list of adjectives. And I'm biased!

When deciding what company to choose to arrange a holiday with, I always think it helps to understand the experience through the eyes of a previous client. 

So. Today I spoke on the phone to our returning guest Ross Briggs who will be joining us again in August of this year for our two research trips.  These are his thoughts from when he joined us on our 2013 Landscapes of the East and then our Wild Treks Research Trip. 

The photos are from the trip, I couldn't decide which ones to include so I included most :-)

The Best Cultural Experiences

It is hard to separate these experiences, included should be the hospitality of the people - our visit to Jargaa and Batbold at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and their hospitality - the special food, bing, bortsog, khorkhog, clotted cream, milk tea and generally being fussed over. Ulzii at Ikh Nart  and Guibarsha at Ulgii are all memorable encounters. Meeting Byamba and Radnaa at the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project in Mandalgobi - being able to help their cause and contribute in a small way to the plantation.  I felt I was leaving a little of myself behind.

The delightful Batbold and Jargaa

Byamba of the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project
Otgon Tenger Uul would have to be my most memorable cultural experience.  Seeing the reverence Turuu  showed to the mountain and lake, taking part in the lake water ritual, knowing, seeing and experiencing the significance of the area made it a very special day.

Otgon Tenger is Mongolia's most sacred mountain and at 4,008 meters above sea level the highest in the Khangai range (some earlier topographic maps record a maximum elevation of 4,021m). Mongolians consider the mountain to be the mystical abode of Ochirvan - the fierce, dark blue protective deity of the Buddhist religion. At 13150 feet,  there is 62% of the oxygen available at sea level. 
 The Eagle Festival sits in this category.  I thoroughly enjoyed the festival, the eagle competitions and the hunters, the diversity of the costumes and all the associated trappings. Being able to get up close to the eagles was very special.

Another culture experience was the  National Museum of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar - excellent exhibits and well presented. 

Baldan Bereeven Khiid in Khentii Aimag may come before the museum.  I enjoyed the visit there, the setting, the meditation walk and the visit to the temple. I always find visting these places so peaceful and come away humbled.  I find they make me look at myself and make me realise how insignificant my personal worries and concerns are.

The (autumn) Landscapes of the East including remote Baldan Bereeven Khiid

 The Best Adventure Activities

I interpret this as things that get my adrenalin flowing.  My favorite would be observing Argali sheep at the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve with Ulzii.  The chance to watch the sheep quite close for a reasonable time was very special. Seeing this endangered species was a once in a lifetime experience for me that I doubt I will repeat.
Being in the Furgon with White-Tailed Gazelle racing across the steppe. Also, driving the short cut to Otgon Tenger Uul.

En-route to Otgon Tenger

I guess my trek to the west end of Khar Nuur in Zavkhan Aimag was an adventure activity which I really enjoyed - especially the solitude and the scenery.  The diversity of the terrain, sand dunes to grass land to rocky shore and then the climb back over the ridge and down on to the dunes leading back to camp.  The scenery was magnificent.
You must realise that the whole trip was an adventure to me, I loved all of it. 

The truly remarkable Khan Nuur in Zavkhan Aimag

The Places I loved

 I loved it all.  The Gobi with its enormous flat plains, the rocky outcrops with amazing  formations. I especially enjoyed Ih Nart, sitting at the end of the craggy ridge above the huge Gobi plain looking to the south and inside.   The Khentii, rolling hills and the grassland steppe that goes on for ever, speckled with larch forests.  Learning the history of this area and feeling the presence of the ancient tribes. Sitting at the campfires under the amazing starry skies and one of my most memorable moments, listening to the wolves howling in the forest across the valley. 
Khar Nuur - getting there from Uliastay, through the amazing scenery, the huge river valleys and the steep passes.  Finally dropping down to the lake with its amazing  deep blue waters with the sand dunes dropping into the lake like sand glaciers. Camping with the sand dune rising behind and the lake at our front door. Exploring the the western end, the fabulous sand dune formations, and the picturesque coves after crossing each rocky spur that reached down to the water. 

Meeting Turuu's friend Bazraa and seeing his favourite places - Senjit Dava  - and its rock formations including Senjit Khaad - the rock gate and the on to the sand dunes, the walk in the arid sand canyon, turning the corner to the green oasis with the shallow river flowing over the sand.  Continuing upstream to find the river seeping out of the base of the large curved dune at the head of the valley.  This area has unique landscapes that I have not seen anywhere else.  I think it is very special.  

I have singled out these places but there are many more equally loved, we travelled through some amazingly scenic areas and camped at many special places, on their own not significant but as part of a whole area/region equally impressive.  I recall the run home, Olgii to UB, spectacular.  From the Altai mountains to the Gobi plains an amazing part of the journey. 

I will always remember the land, the enormous landscapes but I also cherish the time I have spent with the people I have met.