After the dusty sands of Gobi lingering, we headed for the central steppe. Although sad to leave my sand dunes, I was ready to explore and watch the evolving landscapes pass by en route. People often ask “why the desert? Its so boring, it looks all the same” blah blah… I couldn’t disagree more, each passing moment is so different from the previous. Each second is like a uniquely choreographed snapshot graced with different light and different colours ready to be framed. I was almost too afraid to blink should I miss out on something. That’s why I never sleep in the car no matter how long the journey. Being the shutter bug I am I could have stopped, shot every second and come up with something new. Its an ever changing land and I like long car trips.
We stopped in Bayanzag (meaning rich in Saxual shrubs) also known as the ‘Flaming Cliffs’ which have unearthed some awesome dinosaur eggs and bones (the fossils on display in the Natural History Museum in UB are well worth a look). It’s rather eerie in Bayanzag, the red sands of the rocky desert are littered with saxual shrubbery.
I watched sunset from a rocky outcrop tout seul, hidden amongst the shrubs, sublime. In this vast landscape the sky just engulfs you, I felt very small at times like a tiny star amid an array of galaxies in a supercluster or a tiny speck of sand in the desert. Sunsets in Mongolia are gorgeous, I watched as many as I could alone. In Mongolia the sky is so large the sun seems smaller and at sunset clouds always make an appearance to blush away the scattered light. In the words of Belinda Carlise “ooh heaven is a place on Earth”.
I met a group of fellow twenty somethings, who were delightful and charming. It was refreshing to meet some like minded individuals as team moral in our little group was at an all time low. We had drinks under a dazzling display of stars around a bonfire a nice time to reconnect, I also found a flint that night!
Next day we set off for Ongiin Khiid. It’s a temple complex consisting of the remains of two monasteries in ruins. They lie opposite one another situated on the banks of a river. I wondered about for as long as I could, being mindful of the omnipresent and oppressive history. The monasteries were battered by the Stalinist purges, how in god’s name did the reds get this far? A pitiful little ger of a museum offers some insight into the past. I bought some artifacts at the little museum shop, apparently this is totally illegal (both the buying and selling of antiques). I somehow managed to smuggle them all the way back home though! Don’t ask me how, in Uzbekistan I’d be in serious trouble if found out. A few sleepless nights went into thinking about the consequences laden with a guilty conscious. Oh well.