As I stared out at the canyon all I could think was one thing: I don’t want to leave.
I’d been in Mongolia for almost two weeks, most of that time driving around the Gobi desert and Central Mongolia in an ancient Russian 4×4 van with five other people who at the start of this trip were strangers but by now had become good friends. We’d been to ancient monasteries and had helped assemble a ger. We’d ridden camels and we all swore we’d never do it again. We’d trekked down canyons, climbed mountains and sand dunes and scrambled up rock formations.
We’d called our wonderful driver ‘Togo’ the whole time, only realizing later that we’d been pronouncing his name wrong, and had in fact been calling him the word for the box of dried cow dung used to fire up the stove in our ger every night. Yes, we had been calling our lovely driver ‘Shit Box’.*
*Note: I don’t remember how we came to this realization and I’m not sure it’s actually true, but it’s the conclusion we came to at the time.
We’d eaten copious amounts of Snickers bars and Choco Pies in between our mostly uninspiring meals. We had wandered through a Mongolian town together, pointing at a picture of vegetables to everyone we saw, hoping that someone would tell us where to buy some. We’d played with all the kids.
And I wanted to see more. The problem was, my Russian visa would begin in a week’s time, whether I was actually there or not. By staying longer in Mongolia I’d be sacrificing a week of Russia. What a decision.
But in the end it was not much of a decision to make. As I stood on the edge of that canyon I knew: I could not leave yet. I wasn’t finished. This country had gotten under my skin and into my heart like few others, and I needed to stay longer.
So when we got back to Ulaanbataar, one couple had to leave and the four of us that were left embarked on another trip, this time an 8 day journey up to Khovsgol Lake and back. We rode horses to the lake and camped beside it for two very cold nights; so cold that I couldn’t sleep and instead got up to watch the stunning sunrise.
And with that, Mongolia had me. Ever since then, when asked about my favourite country to visit, Mongolia has always been near the top of the list. Because let’s face it, any country that can make me get up for sunrise must be pretty amazing!
So here you go, a selection of photos of Mongolia to make you want to pack your bags and go today!
Got your bags packed yet? Did these photos of Mongolia at least make you think about it? Got questions about how to do it? Ask me in the comments!