Why Take A Camel Trek At Mongolia’s Singing Sands – Khongoryn Els

Summer In Mongolia – What To Expect
July 27, 2013
Wild Family Explorer – Travelling With Your Family In Mongolia
August 16, 2013
Khongoryn Els are Mongolia’s largest sand dunes – also known as Duut Mankhan – the Singing Sands. True, camel trekking is not high on everyone’s agenda but here are a few reasons why I think you should consider it


Duut Mankhan – The Singing Sands
John Man is his book, Tracking the Gobi, mentions that ‘the Gobi offers a cross section of this sweep of earth’s history.’  I agree. The Gobi is an ancient land but it only offers a hint at the flow of peoples that have crossed it. For centuries, up until the 1920’s the Gobi was traversed by camel caravans – mainly on the trade route between Urga (UB) and Beijing.

En-route from Mongolia to China (http://www.camelphotos.com/camels_china.html)

(For centuries, the preferred method of packaging tea for transport was in the form of compressed cakes or bricks – this allowed great value to be packed into a smaller volume. Bricks of tea became a major component of the tea trade up to Russia.  Most tea was transported by mule or mule-carts from either the port of Tianjin or Beijing to Zhangjiakou (Kalgan), where it was re-packed and loaded onto camel caravans for the ride up and over the pass to the high plateau of the Gobi.)
I still think this is one of the best ways to experience the Gobi and as you trek in the footsteps of others you enjoy the sense of history and the vast majesty of the landscapes.  An extended camel trek is a truly ‘iconic’ Gobi experience – in one of the least densely populated areas on earth what better way to enjoy the feeling of freedom created by travelling through the sublime space of the Gobi.

Two of our guests have just returned to the ger of Baasankhuu and Maam having enjoyed a two-day trek. I met up with them on the dunes to watch the sunset (and the impending rainstorm that was moving in) and asked them about their experience. They mentioned the colours in the evening sky, the stars, the cool early morning climb of the dunes and playing cards with Maam who acted as their camel guide. Not a single mention of stubborn camels or sore backsides.
Maam!
In case you’re interested, camel treks can form part of any tailor-made itinerary to the Gobi – as the centrepiece or as a short extension. Not convinced? Maybe the words of the Danish explorer Henning Haslund-Christensen will help to inspire!

‘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.’

Sunrise over the Gobi
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