There are no road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4: Rocks


No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4The sun had peeped out from the grey snow clouds by the time we were driving out of the Yolyn Am gorge and when we eventually stopped for lunch it was a clear sunny day.

Bata’s usually impeccable navigation seemed a little off for this journey, there was much switching of tracks and often no tracks at all. He seemed to change his mind a lot and turn back.

He found a ger for lunch, I’ve no idea if this was pre-planned or Bata wanted to stop, the occupants were out however so we ate our lunch huddled up in the back of the van, it was rather cold out.

No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4

The sun was low and golden when Bata finally bought us onto the cliff top of the White Stupa, Tsagaan Khairkhan.

An inland headland overlooking an undulating plain, this plain was ocean floor millennia ago and the pale limestone cliffs have eroded into fantastic columns.

No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4We stepped out onto the breezy cliff and took in the view before clambering off to explore.

Chris found his way down to the ancient ocean floor while Severi found some narrow ledges to climb.

As the sun dropped the cooler it became, we were tossed about in the van as Bata drove us over hard bumpy pasture to find our ger for the night.

It was a small ger among a family group. There were a few camels corralled near the gers and many goats in the pasture behind.

A couple of fierce dogs had to be tied up before we could get out of the van. We had narrow metal beds, like old style hospital beds arranged within, it was the smallest ger we’d stayed in.

It was Sophie’s last night on the tour, her visa was running out and she had places to go, in anticipation of this extra vodka had been procured.

A few card games turned into a heavy night after Sean fell over outside in the dark and needed extra vodka to ‘brave’ the cleaning of the wounds.

Suffice to say empty bottles and hangovers greeted everyone the next morning. I should add, that I {woefully} remained sober all night.


Capturing the sunset

Capturing the sunset

No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4 The following day was taken up driving to Mandalgov, a small, principal town, so that Sophie could catch a bus back to Ulaanbaatar.

After saying our farewells the rest of us had lunch in a local restaurant, where there was definitely meat on my meat-free plate. Ah, the fun of being a veggie in rural Mongolia.

No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4The journey that continued for us from Mandalgov was very dull, a tarmac road and un-scenic views but we did eventually turn off back to the bliss of off-roading.

In the distance some reddened rocky hills appeared, dramatic in the late afternoon light.

This was Baga Gazryn Chuluu, a granite rock formation rising up from the plains.

We camped for the night in a small ger camp overlooking the hills, this was the best location we camped at, it looked stunning in the golden sunset.

The four of us were in a huge ger, there was so much room. We unloaded the van and Chris and I went for a walk out to the edge of the rocks in the last of the sunlight.

Badmaa urged us not to go further into the hills as there were wolves at night, she seemed very concerned so we simply just walked there and back.

There were so many small birds flitting about as we walked, it was a perfect evening.

After dinner the lads played vodka-free cards by candle-light, there was no electrical power.

I lounged in the warmth of the ger, it was a blissful end to the day.


our ger camp

our ger camp

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

We rose to a beautiful morning: the gers glittered with frost.

A rather-too-friendly goat followed Chris back to our ger, it seemed friendly enough when it let Sean scratch it’s head but when I stooped to take a photo it butted me! What a bruise!

No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4Bata drove us to the national park car park for Baga Gazryn Chuluu and Badmaa lead us into the rocks though a narrow canyon.

We soon came up to the remains of an old monastery which had been destroyed during Soviet times, the walls were crumbling and we could make out old paintings on them.

A tree was a be-ribboned totem behind it.

We climbed up further until it opened out onto a plateau, the scramble was easy as the granite gave good purchase.

There were many small cairns of balanced rocks, they were all around us, on every ledge and surface.

The winter light was lovely and the views out over the landscape beyond were magnificent.

It was a fabulous place to explore, vultures and falcons wheeled above and smaller birds darted among the rocks.

I found a quiet spot and sat, enjoying the sunshine, the peace and the vista.

I was joined by a few of the other guys and we watched a pair of falcons chase and tussle each other far out over a rocky promontory.

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

From Baga Gazryn Chuluu it was the long drive back to Ulaanbaatar, we crossed the desert to find the tarmac road only to be confronted by a deep ditch to cross to get on it. Bata followed it for a while but when no opportunity arose he abandoned it for a while and we had lunch parked in a ‘field’.

Bata polished the van until it gleamed, he often did this but I think he made an extra effort for the return to UB.

After all the polishing he then went and stuck it into four-wheel drive and thrust the van into, and out of the ditch and onto the tarmac in a cloud of dust, to cheers from us in the back!

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

Baga Gazryn Chuluu

Our only stop on the drive back was for fuel in a very small town, we had to drive around to find the vendor when the fuel pump turned out to be unmanned.

As we approached Ulaanbaatar the city came into view, above it hung a fug of pollution, a dense cloud, a depressing sight after the clear fresh air of the Gobi.

We caught up with the traffic soon after and it was a slow, horn-filled drive back to the hostel.

Back to a hot shower, we were all desperately in need: there had been no showers, or even hot water for washing throughout the entire trip, even when we’d stayed in the dorm in Mandelovoo.

That shower back in UB was the best shower ever!

The tour had been eventful and fun, the long hours spent in the van were worth it for the views. 

I had found it fascinating staying with the nomadic families, sleeping in the gers, especially in winter.

You get more of an idea of how hard their life is when the snow falls and the temperatures plummet.

Sleeping in our van in the cold Scottish winter is painful enough, I’m tempted with a ger, their insulation is so much more effective!

I’d love to return to Mongolia in the spring or summer to see it in bloom…

We took the tour booked independantly through Sunpath Hostel in UB.

No road signs in the Gobi Desert. Part 4

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Try these posts:

Goodbye Mongolia – Nihao China! Riding the rails to Beijing.

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 1 Sleeping in a ger with a nomadic family, in the desert: magical!

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 2 Our Soviet van breaks down! We are stranded in the middle of absolute nowhere!

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 3 Waking up to deep snow at the valley of the vultures.

Hello Mongolia! Arriving by train into Ulaanbaatar on Chenggis Khan’s birthday! How very auspicious!

Crossing Siberia By Train, Fulfilling a Dream Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk, and one very boozy Russian experience. Yes, we did sing Bohemian Rhapsody to two bemused Russians. Oh dear!

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4 Responses

  1. Dave Rowley says:

    Another beautiful installment in your Gobi story. I love your writing style, especially all the details that make the story come alive. My fave parts of this story are the goat butting you – that’s hilarious! And I loved the description of sitting in the sun and watching the falcons wheeling. Your photos of the guys silhouetted and the hand-holding shadows are wonderful! Your postings really gave the idea of the trackless, isolated, vast Gobi. Beautiful in its own way, but a harsh place to make a life. Like you I would love most meeting the families and staying in the gers, so excellent! Looking forward to the next steps on your journey…

    • Cheers Dave, you would definitely get so much out of the interaction with the nomadic families, it is truly fascinating. The trip will stay in my heart forever, it was so wonderful. I’ve loved reliving the memories writing it, even though it was only a few weeks ago it already feels like a lifetime ago!
      That naughty goat!

  2. Ayla says:

    You have been to so many amazing places on this trip and ones that not a lot of people go to. It all looks incredible! Hope you’re still having an awesome time xx