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Mongolia, land of wilderness

 

Mongolia is about three times the size of France but only has 3 million people. It has the world’s lowest population density at just 1.4 persons per sq km and half of its people live in Ulaanbaatar – no wonder we hardly saw anyone.

Mongolia is a nature lover’s paradise. It has huge tracts of virgin landscapes, empty deserts, dramatic gorges, vast steppes, sparkling rivers, clear sky, amazing clouds, minimal infrastructure. We spent half about 2/3 of the nights in ger camps where sometimes we were the only guests, and the rest camping wild where there was not a single person in sight. Our record was three days without seeing a soul apart from the two of us and our driver.

We spent over three weeks in Mongolia and still only covered the central and southern part of it. The roads are dirt tracks, at best, and there are no roadsigns. We asked directions every so often and the local nomads would point us to all sorts of supposed short cuts (ask a group of three and they will all point in different directions). So not surprisingly we ended up getting lost sometimes, but it didn’t really matter. Our Russian made Furgon 4WD van was very tough and almost entirely mechanical, so when something broke (which was nearly every day) the driver could fix most things himself, and every village has all the spare parts so more major things could wait till then. Average speed was rarely above 30km/hour and it usually took a good part of the day to get from A to B, with a quick instant noodle or cheese with crackers lunch stop. Driving across the Gobi desert was even slower as we needed to dig and push the van out of the sand from time to time.

Will we go back? Certainly yes if we have the chance. There are so many places to explore:  the western part with high mountains, and the vast eastern grasslands where huge herds of gazelle can apparently be seen, the alpine lakes in the north...