When I did make it to the cities, I was surprised by the sheer number of people connected with the mining industry at the ex-pat haunts. There is no escaping its influence.
The Gobi is one of those places that is spectacular in its desolation. I spent some time on the fringe of the desert at the Ikh Nart nature reserve, but also went to visit the camel herders in the deep desert. While I enjoyed riding horses, there is something that I found delightful about riding Bactrian camels. A mighty sandstorm kicked up a few days when I was there - battering the gers and leaving the sky in a red haze. The Flaming Cliffs, of Roy Chapman Andrews fame, transported me to the Red Planet. The endless dunes took me to Arrakis (trying to run without a rhythm in sand is hard!). Very different from the Altai where I made my home.
|Woman on camelback pausing before going to retrieve the grazing camels|
|Bactrian camels in the corral|
|The wind shifting the dunes|
|A camel skeleton in the sand|
Update: While on the subject of Peace Corps volunteers, here is an excellent article by a former volunteer on failure. I can identify with what she says, and can see her experiences reflected in the experiences of my Peace Corps friends in Bayan-Olgii.