On the morning of August 8th, IGCP 596&580 took a 4 am flight (yes, the flight TOOK OFF at 4 am….) from the eastern capital city of Ulaanbaatar to the western city of Khovd.
When we arrived and got to step off the plane, the sunrise was unbelievably incredible:
We then entered the airport to be greeted by the rest of the IGCP 596&580 team including Mongolian scientists, cooks, and drivers. They were waiting for us with Russian vans that were built to survive harsh winters and off-roading (the engine was located inside the van between the passengers and drivers seat).
We then spent the rest of the day driving southwest through the Gobi desert towards our field site.
Even though this drive forced me to take pounds of dramamine to keep sane (because we had to off-road 90% of the way), I couldn’t help but notice the spectacular landscapes surrounding me consisting of incredible geology and wildlife I had never dreamed of ever seeing, such as intensely faulted rock formations, colorful bedded mountains and canyons, double-humped camels and gazelles. Not to mention the several sightings of Ger’s (a traditional Mongolian dwelling standing on wooden posts, wrapped in wool and tarp used to house families) located in the middle of nowhere.
In just the first day of driving, our van had broken down three times and had one flat tire. No matter what though, our driver was thankfully an experienced enough mechanic to be able to fix any car problem we had…and I mean ANY!
I quickly became very grateful for our Mongolian cooks that came along with us on the journey. I was so impressed with everything they did for us. With their van packed to the rim with food and supplies, at each pit stop and camp site we stopped at, the cooks kindly provided us with delicious meals and snacks. With such high quality food, I would sometimes forgot that I was in the desert in the middle of nowhere, and I felt as if I was back in the main city being served a meal at a top-quality restaurant. Shout out to the cooks, thank you!
We then reached our first camp site right outside the city of Uench with just enough time to set up our tents before dark.
We all slept in our tents that night eagerly anticipating our final full day of driving and ready to arrive at our final camp site for which we would call home to for the next seven days!