Stage Three started with a single track climb over some slick rocks through the rocky pass.
The view of last night’s camp as we climbed up and over the rocky pass and down into another valley.
Because art happens anywhere! We passed this “random” art shop. I had to stop and say “hello!” to the artist.
Also perfectly situated and as an indicator of things to come, we passed a guy on a camel as the course markers directed us toward the sand dunes known as Mongel Els.
This part of the Gobi desert consists of arid, sandy steppes with some limited vegetation of low shrubs and ground cover.
I ended up trekking through the 8+ miles of the dunes section primarily by myself, navigating and tackling the soft flowing sand by walking in other people’s footsteps. I really loved this part of the course. No music on. It was a very mystical place, as I experienced complete stillness and space filling silence. Utmost peaceful feeling. And ridiculously surreal. It was suggested to me a year ago to make my world bigger….. and here I was trekking through Mongolia’s Gobi Desert…….
Coming off the dunes there was a trek down a long, dirt road track and I found that I was swearing (a bit) to myself because that extra litre of water we had to carry through the dunes was a heavy addition to my already weighty pack. I topped off my bottles and gasp! dumped out the little bit of remaining water. Much better J and just in time, as I arrived at a river crossing before the final check point of the day.
Getting ready to bust out the rain poncho
I had just made it to the check point and when it started to sprinkle.
Thanks to my training partner for sparing no great expense on what I considered to be my most valuable piece of equipment – my 99cent rain poncho. The rain poncho was pretty much a glorified clear thin plastic sheath (think dry cleaning plastic bag) with arm and head holes. That thing kept me dry – came down to my knees and covered my entire pack in the back. Good thing too as I was about to spend the next couple hours in the pouring rain trekking to Camp Four. Glad I didn’t bother to take off my shoes when crossing the river as it just didn’t matter – Talking Heads “Slippery People” playing on the ipod, I was singing and dancing myself through the high green grass, dodging my way through herds of grazing cows, as my feet were getting wetter and wetter.
Rainy look back towards the dunes in the distance – yeah I trekked that!
What about the time you were rollin' over. Fall
on your face you must be having fun.
Walk lightly! Think of a time you'd best believe this thing is real ~The Talking Heads
Thoroughly soaked and hungry, once I got to camp, I grabbed my mushroom risotto, the night’s planned delicious meal (2 servings – hello, I was hungry). I knew from previous experience, this meal took much longer than the 20 minutes as indicated on the pouch to cook if you want to avoid a la dente rice. Hot water in the pouch, I took my risotto into the tent, dried off, and tried to organize my chaotic mess of misc. baggies, gear, and wet socks. Extra hot water in my risotto meant that I had some mushroom soup to drink as crawled into the sleeping bag. Perfect. Done for the day, no socializing and no sky watching, I was in bed by 7pm.
I failed at all the star gazing I expected I would be doing in Mongolia. Seriously, most nights it wasn’t even dark when I went to bed. Even during the nightly bladder wake up, because I drank so much water, electrolytes and soup throughout the day and at dinner, I would stumble to the pit toilets under cloudy, overcast skies. No stars to be seen.
Sunrise was a different story. Almost every morning in Mongolia, sometime between 4 and 4:30am, my eyes would pop open and I would be out of the tent and headed to the newly lit fire under the giant water kettles that provided us with our hot water. With the Folger’s 80's ad slogan in my head, “the best part of waking up is….,” I sipped my truly awful coffee brew concoction pretending it was delicious. Chatting among a few other early risers and the volunteers while watching the sunrise and the skies lighten over Mongolia was my favorite part of the day.
Sunrise in Mongolia ~ Camp Three