photos just don't do it justice

I find there are two things I keep saying about Mongolia.

First, that I frustratingly couldn't fit the country into my camera, and second, that its extremes of weather, and the swiftness with which one extreme followed the other, gave me climate whiplash.

I started off in UB, which to my delight was unseasonably warm for the time of year — daytime temperatures of around 27°C instead of the 15°C I'd expected.

Then I headed south, towards the Gobi, and the days got hotter. If you've ever been in desert country, where the only thing vaster than the deceptively-featureless landscape of burnt and baking ground underfoot is the boundless sky overhead, you'll know what I mean by that. Trees, and even shrubs, were non-existent; the only shade was that provided by the occasional passing cloud.

naturally, we thought a stroll was a great idea
our goal was a particular dune — and the camels knew precisely what to do when we got there

Here's the first hint of whiplash: the photo above was taken 5 hours after I snapped the camels on the sand dune. The day hadn't cooled any — in fact, at the bottom frame of that photo you can just see the spreading ripples of the spring which feeds this lake, and I'm standing there because I'd just dipped my handkerchief into that blessedly ice-cold spring. But, if you can believe it, that lake is only 10 kilometres away from the sand dune.

Two days later, after heading west and starting to curve back north, we were pounded by a dust storm that saw me doomed to carry my own body weight in Gobi dust in the weave of my pants for the rest of the trip, shortly followed by rain. Cold and decidedly biting rain that followed us as we headed further north, hoping to outrun the bad weather.

In vain. Three days more, and we set up camp by the White Lake, in Horgo National Park. Midday had been clear and sunny, but around 4pm the clouds rolled in, and they were darker than the rain clouds that had been chasing us.

oh yeah. tham thar are snow clouds

Having never been snowed on, I didn't know enough to recognise them as snow clouds — but I learnt soon enough when they spent all night dumping snow on the tent.

I will admit that the next morning I was not feeling my most chipper. Mainly on account of the fact that I was already wearing every article of clothing I'd brought with me, the alarming numbness in my toes was not only not retreating but instead was creeping up to engulf the entirety of my feet, and we were nowhere near the Siberian border, our northernmost and coldest point.

from dehydrating in the desert to bogged in the snow on a mountain pass: one week

When we did reach Lake Khovsgol, it was to find the lake still iced over.

melting fast — the ice was up to the shore just the night before

2 thoughts on “photos just don't do it justice

  1. Takes some drastic learning to overcome years of the sure and certain knowledge that clouds don't dump snow on my head.

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