I woke Nate up at 5:30 in the morning to see the sun rise. Kat and Dan were up as well. The air was crisp and fresh, but the sky still looked overcast. We waited anyways to be sure there would be no colour. The silence of the empty fields early in the morning was worth the early rise.
Some of the guys had a Frisbee they were tossing around, but Nate and I went back into our yurt for a nap. We could only sleep for a little while before we had to pack up our stuff and head into the house for a breakfast of milk tea, millet, and fried bread.
We said goodbye to Dan, Daisy, and Wilma, our group additions who had so quickly become friends. We were back on the bus for the long ride out to the desert, and we picked up seven more passengers! Now our previously spacious bus was almost as packed as the van had been on our drive to the grasslands, before it had been stopped for being over-filled.
The bus was extremely hot, especially in the back where I was sitting. When the heat was about to become unbearable the driver pulled over and managed to rig open the emergency exit hatch oh the roof.
Finally we pulled into a dusty parking lot. Ahead the small scrubs and trees scattered amid rolling dunes.
A vehicle that looked something like a sand boat waited for us. There was a woman selling buffs, but Nate and I had come prepared.
We wrapped out buffs over our head and face, and put our sunglasses on our eyes. We were ready for a sand storm. The rest of our group bought buffs and did the same.
The sand boat took us beyond the first layer of dunes. There were groups of camels, tied together, lying in the distance. Our sand boat stopped at one of these groupings. We left our bags, which would be brought separately out to our camp spot for us, and gathered around the camels.
Will it, you know, spit at me? Kat asked.
Everyone was getting their first good shots of the dunes when we were urged over to the camels. “Where’s Kat and Dan?” Nate asked. I turned around, and there they were wondering off together into the distance! I waved my arms in the air to get their attention, “WE’RE LEAVING!”
The camels were laying down when we climbed onto their backs, and then one, two, they stood up. I felt like I was way up in the air! My body was sore from yesterday’s bumpy horse ride, so I was hoping the camel ride might be a bit smoother. It wasn’t exactly smooth, but it as a different sort of motion, more of a rocking. It didn’t help that the lead camel was intent on eating grass and kept yanking our whole line back and forth as he lunged for the sparse tuffs.
Our camels brought us to another small collection of yurts, and then our guide said goodbye and led his row of beasts back where they had come. This time the yurts weren’t so glamorous. They had sand bottoms, were much smaller, and there was a tent inside of one that we had to haul out before setting up. There was to be nine people crammed into each yurt, but we were told this was a good thing. There would be no poop fire tonight, so the more people the warmer the yurt.
We were asked to collect wood for our cook fire that night. There wasn’t much wood! We had to scrounge for little sticks and branches. The dunes were very different from the grasslands, yet in some ways the same.
As I looked out over the sand, all I could see, besides rolling dunes and sparse shrubs, were the same brightly waving prayer flags as had decorated the grasslands, hanging off of teepee shaped structures.
Our guide led us into the dessert for sand surfing. It sounded fun, but wasn’t as thrilling as expected. The sand caused a lot of friction so the board moved slowly.
Dan had his frisbee out again, and an across sand-dunes frisbee game was started.
We had instant noodles for dinner with water boiled over the camp fire. It was fancy noodles though: we got eggs and pickled cabbage to put inside.
After the spicy noodles my lips were super chapped, and someone started the rumour that there was no more water! This caused a lot of panic until the rumour was quenched along with my thirst. There was plenty of water.
I had brought this decorative flask of baijiu, more for the flask then for the drink. I brought it out, hoping I could pawn some of the potent liquor off on my friends. The group that had joined our tour this time were a clique of french girls. My baijiu was able to bridge the gap between us. The bottle circulated as I leaned back to watch the stars. Even Sonya tried some!