Countless times I have thought myself to be “in the middle of nowhere”, but when I actually found myself in a frozen desert in Mongolia, long away from a path resembling a road and with the only neighbors being the far peaks of the surrounding mountains, then I thought I must really be in the middle of nowhere.
It feels absolutely freeing being in an almost untouched land, very far from everything and yet not scared of getting lost.
The host family was a small Mongolian family with 2 very curious kids joined by 2 horses and 3 camels.
The mum was in charge of the maintenance of the inside of the ger, from preparing food, taking care of us guests, and making sure house rules were followed to the letter.
The dad handled the outdoor life: feeding the animals, scouting the area, and showing us how to properly handle the camels.
On our way to the desert tour, the father informed us that one of the camels had run away the previous night. Losing a camel is a big deal but, at the same time, not a major concern given the vast emptiness and being familiar with all of your distant “neighbors”.
So, we went anyway, tightly sharing a camel on our way to the frozen dunes half an hour away from the tents.
A few moments after arriving, the dad tied the 2 camels and the horse to some small branches on the ground so we could dismount and enjoy the view. As we all took a second to breathe in and enjoy the view, the horse decided to leave. Its branch was connected to nothing, so all we saw was a horse freely sprinting away into the horizon, with a small stick hopping about by its side.
The moment was so comic that even the quiet Mongolian warmed up and laughed, making us all join him. He motioned that he would try to find the runner, swiftly hopped on a camel and left as well.
The dunes, perfectly white and smooth, were like frozen waves surrounded by the nothingness and mountains. We quickly got lost in all that beauty.
Empty-handed, our host returned and prepared everything for heading back to the camp. His newly found smile and energy was heart-warming, I like to think that when we shared that little moment of sincere and funny incredulity something happened and we all connected on a deeper level.
After a nice warm tea and a goodbye, we were merrily on the road to the Gorkhi Terelj National Park, not too far from Ulanbataar.