We were alone.
We hadn’t planned it that way but one by one our fellow travellers climbed down the sand dunes back to camp.
Who knows why? The sun was still setting and we had a great view from the highest dune. Maybe the thought of food enticed them down. We decided to stay and watch the sunset. We most definitely made the right decision.
We were in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Contrary to popular belief the Gobi Desert is only 5% sand, the rest is mainly bare rock. By the time we got to the sand dunes, we had been on the road for about 5 days. It was a beautiful spot. We had the sand dunes on one side and a stream on the other. There were wild horses and camels roaming about and we stayed with a local woman at her Ger (yurt) camp.
The night sky there was the best I had ever seen. You could clearly see the white of the Milky Way. Every night after having our meal and drinking terrible Mongolian Vodka we would all head out and lie on our backs looking up at the stars. It was truly magical. There were no worries about light pollution because the nearest town was 2 days away!
Our host lived there mostly by herself, raising her two small daughters on her own because her husband was working in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. She had extra Gers pitched up for intrepid travellers like us to help with her income. We admired her immensely for managing to live in such a remote place. We wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes out there alone.
Climbing the Sand Dunes in the Gobi Desert Mongolia
On day 2 we decided to climb the sand dunes. The climb up was slow and sweaty. We needed to keep stopping to catch our breath. The higher we went the more I appreciated the landscape around us.
Mongolia is called “The Land of the Blue Sky” because it is cloudless for two-thirds of the year. The blue of the sky in the desert was a beautiful azure. Slowly but surely we got nearer to the top. We all egged each other on for encouragement because it wasn’t easy getting up.
When we got to the top we wandered around for a while taking photos of each other before settling down on the highest dune to chat and admire the view. We were a diverse bunch. American, Canadian, Spanish, Maltese, British, Swiss and Mongolian. I find when you travel to destinations that are off the beaten track it is easier to connect with fellow travellers. You all generally have similar interests (otherwise you wouldn’t be there) and have the same outlook on the world. This was my first time in a proper desert and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t as lifeless as I imagined.
Connecting to the Universe
There are moments in life where you feel you are connected to everything and everyone around you. These moments only happen rarely but when they do it feels like you have discovered the secret to life. This is what happened to us at the top of the Gobi sand dunes as we watched the sun go down.
As I said, we were alone. At first, we were chatting about our trip. By this point, we had been travelling for 3 weeks and it dawned on us that this would be our life for 18 months. It was an amazing feeling to know that for the next year and a half we would be doing whatever we wanted whenever, wherever.
There is one word for it: Freedom.
The sun started to set. Without even realising it we both went quiet and into our own worlds. I felt like I was a grain of sand in the infinite universe but still an important part of it all. It was as if nature was showing me how amazing it truly is and that if you sit and be present you will hear what nature has to say. Has this ever happened to you?
The sensation wasn’t happiness it was more like a calm overwhelming feeling of being alive. In religious circles, they might call it an Epiphany. The most amazing thing is that Karen felt it too. Later on, she told me she was hoping I was going to propose to her up there. (That happened 18 months later on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.)
That night as we lay on the ground to look up at the stars, they shone just a little brighter. They didn’t seem so far away and I felt I was more a part of them.
After all, we are all made of Star Dust.
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