Read part one of Stories from the Gobi Desert: The White Stupa.

We said goodbye to Olyii, Gerlee and their animals at 9 AM and were ready for another long day driving through the Gobi Desert. The ride was bumpy at first, but then we turned off onto a newly-built asphalt road, which was built for the Gobi tours last year. It used to take a lot longer to get to places before the road was built, so we were lucky – also because we didn’t have to put up with too much bumpiness on that day.

Halfway through the drive, we stopped at a few shops to stock up on some much-craved-for snacks and then had our lunch at a restaurant in the biggest town in the South Gobi region, Dalanzadgad. Since the city is very flat, I was surprised to learn that the altitude of the city is 1,470 metres. It’s really hard for me to comprehend how high up everything is in the landlocked Mongolia, since Denmark’s highest point doesn’t even surpass 200 metres.

The population of Dalanzadgad is about 20,000, although it definitely didn’t feel like that. We saw almost no one on the streets and the city itself felt more like a small desert village than the capital of a region.

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Quiet streets of Dalanzadgad

We drove for 200 km. that day and experienced some extreme weather along the way. The weather in Mongolia is generally very changeable; one day it will be sunny and warm, and the next day the streets will be covered in a thick layer of snow. That actually happened to me twice in just two weeks! But what we experienced on our second day in the Gobi wasn’t extreme heat or snow; it was the strongest wind that I’ve ever felt! It was so strong that I couldn’t possibly stand up while being outside. I rushed inside the van, fearing that I would fly away with the wind!

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Alex and Aida trying to keep the car door open in the wind
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Luke letting the wind hold him up

Our destinations for the day were two ice valleys, which is the last thing that you’d expect to find in a desert. The first one that we went to is called something along the lines of Noukharl Shivert (I had some trouble reading Byamba’s hand writing) and is a beautiful mountain valley. At the end of the valley is a small glacier, from which we all filled our water bottles. There is just nothing like fresh ice-cold water! I was amazed by the beautiful scenery of the valley and dumbstruck by the fact that I was seeing a glacier in the middle of a desert.

I failed to find any information about this valley online and originally, it wasn’t part of our itinerary, so I’m not sure how well-known this place is. We saw a few other tour groups there, but considering that there’s zero information about it, I’m guessing that it’s being overshadowed by the Yolyn Am valley, which was our next destination for the day and is a much more popular place to visit in the Gobi.

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Can you spot the camel?

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Aida enjoying the fresh glacier water
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Our joyful group

Yolyn Am is a narrow gorge located in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. The place is also known as Vulture Valley, since it’s a good place to spot the Old World vultures (vultures that are found in Europe, Asia and Africa, aka. the Old World). Our guide was keeping an eye out for the vultures and actually spotted one right above us! It was really cool to actually see a vulture in the Vulture Valley.

Apart from being a great place to spot vultures, Yolyn Am is notable for its deep ice field, which is several metres thick in winter and several kilometres long. We were there in early May and the ice had still not melted, although it will during the summer. It used to remain year round, but global warming has caused the ice to melt by September every year.

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A vulture flying high above

Near the Vulture Valley lies the Natural Museum, which is owned by the family that we were staying with that night. We had as much time as we liked at the museum, but I didn’t stay for long, as there were stuffed animals with beady eyes everywhere – not my thing at all. They did have one thing that I found interesting though, a dinosaur exhibition with real dinosaur eggs found in the region. That was pretty special to see!

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We walked from the museum to the gers and were greeted with warm smiles from Ochreo and his wife Oyunaa, and given cups of milk tea, which I had a hard time trying to like. It’s very very salty and since I don’t like normal milk to begin with, it would take a miracle for me to like it. Luke ended up finishing all of my cups for the remaining time in the Gobi.

We had a fun evening with shared beer, vodka, chocolates, ukulele, song and a bit of fun with accents.

Before going to bed, we went outside to gaze at the stars, while trying to locate the North Star, which I always thought was the brightest one. Apparently it’s not! I learned something new that day, although I’m still a bit in denial 😉

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Our accommodation for the night
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Goats near the gers
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Other gers nearby
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A sunset over the Gobi

The ger was warm and cozy with the fire burning in the stove, but it got really cold during the night, when the fire burned out. Because of this, I woke up freezing and put my jumper on, but when I woke up in the morning and the sun was shining in through the door, I realized that I had accidently put on Luke’s jumper instead of mine, and mine was nowhere to be seen. When I asked if anyone had seen it, Luke popped his head up and said “oh yeah, I wore it because I couldn’t find mine.” I was dying of laughter for the entire morning! Now I wonder who stole whose jumper first! I’m sure Luke looked real pretty in my dress-length jumper with galaxy print though!

A good laugh in the morning got us in high spirits and we were ready to take on another day in the Gobi Desert. Stay tuned for part three of my adventures in the Gobi: The Khongor Sand Dunes!

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A family photo before saying our farewells

Read how to explore the Gobi Desert on this post.

3 thoughts on “Stories from the Gobi Desert: The Ice Valleys”

  1. Dear Melissa, you new stories about adventures in Mongolia make me smile a lot, specially adventure with jacket at night. You seem to be in a good company and that makes me feel even better! This place is really mysterious and so beautiful! Keep on traveling and sharing your masterfully written-captured posts! Many hugs!

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