Desert Adventures in Inner Mongolia

Since we stayed in the desert last night, an update was not able to be given and thus this entry includes two days of activities. On Friday, we ate a quick breakfast at our hotel in Ordos, then loaded the bus and drove about 45 minutes to the tomb of Genghis Khan. This “mausoleum” was enormous, dedicated to the great leader of the Mongols, who created human history’s largest land empire ever about 800 years ago. We saw many statues of Genghis Khan, as well as paintings on the walls commemorating him. It was amazing to see the memorial of such an important figure in history. Afterwards we drove to a restaurant in Ordos and had a great meal there. Then we got back on the bus and drove towards the not-so-distant desert.
After a few hours, we stopped at the Sand Geology Museum, a large museum in the middle of nowhere. We might have been the only tourists there, but nevertheless it was a learning experience. Once we got through the museum we drove a little further and stopped to ride camels. That was one of the best experiences we’ve had so far. We rode on the camels for quite a while; everyone was having tons of fun. When we were finally forced to leave, we did so reluctantly. We arrived at the place where we would be staying. It was a small piece of land with yurts and Jeeps and welcoming people. They gave us all a ride in a large vehicle resembling a shark (I’m not sure why) around the sand dunes. It was very fun. When we came back we pitched our tents, since we would be camping for the night. They welcomed us with a large dinner, with amazing food. No complaints. After dinner, we set a huge bonfire followed with singing and dancing and fireworks. It was a real party. Then we pulled out floating lanterns, on which we wrote our wishes and ignited them and sent them to the sky. Some of ours burned down on the first try, but eventually everyone’s lanterns were on their way. After a long day, rest was much needed.

The following day we woke up well rested, ready for another day in the desert. We ate a simple breakfast and then the local people took us in their Jeeps for a joyride once again. It was exhilarating — we drove up and down all around the sand dunes. We stopped at the top of a hill to take pictures, and then plunged down the steep hill back to camp. When we got back, rain started falling, postponing our plans for a short while. So, we had a little bit of downtime. Then we were assigned to plant trees, part of an effort to reclaim the desert. We each dug holes, quite deep actually, and planted small saplings. We were proud to have helped. While we were planting, a herd of sheep came along and started feeding on our hard work, so we had to protect our precious plants. Then it was lunch time, and as always the food was delicious. After lunch, we loaded our bus early so we didn’t have to do it later, and then we set out for a long trek through the desert. This may have been my personal favorite part of the trip. The view was breathtaking. The sand was so smooth and cool; the breeze was gentle (for the most part). Our journey lasted three hours, but it didn’t feel tiring. We hiked to a lake that was quite a distance away, and hiked back. On the way back, we picked up trash we saw, just like we had done on the Great Wall. When we got back, we washed off as best we could. Then we ate our last dinner on the desert, which was a hotpot meal, one of the best we’ve had. We then set out to our hotel about an hour’s drive away in another Inner Mongolian city, and the trip continues.