After 10 hours on an over cramped bus, my friend, Monique, and I arrived in Inner Mongolia and set up camp.
Although Monique did not enjoy the idea of sleeping in a Mongolian yurt, I did and being the good friend that she is, she suffered with me.
We were confronted with the reality of our beautifully impractical yurt. There were no beds, no running water, a moldy aroma filling the air and a squeaky door which I broke more while taking pictures. We slept on a hard wood floor covered with royally patterned red carpet that did not match the exterior of the yurt. The windows were cracked and we were at a loss for electricity. To be blunt, not an ideal situation. But like always, we made the best of it.
The first adventure on our itinerary was horseback riding through the grasslands, bareback. I suited up and climbed atop my horse named Leonard. He was beautiful and fat and only had one speed, I called it ‘post-I just ate 5 bags of cheetoh’s’ speed’. It only took 10 minutes to fall back from the group, but since I had barely slept and lacked the energy to control a 2-ton animal, I was pretty content that his laziness matched mine.
When we returned to the village, we were invited to watch a traditional Mongolian ceremony with live music and dance. Inner Mongolia is famous for its ancient musical traditions, which incorporate singing, dancing and the use of instruments. The Morin Khuur or horse head fiddle is one such instrument. It is used in most performances.
Inner Mongolia is also famous for its unique style of song or throat singing. Singers can create more than one pitch at once, which can create harmonies.
After dinner, which was the same as breakfast and lunch (mysterious lamb meet and veggies), we celebrated our first night in Inner Mongolia by dancing to Mongolian chanting around an over-the edge bonfire. After a very large beer (or three) I found myself onstage dancing and holding hands with the chieftain as we circled the stage and enjoyed the night.
Waking up from a cocoon-like nest I had made in my yurt was torturous. My motivation to get up was the chance to ride a beautiful and curvy camel. Granted, I had a 3-hour bus ride ahead of me before I could compliment my camel on her humps.
The Kupoqui Desert was packed when Monique and I arrived. It was the weekend of the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional holiday celebrating a once famous scholar. We hopped on a cable car to travel into the depths of the scolding hot desert.
Once the ride was over, we fed our need for speed. We grabbed available four wheelers and flew from dune to dune screaming with joy like little girls at Christmas. After our time was up, we tried sandboarding.
I was stoked about this one. Although swallowing a buttload of sand does not sound appealing, it was the most delicious meal imaginable at the time. Since we skipped visiting the desert in Peru and hiked the glaciers instead, this activity was at the top of our list.
We grabbed our boards, fought the blowing wind, and skidded down the dune. I didn’t expect it to be as enjoyable as it was but if given the opportunity, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I miss the smoldering hot dunes I fell in love with that day. It didn’t stop there though. Afterwards we traded our boards to ride some lovely lady humps. Camels were next on the agenda.
Wrinkly and hairy as ever, these wonderfully dehydrated creatures carried my fat ass from dune to dune soaking up the smoldering hot sunshine. We spent around 4 hours under the desert sun before we decided to head back to the bus and pig out on some dry ramen.
We went back to Huhhot where we ate dinner and spent the night. We took ‘dabao’ or ‘food to go’ and enjoyed bagged noodles and rice later that evening.
The next day, we continued to Beijing where the burning of the sun didn’t feel as good as it did in the desert. Looking back, I know I wouldn’t trade my day of crispy skin and sunburnt memories for anything.
Originally published June 1, 2017 at sunflowergypsy.com.
Photos courtesy of Ashely Lipasek.