A question asked by many was … so why Mongolia? Followed by … and what's there exactly? To be honest I wasn't sure. But this fascination of the unknown is what made it so appealing. So with surely more to offer than endless green hills, wild galloping horses and memories of Genghis Kaan, I started a new solo adventure, one fuelled by curiosity and one without expectation.
After landing in the capital Ulaanbaatar with no more than one night booked and no other travel arrangements, other than a return ticket in a month's time, I hastily made enquiries on how to best explore this enigma of a country. Even with my heavy laden travel fatigue, shockingly swollen ankles and my ill-preparedness, I soon found myself bumping around the back seat of an old Russian 4WD van with three Dutch traveller's bound for the Gobi desert.
Over the next week and a half our local Golden Gobi guides took us around the heart of the Gobi where I can quite definitively say we experienced authentic Mongolian nomadic lifestyle and culture almost as raw as you'll get it. We tasted foods and drink that made your stomach yearn or churn; we slept in family gers where you could snuggle up with a wolf skin if you got the chills; we played games with the ankle bones of goats all the while warm rounded smiling faces jeered on; we drove on roads that weren't roads through sublime and lunar landscapes; we encountered in the natural vastness wild vultures, ibex, camels, gazelles and desert critters that made you squeal. This is why I came to Mongolia.
As we circumnavigated our way from Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad and back, each day closer to the Gobi became hotter and drier, yet more captivating and spectacular then the one before. With Ulzii our driver, a maestro at the wheel, and Zolaa our dutiful local guide, the plethora of unique experiences never waned. In this part of the world you could hike through the hot Gobi desert and slip on ice; or meander amongst LSD inspired rock formations where real and imagined wild animals came to life; or drive your van into the flowing waters of a canyon to secure a spot to pitch your tent for the night; or trudge up a 300m high sand dune with a belly full of slow cooked mutton only to sled it back down with exhilaration and a belly ache; or see the ground move as a gazillion twitchy mice stand between you and the 100m dash to the loo; or wake to the early morning alarm of 600 bleating goats only inches from your pillow; the list goes on! Mongolia does not disappoint!
But as the wet wipes ran low, and the tepid drinking water monotonous, and the playful Dutchies became weary, our road trip came to its natural end. It was time to say “bayartai” to the Gobi desert and return to Mongolia's industrial heart. With only a wink of sleep the next instalment of adventure was yet to come!
About the AUTHOR: Lisa Matuzelis
"For years I worked in an office cubicle day dreaming of a more fulfilling life, one of adventure, curiosity, challenge, achievement, inspiration and genuine connection …. so cliché I know! But I didn't want to be a dreamer, I wanted to be a doer! So I meticulously picked my way out of the golden handcuffs and constraints of normality to start a life of adventure and uncertainty!
After packing up my life in 2017 I purchased a one way ticket to Japan, setting my course into an exciting, new, yet terrifying direction. From that came a cathartic year of solo travelling through Asia, Europe & Africa; then three inspiring months of mountain biking New Zealand; then returning home to start a different kind of adventure … taking on the challenging yet rewarding role as a Firefighter. I have worked as a permanent Firefighter for over two years and I have been fortunate this career choice has given me the flexibility to still continue travelling and seek out new experiences, as well as pursue my passion for mountain biking. With an eye for photography and a love of journaling I hope to continue sharing my travel experiences for others to enjoy.
I currently reside in the Illawarra near my family and friends."