Thursday, July 2, 2009







Bellow the team has taken time to answer some questions regarding the expedition. Enjoy!

Sarah:

Your most memorable moment:

There were a lot of moment, were I would smile and tell myself, “this is why I’m here!” The entire Gobi experience was unforgettable, the hospitality of the locals, and the harsh beauty of the landscape.

Spending the night with a local family during a Thunderstorm was a highlight. Kiting past herds of curious camels or horses was also pretty cool.

The biggest challenge:

The biggest challenge was trying to get to our end point! Between the ever-challenging terrain, time after time of being lost in a maze of hills, and on top of that the crazy unpredictable winds, the kiting was very challenging. We would often get pulled out of our buggies, which was always a bit confidence shattering.

What was the most unexpected:

Absolutely everything. Even thought we had done research, and read up on Mongolia, we had no clue what to expect. At the beginning of the expedition we were concerned about were to find water, and local interactions; which ended up not being a concern at all. Instead the challenges were the winds and the terrain.

How did it feel getting to the end?

So so so so great! From day one, after doing less than 3km, we quickly fell behind schedule for the rest of the trip. Saynshand, our end location, always just seemed out of reach. Especially the last week, the winds were not in our favor, and we pushed hard, which made reaching the end point so much more rewarding!

What are you doing after the expedition:

I am now in Toronto, continuing work on a short documentary on waste management in the north (or lack off). We are now in the editing stages, so I’ve been spending most of my days starting at a computer in editing studio.

Any future expeditions planned?

Always! I would love to do another kite buggy expedition and a couple of us are also planning a river trip in Mongolia and Russia. But there are so many other expeditions that I would love to do, possibly a long trip in Russia, a longer kite-skiing trip in Greenland, or a horse back riding trip.


Eric:

Did Mongolia meet your expectations?

This trip was not about expectations, which was frightening. On previous trips that I have completed we left with vast amounts of knowledge, a clear route, and a tested method of travel. All of which this latest trip lacked.

What items did you wish you had, and what items did you wish you had left behind?

The extra tire and the 14 M Yakuza were both unnecessary on the trip. Our buggies survived magnificently and the tires rarely lost air. As for the 14 M we never encountered light winds which would have made it useful, however we did encounter strong winds in which we could have used smaller kites, such as a 2-3 m kite. I would also have equipped both buggies with trailers, giving us a bit more storage capacity and reducing the overall weight on the back axle of our main buggy. And I would have brought a larger picture book and a Mongolian-English dictionary so that people could communicate to us.

What was your favorite local interaction.

In one of the small villages about half way through the trip, a musician took us into the local music school and let/forced us to try all the various Mongolian instruments, and demoed a fair amount of them herself. Not only was the music amazing, but it was also a reminder that there were many ways in which people communicate, music being only one of them.

How does it feel now that you are back home?

Honestly I miss the epic aspect that expeditions provide to my life. It’s actually difficult to settle back into life at home, it's good to see friends, and nice just to hang out for a while, relax. But generally I feel, immediately at least, unaccomplished. It seems that the success of the expedition belittles the small accomplishments of every day life. After living a life driven towards a goal it is difficult to come back and just live. I am admittedly exhausted, not physically, but my ability to summon enthusiasm and drive will need some recovery.

Any future expeditions planned?

No not at the moment, only dreams. But i geuss that’s the point, at least some of them will be worth following!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Welcoming town of Dengerhangay

video

A few short clips that demonstrate a usual village visit.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The final push

Day 31 of expedition

Distance traveled: 62.6 km

Day 32 of expedition

Distance traveled: 82.2 km

Position: N44° 45 E110° 11

We woke up early to start hauling. By mid-day the heat was unbearable, travel was slow and our water consumption had increased drastically. With only three expedition days left, the town of Saynshand, our end point, seemed just out of reach. But by 4 pm the winds started to increase, and we headed out with our 10 meter kites. At first travel was slow, but the winds increased fast and after both getting dragged out of our buggies and through the thorny bushes, we decided it was time to switch to smaller kites. The open rolling terrain allowed us to travel fast till night fell.

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful day; steady winds, blue skies, and flat rolling terrain. We cruised away from our camp site. After the first hour and a half we had already done 25 km. By 2 PM, the town of Saynshand came into view. After spending the last week wondering if we would ever arrive, it was a huge relief to see it just ahead. We stopped for lunch wondering what to do next. The town of Saynshand is home to just under 20, 000 people and is the capital of the Dornogov province. Because it is situated just beside the Trans Siberian railroad, it has hotels, shops, museums and internet cafes. But instead of pulling into our end point, Eric and I decided to continue past the busy town, and push on for another 15 km to a beautiful and tranquil tourist ger camp in the middle of the steep. We kited right up to the parking sign and landed our kites. After being served a great meal of meat dumplings, Eric and I walked away from the camp to drink our first cold beer and celebrate arriving at our end point.

Since arriving in Mongolia over 40 days ago, the entire trip has been a non stop adventure. We came with so many unanswered questions; neither of us had ever traveled through a desert, nor done an expedition with buggies. We stepped far outside of our comfort zone - between the ever challenging terrain, the gusty winds and the limited water - there were so many unknowns. But after 32 expedition days, exhausted and covered in sand and dirt, we have finally arrived.

A big thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible, especially Curtis Jones. Although sadly he is not here with us now to celebrate, he spent a year planning this expedition with us and traveled with us for the first 10 days of the expedition.

Arriving a day early we have time to relax before starting our two day drive back to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. We will continue to update the webpage with video and photo's and blogs.

Sarah

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The long haul

Day 29 of the expedition

Distance traveled: 40 km

Day 30 of the expedition

Distance traveled: 37 km

Position: N 45,09 E 108,27

 

Not much has happened, we are hauling, exhausted and in low spirits. We desperately need wind if we are going to make it to our end point and so far all we have gotten is a steady head wind, which makes hauling all the more difficult. We have three days to make it to Saynshand, with 130km left. Fingers crossed we will get the winds we need!

Eric

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mongolia

Day 27 of the expedition

Distance traveled: 53.7 km

Day 28 of the expedition

Distance traveled: 23.2 km

Position: N45° 30 E107 ° 36

Top picture: Local herders

Bottom picture: Buddhist prayer wheels

I still remember the night, about a year and a half ago when Curtis, Eric and I sat around flipping through an atlas, looking for new exciting spots to kite. We came across Mongolia and decided to try to attempt to cross the Gobi by kite buggy.

I knew nothing about Mongolia, and over the last year as we've researched and planned our trip, I started to read up about this fascinating country. A country that during the days of Chinggis Khaan, his army conquered and expanded the nation from Korea to Hungary and from India to Russia. They even moved their capital to the present day Beijing. They were merciless warriors, but with every rise, there is also a decline. After Chinggis Khaan's death, tension between his sons resulted in civil war, and the great empire slowly crumbled.

Much later in 1578 Buddhism was introduced and men were sent to monasteries instead of the army. Buddhism flourish till communism took over. In 1937 the new communist government destroyed over 700 monasteries and killed over 30'000 monks in Mongolia. It's wasn't till recently in 1990, that religious freedom was regained and in 1996 that the fist non-communist government was elected.

Half of Mongolians live in ger's (felted tents we know as yurts) and live stock herding is the main economy. With a population of only 2.6 million people, there are around 34 million heads of live stock. The country is also known for it's cashmere exports, and new mines are starting to open up showing promising sings of a better economy.

It is the wild west. A country with no fences and wide open spaces. Where the living conditions are harsh, yet the people are friendly. A country where you can still find dinosaur eggs laying around in the desert. I have only started to understand their history and culture and fill lucky to have spent the last month and a half traveling through this amazing landscape.

As the end grows nearer, I wish we could travel longer and farther. We have 6 days left to reach our end point, before we must start our way back to the city to catch our flight home.

Sarah

Friday, June 12, 2009

concerns

Day 25 of the expedition

Distance traveled: 36.7 km

Day 26 of the expedition

Distance traveled: 71.1 km

Position: N45 38 E106 38

We have one week left on the trail. After spending 26 days out here and with three hundred kilometres left to Saynshand, that one week seems to short. We have gotten to the point in the expedition where we are beginning to become comfortable with our surroundings and the challenges that the Gobi presents. At the beginning of the trip we had many un-answered concerns; with regards to the terrain, the amount of weight that we could carry with our buggies, the amount of water we would consume in these conditions, the strength of our equipment and interactions with local people.

The terrain proved more difficult than we had imagined, but it was difficult to base our imagination on any tangible evidence. Even our highly detailed topographical maps barely show the extent of the hills that we climb. But so far nothing has been able to stop us, although the terrain has often made travel rather slow.

Weight and storage space were big concerns, mostly because we had yet to actually see the carrying capacity of our buggies. Each buggy needed to hold four Ozone kite, a spare tire, our personal kit, water, food, and various other equipment. Luckily most of our equipment does fit into the buggy, but the space is tight and usually we keep our helmet and harness strapped on the exterior of our carrying bag.

Water was by far our greatest concern. How much would we consume in a day and how much could we carry with out overloading our buggies. At the beginning of the trip we each carried 30L, enough water for ten days of moderate consumption. At this moment in time we have found that carrying less water and traveling faster has been more successful. Because our days are more active we tend to consume up to 4 L per person, yet we only ever carry 4 days of water at a time. Over all water has been easy to find, there are ger's nearly every 30 km (if you keep an eye out for them) and wells or springs every 120 km.

Our equipment has been doing fine, for the most part we were unconcerned about the Ozone kites, we have used them in the past and they have never broken. Even under the harsh conditions in the Gobi they have faired quite well. We were slightly concerned about the zippers on our Hilliberg tent, generally zippers do poorly in sandy conditions, yet our tent still stands, every zipper still works even after the sand storms. Our largest equipment concern was for the back axles of the Libre buggies. We are by far overloading their usual weight capacity as generally buggies are used on flat beaches, not through thorn bushes and rocky terrain. So far so good, we have not noticed any bending.

Finally we were uncertain as to the attitude that the locals would take to our endeavour. When we first started out we were startled by how many empty vodka bottles littered the sides of the road, and how many people could emerge form what seemed like a small car. We were also worried about the general safety of our equipment in towns. In both cases we have had little trouble; in the communities we have left our equipment to the kids and it still all comes back to us. In the country the people have always been kind and generous, and largely supportive of our endeavour.

Eric

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Shelter from the rain

Day 22

Distance traveled: 56.9 km

Day 23

Distance traveled: 12.5 km

Day 24

Distance traveled: 32.1 km

Position: N45° 26 E105° 17

Top picture: Entering the town of Delgerhangay

Middle picture: Kids playing on our buggy

Bottom picture: Shelter from the rain


We woke up in a maze of rolling hills. We spent the day navigating our way through, kiting when we could and hauling at other times. By late afternoon we hit better terrain and with our 7 meter kites in the air, we held an upwind tac, trying to stay on our bearing. The light of the moon allowed us to kite well after the sun had set, stopping just a couple kilometres outside the town of Delgerhangay.

The next morning we woke to an overcast humid day with head winds. We hauled the remainder of the distance into Delgerhangay. A young girl who saw us approaching quickly introduced herself and insisted showing us around the town. She brought us to all 5 food shops in town. Along the way an increasing crowd of kids grew. Once we had picked up some extra food and filled our bags with water, the rain started to fall. It was useless to try to explain to the young girl that we should continue on our way as she had a tour of the town planned out for us. First stop was a cozy ger that was home to the elders. As the rain poured down, we sat inside and drank milk tea, showing the elders pictures of home. The kids played outside with our buggies, racing them around the block. About 8 kids would be pushing, pulling and riding the buggies.

Once we finished our second cup of tea, the girl motioned that we must go somewhere else, guiding us to the music room in the local school. Horse head fiddles and other instruments that I had never heard of hung from the wall. After the music teacher demoed all the instruments, she handed us both two instruments and attempted to teach us how to play. Next stop, the girl led us to her family's ger for a third cup of tea and some cookies. She eagerly flipped through her family picture album.

By afternoon, once the rain had stopped, we waved goodbye to the kids and hauled out of town. We didn't get very far till a sand storm blew in. Hoping it would pass, we covered our faces, sitting in our buggies waiting. As soon as the blowing sand ceased, the skies turned dark and the rain started to fall hard. We could hear the thunder and see bolts of lightning.

It was about this time that a family driving to their ger spotted us. Even though we explained that we had a tent, they insisted that we must head to their ger for shelter till the storm passed. Only a couple kilometre away, we all huddled inside a small felted ger. The stove in the middle was stocked with small twigs from the bushes and dried shit. Soaked to the bone, we accepted tea and meat soup, slowing warming up. When the rain cleared for a couple hours, they brought us outside and let us ride their horses. We then all moved up to the neighbouring ger, which was much bigger. As the rain started again, 12 of us and 4 baby goats sat inside sipping on tea. Everyone found their spot on the floor and we all fell asleep.

The next morning was cold, but the clouds were clearing from the sky. The family we stayed with woke up early and were busy rounding up their herds and started slaughtering a couple of sheeps.

We thanked them and waved goodbye. With head winds we hauled all day, slowly inching our way up what seemed to be a never ending hill.

Sarah