Monday, April 18, 2011

South Gobi Picnics

I have been working with government officials and tourism businesses in South Gobi during the last two months, helping develop a plan for tourism development. The economy of the region is changing rapidly as some of the largest gold, copper and coal mines in the world are being developed here. National and regional governments still see tourism as a priority providing alternative employment to mining and hence a more balanced economy. However tourism businesses are losing all their best cooks, guides and drivers to the mining companies. My job is to help them decide what to do.

In early April I spent 8 days exploring some of the less visited parts of the aimag with staff from local government,- Badarch (Director Nature Environment and Tourism) Buurma (tourism Officer), Bagi (Driver) and Oyungerel my counterpart. One of the joys of traveling in Mongolia is the Mongolian enthusiasm for picnics.

We visited some amazing places, -

Demchigiin Khiid  Monastery was one of several established in Gobi by Danzan Raja in nineteenth century and destroyed by communists in the twentieth century and now being established as a place of pilgrimage. Mongolians describe it as World Energy Centre but I have not been able to find where this designation originates or what it means. Still a wild and beautiful place.

We visited spectacular and rarely visited landscapes at Moon valley Saran Khundii and Khermen Tsav canyon as well as the popular sand dunes at Khongoryn Els.

The Gobi of course is the place for camels. This one was born as we arrived at the ger.

However the most dramatic site was the road from the coal mine at Tavan Tolgoi to the Chinese border, a continuous stream of trucks, night and day carrying coal, and a river of dust across the landscape.