After the Transit of Venus it was time to pack up again and hit the road. But first we had lunch, which brings me to a great point – the food in Mongolia was actually quite good. I have to admit I had prepared myself for the worst thinking it was likely stuff I wouldn’t eat but most of it was rather tasty! Generally rice and meat with some fresh veggies – overall good stuff!
We had a fairly long drive again but little did we know how worth it that it would be. We arrive at another ger camp and settled in. Our guides decided we should have dinner before seeing the “main attraction” of the evening. Some of us were skeptical about this plan but we were so wrong to be! During dinner we watched a movie about the area we were in – this area was where archaeologists first found dinosaur eggs! In addition there were many other paleontological discoveries as well. We were at The Flaming Cliffs that in daylight were absolutely gorgeous but they became even more breathtaking with the sunset – obviously the guides knew what they were talking about! Honestly this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
We all wandered around – the teams had a task to work on as well – and I wandered down to check out a lone camel hanging out at the bottom of the cliffs. He was not real sure about me and stood very still as I approached in general but then decided I wasn’t a threat and went back to munching on whatever small vegetation he could find.
We had about an hour and a half to explore but I honestly could have spent all day here – many of the others agreed! However with sunset in progress it wouldn’t be long until we wouldn’t be able to find our way out (remember we are truly in the middle of the Gobi Desert so it’s not like there are a bunch of street lights etc!) so we headed back to camp and hung out for a bit in the dining area where we were treated to some musical entertainment from some of the gals… quality entertainment I must say!!
The next morning guess what we did – if you guessed hopped back in the vehicles to drive to our next destination you are absolutely correct! The next day we headed to the fanciest of all the Ger Camps we stayed at called “The Secret of Ongi.” While there we walked to tour the old Ongi Monastery which is in the process of being rebuilt from when the Russians destroyed the majority of the monasteries in the country during the late 1940s. Even in ruins the monastery and surroundings were absolutely gorgeous and so peaceful and serene. We all couldn’t help but wonder how amazing it would have been had it not been destroyed – and also how the whole area might have prospered as well.
That evening Ken kindly gave us his STS-132 mission presentation, which everyone (including all of our Mongolian drivers) enjoyed immensely. We then spent the rest of the evening hanging out and chatting. By now we had made so many new friends that it felt like we’d all known each other for ages! When it got a bit later Rhodri was kind enough to set up his telescope and we were fortunate enough to be able to see Saturn including its rings!! That was a total bonus for me since I had never actually seen Saturn through a telescope before. Once again – what a treat!!!!