Venturing into the Gobi Desert

The first thing you notice is the silence. there was not a single sound except for the gentle whisper of the wind rustling against the shrubs and trees.

A strange noise a appeared from a distance, it sounded like someone swinging a stick through the air repeatedly. The source of the noise crept closer until I could make out a raven flying overhead. It was the sound of its wings flapping and it was the first time in my life that I was able to notice it.

After spending one week away from any reminder of modern civilisation, you start to notice these subtleties and appreciate the things that are right in front of you. Going to the toilet became quite an ordeal and experience as once you sit here doing your business and take the time to look up is when you notice the immense beauty of the stars above you. It makes you feel rather insignificant, yet happy at the same time.

The highlight of the evenings wasn’t a new episode of your favourite show or posting the photos you took today on Instagram, but the simple fact that you have to keep the fire going so that it won’t be too cold at night. With the lack of artificial light, our body clocks aligned with that of the sun, so we went to bed when it got dark and got up at sunrise. There is something very special about witnessing the first light of the day. First it’s a blue shimmer at the horizon, then a gradient of warm tones before the landscape was bathed in the most incredible orange light I had ever seen in my life.

This happened every morning, just with a different landscape everyday as we moved from one place to another.

You would get the occasional village in between the vast expanses that is the Mongolian steppe, but instead of feeling like an oasis where we could buy snacks and have phone reception, it was more like a sad reminder of the trivialities of our modern life. As long as you have money you could get nearly everything you wanted but on the steppe you had to work for it everyday.

The animals become the most important things in your life as they provide milk and meat for your food and wool for your clothes. There was something beautiful about this simple way of life, but after a while you do start to miss the things that you grew up with. Being able to have a shower, not to have to worry about the cold at night or being able to stay in touch with your loved ones back home.

It was time to return to civilisation. There it was looming at the horizon, a thick dome of smog that marks the boundary of Ulaan Bataar, the new way of life in Mongolia.