The Gobi: "Three Camel Lodge, Flaming Cliffs, Petroglyphs"
Three Camel Lodge
August 17, 2010
Dear Mr. Editor,
cc: Family and Friends
For the “Room with a View” section of your magazine Condé Nast Traveler, I submit my photographs from the Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi, Mongolia. My room was the Rabbit Ger -- the deluxe gers have names.
The Rabbit Ger is not a primitive, nomadic tent in the middle of a bleak and unforgiving desert. The ger is a round and thoroughly insulated, colorful abode with ample headroom.
The Ger is a first-class accommodation with a king-size bed, desk and chairs, and a private bathroom with a sink and modern toilet. Solar power provides lights and hot water. The public shower room is clean and modern. There’s plenty of hot water. (A sign in the stall reads, “A short shower is as refreshing as a long one.”)
Just across the threshold of my ger is the Gobi.
The Gobi is the fifth largest desert in the world and the largest in Asia. It covers a land area of 1,295,000 km2 (500,000 sq mi) in northern China and Southern Mongolia.
The Gobi (Mongolian for semi-desert) presents a variety of terrain and landscape: rolling plains, stream-eroded mountain gorges, enormous heat-blistered or ice-covered sand dunes, red clay cliffs that hide petrified dinosaur bones, and steep hills with hard black rocks that display engravings of deer, ibex and fox – a petroglyph sculpture gallery carved in the Bronze Age.
And the view from the doorway of my ger? The view, Mr. Editor? What a view! The view is a flat, flat, flat vast desert floor that faces south, a Mongol tradition, to the horizon of the Altai Mountains.
“Semi-desert” is an accurate description. The Gobi is not a lifeless, arid universe of sand. Even though the Himalayas to the southwest block a normal flow of clouds and precipitation to the Gobi, there is just enough snow and rainfall to fill the aquifers. There is just enough water to nurture just enough vegetation to provide food and habitation for deer, fox, rabbit, birds and tiny reptiles.
Indeed, there is just enough vegetation to provide fodder for livestock. Every day, just beyond the lodge, herdsmen on horseback drive their grazing cows, horses, goats, sheep and camels across the desert floor, from morning until evening. It’s a bonus view!
The biggest bonus arrives a little later. What a show! Mr. Editor, can you picture the exhilarating view of the cloudless, constellation-clad-mad, unadulterated black night sky? I leave it to your imagination.
The Three Camel Lodge sits on the desert floor in the lee of a rocky, volcanic outcrop. There are twenty-five gers, a comfortable dining room serving buffet breakfast, eggs cooked to order, and hearty meals with home grown produce. There’s a gift shop, massage area, a full service bar and a meeting room with a library of DVDs on Mongolian history and Gobi exploration and paleontology.
The staff are mostly cheerful and enthusiastic college-age boys and girls. When my driver pulls up to the parking area, they rush out to greet me, help me alight from the high suspension desert vehicle and insist on carrying my bags and equipment.
The service at the Three Camel Lodge is sublime. And also, the view, Mr. Editor. The view. Please, come see for yourself.