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Mongolia

Mongolia chinese.NEF Enroute Bayan Zag

The greatest thing about Mongolia is the ability to go anywhere. Literally.   Once you are out of Ulaanbaatar or any of the other lesser settlements you can just take a left turn and head off into the hinterland. Roads don’t exist here – someone yells ‘Turn right!’ and the truck turns right. If you spot some faint tyre tracks in the sand and the group fancies heading in that direction then off you go. It’s an incredible feeling. Total freedom. Not something one can ever experience on the busy highways of Europe.

Mongolia camping

In Mongolia there is a lot of time spent wild camping. Naturally this has its pros and cons – there is little chance of an accommodation upgrade and yurts are almost a luxury but then you get to experience that amazing feeling of complete independence. You can also turn up at various yurt communities and meet the locals in a very natural way. Non-touristic, non-voyeuristic and very respectful. Fantastic for local interaction and the great thing is that they are always as fascinated with us as we are with them. The Q&A session works both ways!

Mongolia chinese

The yurt communities encourage a gentle level of domestic tourism which is fantastic to be a part of. Not only do we get to interact with the local shepherds but also the native tourists. The most commercial element was ringing ahead to order a sheep BBQ! Communication in Mongolia is actually better in parts than rural Suffolk)....

Mongolia main 043 Mongolia

 

Sudan

Sudan 2

What a way to arrive in this incredible country – an 18 hour ferry journey crossing Lake Nasser from Egypt. ‘Ferry’ in the loosest sense of the word of course. If you are looking for a land with no other tourists, incredible friendly locals, no pestering and wilderness as far as the eye can see then Sudan is your place. We would pull up behind a sand dune and pitch our camp – wherever and whenever we liked. There we would enjoy the incredible night sky (no clouds or light pollution here) and its stunning display of stars. Sometimes we would base ourselves alongside a roadside shack so we could have some basic amenities – at the wonderful cost of about £1 each.

Sudan 4

The lack of commercialisation in Sudan was stunning – and hugely enjoyable after Egypt. The country’s most famous attraction – the Meroe Pyramids – lie half-submerged in the desert sand. No billboards, fences or signs to announce its location. And strange though it may sound, the produce here is amazing. In 40 degrees heat in Khartoum you can find the juiciest oranges (unlike further south in a far greener Ethiopia where tracking down anything fresh is a challenge). But the overlying memory I have of this country is the gentle pace of life and the overwhelming silence. Hard to find a quiet spot in the world these days but Sudan can offer the traveller this – and so much more.

Sudan 3

 

Mongolia Loop

Nile Route through Sudan