Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Monday, June 3, 2012 (11:15 a.m. EDT)

Our first day adventuring in Mongolia was certainly a day full of pleasant surprises.  Our morning began with a bit of nervousness as we waited to find out whether our equipment would indeed travel with us on the smaller plane from Ulaanbaatar to the Gobi Desert.  With help from our ISSET friends, the airline worked with us to make accommodations for the equipment, and from there, things progressed with excitement and optimism!
By early afternoon,  we made it to our first ger camp.  Ger camping is a pretty awesome experience, and learning about the nomadic traditions and lifestyle is fascinating.  Ger camps are clusters of large portable tent homes called “gers”.  I use the term “tent” loosely, as gers are nothing like western camping tents.  They have sturdy wooden frames and insulated covering with hinged doors and furniture inside (beds, little tables, etc.).  They are quite cozy and surprisingly warm provided you choose a ger near the middle of camp and not on the wind facing outer corner.  What can I say?  I thought that particular ger had the prettiest view… and I kept reminding myself of that at 3 o’clock this morning under layers of clothes and a wool blanket.

The highlight of the day was our visit to a stunning area called “Valley of the Vultures”.  This place is a haven for any geologist!  It was a striking contradiction of natural features with steep harsh rock faces, lush vegetation, and a valley of ice layers that have formed over thousands of years.  In this location, ice layers have built up each year because the winter snow never completely melts.  The beautiful blue color (seen in this photos - right) is created as the ice compresses and depletes the oxygen within the layers.  We were able to observe first-hand the features that makes this cold desert so unique.

And, of course, what is a leadership adventure without a leadership challenge?  We divided into teams and began our tasks for the week.  Under the guidance of Chris Barber, Michelle Ham, and Rhodri Evans, we completed our first team building and communications exercise… on horseback.  Teams elected a member who had never been around horses and coached that person through saddling and riding a Mongolian horse.  Scott Norman was our representative and, as you can see, he handled this challenge like a real Indiana Jones… he even loses his hat!  Go Scott – you were awesome!

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