If you have followed my (what my friend Robert likes to hear me call) perambulating, you know that I have perambulated to a plethora of places, packing my palate with pounds of pasta, pain, and other products. Anyhow, I have come to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
I had no expectations - but I could not have set them too high for the flight here. We emerged from the smog of Beijing and as we crossed into Mongolia the clouds cleared for a landscape that I have never seen nor imagined and my vocabulary lacks any adjectives to describe the 300 or so miles south of UB.
But if you think you have seen pastels, before today I would not have disputed your claim. But until you have seen the Gobi Dessert on a crystal clear day in the late summer from a vantage point 35,000 feet high as the sun rises... you have not seen pastels. As if a thousand giant varied hued candles had dripped on a land of unimaginable dimensions and then old carbon paper had been randomly smeared in fits and starts. Where water was found tiny dots - like craters on the moon - are at the center of a spiderweb that seems like fracture lines but in fact are trails cut by horses and camels seeking that water in what the world's greatest adventurer (Marco Polo) said was the most arduous journey of his life.
The Chinese are building a road across the Gobi and often in the vast panorama the only sign that humans exist is that tiny line snaking around and across the mountains and plains below. Here's just one sample picture.