Driving From Italy To The Gobi Desert

by Mariangela Squarise

I read your Mongolia travel guide, and found it very interesting - especially the tips about safety in UB, and shopping. I liked very much the stories about the people, the women and the children of the steppe. Facts that you don't find in normal guides!

I represent a group of people planning to drive to Mongolia by car from Italy. We will cross Hungary, Ukraine, and Russia. From Novosibirsk we will drive down to Mongolia.

In Mongolia we will go to Ulgii, Tolbo Nuur, the Tsenker caves, Bulgan, Altai, the Orkhon river and valley, Karakorum, Arvaikheer, the Gobi desert, Yoliin Am and finally Ulaan Baatar. Then we will put the cars on containers to China where they will return to Italy by sea. The participants will return by plane.

Why this trip, because the war closed our playground - the Sahara desert.

Altogether we will probably be 30 self-sufficient cars. We will take all the food and camping equipment we need with us.

I'm writing to you because I'm preparing a special guide for our group, and I would like to use your tips.

I would like to ask you:

What can we bring for the children of the steppe?
Do people like to have their photos taken?
Can parts of the Great Wall be seen in Mongolia?

I read the friendly people of Mongolia do like to have their pictures taken. If this is true, it is a nice change from the Sahara desert people who don't like it.

If you have any other advice for us, I would very much appreciate it.

If you would like to look at our tour in the Sahara, please visit our site http://www.sandwhisper.it

Best regards,
Mariangela Squarise

My answer:

Hello Mariangela,

This sounds like a great adventure!

Here are some tips for your guide, and answers to your questions:

What can we bring for the children of the steppe?

Mongolian children like pretty much the same things as children around the world. The only problem for nomad kids is that most don't have access to electricity, and buying batteries is not as easy as popping down to the nearest supermarket or corner shop. They do however have lots of wide open spaces!

Good gifts for nomad children include: action figures; books (Mongolian books would be best - many kids can't even afford school books! ); kites (you'll need to show them how they work); balls (but not so small they can be swallowed by cattle); colour crayons (with pencil sharpener and paper); sun hats; solar powered games (maybe even a solar powered calculator if they are of school age); wind up torches...

One of the best gifts your participants could give is to return to this page and submit a story of their adventure - for every 400+ word contribution I pay a Mongolian charity enough money to keep a Mongolian kid in school for a week! (I can translate from Italian if necessary.)

Click here for more information about Mongolian children.

Good gifts for parents include tobacco and snuff products. Then there are instant photos. Mongolian nomads don't get many opportunities to have their photos taken, so if you take a Polaroid instant camera with you - they will love to receive photos of themselves.

Do people like to have their photos taken?

Whilst in general Mongolian nomads like to have their photo taken - it's best not to descend on them with dozens of flashing cameras. There is a Mongolian superstition that your lifespan shortens if your photo is taken too many times.

Also city people, and people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, do not like too obvious attempts to document them.

But on the whole - people like to have their photo taken.

Can parts of the Great Wall be seen in Mongolia?

These days the Great Wall is firmly in Inner Mongolian and Chinese territory (Inner Mongolia is a province of China). I include some information about Inner Mongolia and the Great Wall on this site.

There is a stretch of the Great Wall known to locals as the Wall Of Chinggis Khaan . However, it is more of a mound than a great wall and the area where it lies is still sensitive requiring special permits from the Mongolian government to visit - not much has changed in the last 800 years ;)

Other Tips

You are probably aware of the Mongol Rally. Every year a group of drivers set of for Mongolia from the UK. I don't think many of them will drive as far as the Gobi desert - but it may be worth keeping an eye on their site. You may be heading in the same direction at the same time!

You may also find their Visa Machine useful, since they can process visas for many of the countries you will be travelling through.

Let me know when you arrive in UB and we'll grab a beer!

I wish you the best of luck!

PS. If any Mongol Rally veterans are reading this page, or you have travelled through Mongolia and have some gift suggestions please chip in using the comment link below!

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