Monday, July 22

Ger Camp At Khongoryn Els

We sit out the sandstorm at our ger camp - partly in the SUV; partly, when the blistering gusts have waned a bit, in the eating-section of the main camp; and partly (once the staff darting back-and-forth in the lee of the yurts have set up our quarters) inside our ger itself. Bambe tells us to expect a yurt awash with sand; but in reality it is quite snug and sandfree inside, even though the chimney hole had open, all through the sandstorm, a little eye of an opening in the awning, recessed and cleverly facing away from the wind. Once inside, surrounded by the trellised layers of felt, you hardly feel the storm raging without; it takes 3-4 hours to blow itself out, and in its wake comes a brief rainshower of fat, cold, spattering drops. Then, a lingering cinder sunset.

At 3 a.m., I go outside to see the stars. My LED-torch lying on the sand creates a wide saucer of blue illumination as I try to set up a tripod, bathing in light a desert jerboa that jumps several feet clear of the ground and vanishes into the dark. Silent wings that had been ready to pounce glide by in a miss, the desert eagle screeches and soars back high into a sky that is now sandless and cloudless. I settle down to watch the Saptarshi -- close, like white peaches ready to pluck out of the Milky Way.


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