For the May Day holiday we made a special trip to the Tengger Desert in Inner Mongolia, the fourth largest in China. We spent two days in the desert – hiking, driving in jeeps, and riding camels, with an overnight stay in tents by one of the desert lakes.
The average rainfall per year in this region is less than 40 millimetres, but there are over 140 natural lakes spread throughout. You'd think that this place is not suitable for humans to live in, but actually it is full of life. There is fresh underground water that keeps nature and the Mongolian nomads alive, who all rely on this special place.
Our jeeps took us for a drive from the edge of the desert region to the higher sand dunes area, where we hiked from one oasis to the next. Birds, sheep, camels and lizards made the journey interesting. After hours of hiking and driving, we arrived at a beautiful lake. We camped not far from a nomad family's seasonal dwelling and settled in for the night. Behind our tents were tall sand dunes, and we climbed up on top to view the sunset.
In the early morning it was rather chilly and we woke up quite early, ready to watch the sunrise. After breakfast we drove on to another region for more hiking. After nearly two hours of hiking through the dunes we ended up at a beautiful lake, where our camels were waiting for us.
The desert trip finished at the Moon Lake park, a developed area for ecotourism – quite a contrast to the places we'd been, deep in the desert.
On the way to the desert we stopped to visit a Tibetan Buddhist temple built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
The monks had just left and we had the temple to ourselves.
Colorful Tibetan-style murals on the wall.
In the desert, we passed a local nomad family who were shearing their sheep.
We passed several lakes while in the desert. Some were freshwater, some were saltwater. In the photo are salt crystals left as the water receded.
A lizard in the sand.
The tips of a plant named Suoyang, reputedly an aphrodisiac.
A view of our campsite from the high dunes behind.
A steep walk up the dune's ridge.
Hiking through the dunes in the desert.
The beautiful desert landscape.
We spotted a flock of sheep wandering through the dunes.
Lie down and enjoy the sunshine.
Walking though the sand dunes.
Ridge walking, with one of the lakes in the distance.
The sheep were put in the pen each night to keep them safe.
Taking a break on the way up the ridge.
Sunset light on the sand dunes.
Our bonfire at the campsite.
Early dawn in the desert.
We were stopped for a look at this lake.
It's time for a ride on the camels.
Ready to go.
Ready for a peaceful (!) camel ride.
All set to go.
Near one of the lakes we saw many different birds. Here, wild geese.
Geese flying away.
A herd of camels in the distance.
The train of camels heads on through the dunes.
We took a photo with our jeep drivers and support team.
A map that shows the region where we went into the desert.
On the last day of the trip, we stopped to take a look at a section of the ancient Great Wall from the early Ming Dynasty.