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What it was like to visit the singing sand dunes of the Gobi desert

October 29, 2013, 1:04 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 1179

By riazhussain

The universe is so diverse and vast that our comprehension powers are strained when we try to understand this variety-studded world. But, this vastness and boundless diversity does not deter humans from exploring the earth. Its unique places seem to invite explorers to come and try to uncover the mysteries and appreciate the virgin beauty of the wilderness. Some people explore the planet in order to exploit its resources. There are others who undertake exploratory expeditions because they want to see new spots and have fun. The contributor this story is such a person. She is fond of seeing places she hasn't previously been to.

Jeong-Eun Kang is a 20-year-old second grade university student. She lives in Seoul and studies painting in fine art. In addition, she is also fond of exploring new locales and capturing their beauty and unique features in her photographs. She has visited Korea, Taiwan and Mongolia. She says, ‘I want to travel lots of countries and hopefully broaden my viewpoint and perspective so as to enhance my photographic skills and know-how’. With this aim in mind, our explorer went to Mongolia in July 2013 and stayed there for one month. That country's wilderness offered her unique experiences. She was mesmerized to see the raw beauty of the Gobi desert.

The Gobi is one of the largest desert regions of the world. It spans the southern of areas of Mongolia and Northern China. It is a cold winter desert which covers an area of 500,000 square miles. Usually we associate deserts with sand and sand dunes. But, there are deserts which have rocky landscape. This is one of them. The terrain of the Gobi mostly comprises flat gravel plains and a desolate rocky plateau. The wild rocky terrain has extreme weather conditions. The region gets very cold in the winter. The other features are: strong winds, low precipitation, two-humped camels, and bears. The landscape of the Gobi desert is sparsely sandy. 

Our Korean interviewee first went to Ulaanbaatar, but this capital of Mongolia was not her destination. She had come to Mongolia to see Khongoryn Els.

Khongoryn Els is a sandy fraction of the Gobi. This windy desert  is a tourist spot and contains an area which is said to have 'singing' sand dunes. The latter are very popular. The singing reference is the result of strong winds which produce a booming sound when they blow over the sand. 

The sand dunes run for several kilometers and their height goes up to 200 to even 300m. Hikers and tourists come to this sandy place to climb the dunes. When our Jeong-Eun finally reached Khongoryn Els ,it was dawn. There were camels to take visitors near the coveted sand dunes. 

She was very excited to finally see their beautiful wind-swept texture. 

She explains, ‘I can say the most impressive and exciting place to me is Khongoryn Els. It was my major reason why I wanted to go to Mongolia’. She wanted to reach the top of the dunes. She tried to do so but the climb was not easy for her as she had anticipated. 

She had to crawl to reach to the top. She wanted to have a view of the sandy landscape from the top down. 

At the top of the sand formation, she had an new insight. She says, ‘An astonishing experience was feeling the sand's temperature. It was dawn when I climbed Khongoryn Els. After reaching the top, ‘As I would touch with my hand. One side of the sand dune was warm and the other side was hot. Describing her feelings, she says, ‘I felt warm sand-side, and cold sand-side together. Because the sun had not risen up completely. The other side was not getting any sunshine. So when I touched  the dark side, I was met with a totally different atmosphere. From the top, when she looked about, sand was to be seen all around: as far as her eyes could see. 

She explains, ‘Unlike any other sand area, the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els have the shape of a strip. It is about 180km length, 300m height and 10km wide. Therefore it looks like a huge strip. There is an extensive grassland on one side of it and a river on the other side, so there were two worlds’.

She wanted to experience the sand dunes' singing, whichis actually a natural phenomenon that takes place in several deserts of the world. The sound emission is caused by the wind traveling over the dunes or when somebody is walking on the sand. She went to that area and listened to the whistling, rumbling and roaring sounds. Describing the experience, she says, ‘If you jump on the sand dune, you can hear the very weird sound which the thick sand layer makes beneath you, as the sand moves’. She says, ‘Hearing the sand dunes' singing was really an unforgettable experience’. 

Visiting the this part of the Gobi desert has made her realize the yearning that she had held for some years. She tried to feel the place. She says, ‘Touching soft sand, climbing the sand dunes, seeing the vastness of the desert made me feel my existence in nature. This particular trip has acquainted Jeong-Eun with the insignificance of humankind in the vast universe. ‘These things show how small a human being I am in comparison with the huge scale of the world’.

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