Most Inspirational Moment
The Nadaam opening ceremony, seeing the Mongolian competitors and the crowd response during the rest of the games; seeing the wild takhi horses' seeing dinosaur bones in various musuems.
Thoughts on Group Leader
He got us from place to place efficiently, and was always really pleasant. But he rarely gave us much information about plans for the day or the next few days, or about what we were seeing, or so we were often a bit confused about what was happening, and didn't get the most out of our time or our visits to particular places and sometimes missed things. At the Naadam festival he didn't tell us where we were heading, or where and when we should meet if we got separated in the huge crowds, and on one occasion he simply went off with part of the group without telling the rest of us - so we got really lost more than once, which was a bit unnerving and wasted precious time. On the road, he didn't ensure that the vehicles kept together - so when ours broke down we were with a driver who didn't speak English, totally alone in the Gobi. He also swapped activities around which made sense from a driving point of view, but meant that our hike around the Flaming Cliffs took place in a torrential downpour which made walking pretty treacherous - and as he simply left us there we weren't clear on where we were supposed to hike (by the time we worked it out it was too late to do it). The following day, when it wasn't raining, we went to the local town museum (which was good - but a better rainy day activity) and the market (which wasn't - tiny and nothing of interest). The 2 hikes (cliffs and canyon) need to be prioritised around the weather, as they are potential highlights, and could have been done on the same day if necessary, and the town omitted entirely (it's not in the itinerary anyway)
Advice for Potential Travellers
Do plenty of research about what you want to see in Ulaanbaatar as there quite a bit of time there and our guide didn't give us any information about what to see or where it might be located. Take a copy of the itinerary because the guide might not keep you posted on what is happening. Consider not taking the group flights - Air China seems to have delays routinely (we were delayed by about 6 hours on the way out and at no time did anyway give us a definitive answer about why we were delayed or when the flight might take off), and no guarantee you'll get your connection in Beijing - and if you miss it there is no-one to help as staff are thin on the ground, mostly don't speak English and frequently don't care and are rude and unhelpful. If you are delayed don't leave the allocated gate for more than a few minutes (unless you think it might have changed) as the flight might suddenly be called without warning and they won't wait or make an announcement. Lots of driving inc 2 full days driving (11 hours) so take lots of books or load up your mp3 player (etc). In July take a rainjacket and a brolly for rain - often too hot for the jacket, but sometimes it rained so persistently that it cooled down and a brolly wouldn't hack it. Hardly any bugs so insect repellent not necessary. In most ger camps you can wash clothes and they will be dry the next morning. There are only a few times where you need closed and grippy shoes - but then you do really need them. Food is generally quite good but often bland so consider taking some sort of hot sauce or spice. Take plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel for toilet stops. Take spare batteries for anything important as electricity can be limited in the gers so you can't rely on being able to recharge stuff overnight. Take a torch make sure it is easy to find in your packing.
Bayangol Hotel in Ulaanbaatar was well located and comfortable - but Exodus needs to ensure that in summer rooms are in Block B, which has air con rooms, and not block A which doesn't. The first ger camp we stayed in had only 6 showers for 40 gers so there were major queues - which is not what you need when you are hot and dusty and jetlagged . Not sure if there is an alternative but worth considering. All the rest were fine.
Reply from Exodus
We would like to thank Elspeth for her insightful review, we rely on customer feedback to ensure the quality of our trips and make improvements where necessary. We are currently looking into what happened on this departure.