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The Gobi covers almost a third of the mongolian territory. The Mongols distinguish between 33 different kinds of "Gobi". Only a small part of it consists of sand, even if then those parts form particularly spectacular dunes. Most of the desert has more the character of dry steppe, which offers seasonal pastures to the herds of the nomads. The natural fauna consists of wild horses, camels, ibex, gazelles, and snow leopards.
Yolin am is a narrow and jagged canyon, which functions as an oase in the surrounding desert. Rainfall in summer may create hundreds of little waterfalls along the walls. The place has turned into a very rich habitat especially for birds. As the largest species, bearded vultures have settled on top of the cliffs, and give the canyon its name.
There's also a geographical curiosity to be found here. No ray of sunshine will reach the deepest wrinkles of the canyon, and a pool of cold air collects there, which can't escape anywhere because of the topographical situation. The gorge also doesn't allow any wind, so that it is completely shielded against the heat of the surrounding desert. And finally, the vulcanic rock offers very good insulation against thermal conduction. All those factors make sure that the ice forming at the ground in winter can't completely thaw up again in summer. The result is a glacier, which can comfortably be reached on foot from the desert!
Erosion created those ragged rocks from reddish sediment. The color offers a particularly spectacular view in the morning or evening sun, which explains the popular name "flaming cliffs". The mongolian name translates to "rich in Saxaul", and alludes to the nearby forests of the self sufficient desert trees.
In 1923, Roy Chapman Andrews found the first dinosaur eggs in the sediments of this valley, which made the Gobi famous by now. Even complete sceletons of various species of dinosaurs have been excavated here. Such findings indicate that the Gobi enjoyed a tropical climate in earlier times. Further finds show that the first settlers lived here in the stone ages.
The "singing sands" are a regular mountain range made out of sand. The complete massiv is 20 km wide, 100 km long, and up to 800 m high. Individual dunes reach heights of up to 30 m. Appreciating the full dimensions of this spectacle would require to climb on one of the nearby mountains. But climbing on some of the dunes near the edge already leads into magnificent sandscapes. The sand is very fine, and invites to extended gliding sessions.
Given the right winds (mostly in autumn), air turbulences at the ridges of the dunes will create a characteristic sound. This "chant" has given the landscape its name. The place is also home to many animals, although mostly of small size. The primary inhabitants sind reptiles such as snakes and lizards, scorpions, and of course all kinds of insects.
This area is another digging ground for dinosaur fossils. The most spectacular find here were the sceletons of two animals, which were excavated while still locked into each other in combat.
Of course, as is the case for most similar places: Anyone intent on finding any interesting remains needs exact knowledge of the location and particularly the right equipment. Tourists will usually have to settle with a few small bone fragments. Please also note that the export of fossils from Mongolia is forbidden by principle. Exceptional permits are only granted for documented scientific purposes.
We will arrange for a stop here despite this, because the scenery is a worthwile view on its own. We're moving in a moon-like landscape built from yellowish sandstone sediment. The rolling terrain was formed by erosion into various shapes. Travellers have made a sport of naming particular formations. In the picture, you can see the "camels humps" as an example.