Make sure these are people you at least somewhat like – you will be spending every waking minute with them and will be within five feet of them the majority of every, single, day. Don’t pick assholes.
Typically, the more people you have traveling together, the cheaper it is per person. Ideally, you want to fill every seat in your van (duh). I traveled with six passengers – Conor, Lara, Jacqueline, Denis, Murtaza and myself, plus our driver Jackie and guide Deegii.
We added Murtaza last minute – we met him in the common room at the hostel in an incident that truly puts into perspective what a small world we live in. Murtaza and Lara actually went to high school together in Sydney, Australia and no idea that the other was traveling, let alone in Mongolia and staying at Khongor. Such a random coincidence!
Be Comfortable with your Driver and Guide -
These folks are essentially in charge of your life during the caravan. Like your travel group, you will be in (very) close proximity to them everyday, so if you have any apprehension, be sure to address it before you leave. Also, don’t piss them off; you want them to like you. We broke the ice with some karaoke the night before we left.
Be a Polite Houseguest & Bring Gifts -
You’ll be staying with a different host family each night of the caravan. They will give up their beds for you, feed you and make sure your ger stays warm, so the least you can do as a thanks is bring them a present.
A much appreciated gift is a bottle of vodka (a people after my own heart) – to be presented to the male head of the household upon departure from their home. Also great to bring are colored pencils and sweets (preferably from you home country) to give to the kids. FYI, sour candies tend to get the most dramatic responses!
Stock up on Snack Food -
You will (most likely) be provided with a small breakfast, plus lunch and dinner each day, however, it can be 6-8 hours in between formal meals. People get cranky when they get hungry and they will be cranky right next to you. Do yourself a favor and bring some snacks.
Prevent Scurvy -
Okay, so you probably won’t get scurvy in a week, but fresh (vs. pickled) fruit and veggies are scarce in the Gobi. Bring your own! After a week of eating (almost exclusively) pasta or rice, mutton and milk tea, I was ravenous for some produce! If you’re a vegetarian or vegan (like myself) you will have to take a break during the caravan or bring all of your own food.
Bring Plenty of Water -
Chances are, your guide will pack a set amount of water per person per day, but its a good idea to bring extra. You’ll be using bottled water for ev-er-y-thing; drinking, brushing your teeth, bathing (if you’re brave), washing your hands. The last thing you want to do is run out.
Pack for the Tundra! -
It will be freezing (FREE-ZING) at night. Like, you-will-wake-up-from-a-dead-sleep-from-being-so-cold freezing. Bring as many layers as you can! I cannot emphasize this enough – thick socks, sweaters, jackets, scarves, gloves, beanies – bring ‘em all, you’ll need them.
Sleeping bags will probably be provided, but they’re not always built for sub-zero temperatures (strange for a place that specializes in, well, sub-zero temps). If you have your own, bring it. If not, bring more layers!
Get Amped Up! -
Even though it might be a smelly, freezing, bumpy, protein-heavy trek, it will be unforgettably fabulous adventure. Its the Gobi for god-sake!
Once we had all of our gear and goodies packed up and ready to go, all that was left to do was hit the road.