Gobi Desert Biathlon

Gobi Desert Biathlon

Gobi Desert Biathlon
To help with grassroots marketing we held the first annual National Geographic / Yak Whisperer "Badral Xtreme Desert Death Race" yesterday in the Gobi. We had 12 two-man teams competing in a combined 10k dune foot race followed by a 40k camel race. Unfortunately we had a 50% drop out rate due to a stomach virus making it's way through the group.

I was glad that we attracted a few locals to take part. I probably should have been more clear on the rules since motorcycles had a definite advantage on this terrain. I suppose they really wanted to win that first prize of 5 quarts of fermented Airag.

So the winners were:
1. Dambyn Ganbayar, Dambyn Tömörtsog
2. Dambyn Otgonbayar, Dambyn Otgonbaatar
3. Tserenbat, Naranbaatar

A couple of French teams still haven't made it back. There's a chance they'll show up before the sand storm, otherwise I have to mark them as DNF. But in any case, I hope they read their waiver. We left a couple cans of Grape Fanta out for them by the finish line just in case.
Finally, special thanks to our sponsors: Chinggis Light ("the beer to have when you're conquering continents"), Pringles and Immodium.

PS. Still no Yaks sited. Hope to hell Christo was wrong.

Gobi Desert: Total Silence


During this trip I'm officially off cell phone, IM, email, Blogger, Buzz, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google groups, Linkedin, Myspace, Ning, Picasaweb, Posterous, Skype, Typepad, Twitter, Yelp, and every other timewasting  productivity-enhancing social-networking unified messaging cloud infrastructure SaaS virtual distributed open source crowdsource system I've signed up for.  

Except on www.yakwhisperer.com site, which oddly enough, has finally found a huge following in Mongolia. Go figure.  So feel free to leave comments below.  

As it turns out, there's not much cell service here in the Gobi desert.  We're at the Three Camel Lodge, but unfortunately with zero bars of cellular reception.  Probably just an AT&T issue.  Those guys can't get anything right.  It's like total sang-froid savoir faire.

Still, this is a pretty nice place for the middle of the desert.  We're staying in Yurts, which in the local language are known as Ger.  And believe me, these are first class Ger. Might be the finest in all of Mongolia.  

And yet, no cellular reception.  

See how you like it. Just total friggin' silence. Two can play at that game, smart guy. 

We'll just see how you like it. 

Total silence.

GPS Update:

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Where's the Beach?

WTF?  I'm here in Mongolia and I don't think there' s a beach anywhere.  This place looks like that windows 95 wallpaper only drier.  

Next you're gonna tell me Canada has been eliminated from the World Cup.  I can't find them anywhere in the local schedule. Goddamn.  That's all I need.  Another Machiavellian imbroglio incognito! 

Heading to Gobi Desert tomorrow.  Hope they have a Starbucks with WiFi.  Also, would be nice to get in a long run.  

Gun Galuut Nature Preserve

We spent the night at the Gun Galuut Nature Preserve, about 2 1/2 hours southeast of Ulaan Bataar.  There was excellent horse back riding, a hike to view Argali sheep, and great opportunities for photography of sheep, goats, horses and demoiselle cranes.  I also got in a great 6 mile run that turned into an 8 mile run when I got lost and was chased by dogs.  That was pretty exciting.

On the way back, we stopped at the Chinggis Kaan monument which is very impressive.  Photos and video were shot with the iPhone 4 which does a stunning job as far as I'm concerned. (If you can figure out why the horses are nodding, add your guess to the comments below.)

Alas, no yaks sited.  I'm beginning to think I should have bought the goatwhisperer site from Sequoia instead.  But after the expensive logo redesign and branding efforts, I'm not sure it would make sense to change things now. Goddamned Kleiner Perkins.  No wonder the site never took off.


Click the link below to see on a map:

Greetings from Ulaan Bataar


We're now in Ulaan Bataar, a city of more than 1,000,000 people, plus yaks.  Very soviet looking architecture.  Also seems like they have trouble spelling here.

Hoping to find a blues club later on.  That would seem a natural fit.  I don't expect Mongolia gets the top headlining acts, but still, I would expect rock bands like Cheap Trick or Styx probably come through here after the mid-west county fair season ends.  I mean, where else are they gonna play?  

But I can't find a bloody thing in the guide books. So typical. About as useful as a Tovarich Samizdat after Glasnost.  So I may have to settle for an iced cold Starbucks decaf Yak-uccino mocha frappé.  

The whole thing reminds me of the epic poem "Greetings from Ulan Bator" by Sweden's most famous modern poet, Tomas Transförmer.

Han räknar med sin kalkylatorrrr
Översätter med translatorrrr
Skriver breven med sin datorrrr
Hälsningar från Ulan Batorrrr!

Which roughly translates to:

He counts with his calculatorrr
Translates with an interpreterrr.
Writes his letter with a computerrr.
Greetings from Ulan Batorrrr.

There are in fact 817 different verses, but that's pretty much the highlight.  You know, I could see Styx incorporating that into a revised version of "Kilroy Was Here."

Time Travel in Korea


I finally figured out how they made all that weird time travel stuff work in LOST.  Instead of filming in Hawaii, I think they actually filmed it in Korea or even Mongolia.  We left San Francisco yesterday and got to Korea tomorrow.  And on the way back, we arrive before we left.  WTF?  Next thing you know I'll be seeing polar bears.

Although come to think of it, it would have been more appropriate if Locke had been attacked by a giant Yak. Talk about being in deep Kimchi!  That would have been, like, totally disruptive. 

Can't wait to get to the beaches of Mongolia. Woohoo!

GPS Update:

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The New Yak Whisperer Logo


You may have noticed that there's a new logo on The Yak Whisperer site.  I got rid of that piece of JuNK designed by that nobody Paul Rand. What has he ever done?  Nada. Especially lately.  

I can't believe Jobs paid $100,000 for that crappy NeXT logo.  That's like 25 grand a letter.  You never want to pay per letter.  Cuz then the bigger your brand is the more its gonna cost you.  Not the smartest approach, if you ask me.  

Still, Steve paid less than the prior Yak management paid Rand for their fancy-pants logo. Honestly, I'm too embarrassed to show the old logo or even talk about what it cost. Adiós and good riddance. Lets just say, I think the original management team was spending way more on hookers and blow, so in the grand scheme of things, its not that big a deal.  

I told the board we needed a new logo with cojones. Something better suited to our social networking raison d'etre and that I could get it done for the bargain price of $250,000.  Which come to think of it, that's still $25k a letter.  Whatever.  But its still less than that fugly UK Olympic logo. That monstrosity cost £400,000 frigging English pounds which is like nearly a million real dollars give or take a coupla pints of flat warm beer.  Lord knows, you'd need a few of those if you wrote the check for that turkey.

Plus I got the designers to throw in the tagline treatment free of charge.  So actually, we saved money.  

And it was way cheaper than going to Christo to cover the Mongolian steppe region in inflatable pink & blue yaks which was our original idea for a PR stunt.  Christo kept arguing that yaks are from Tibet.  As if.  That guy has such an ego.  

Books About Mongolia

My wife picked up several fine books about Mongolia in preparation for our travels there.  I have read exactly none of them.  She tells me Mongolia is a lot like Tahiti, but I am not so sure. 

Here's a list of some books I've seen on Amazon about Mongolia, or in some cases, Tibet:

Ok, some of these don't really exist.  

But my wife is a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. And if he ever made it to Mongolia, maybe on his way to some fancy hotel design assignment in Tokyo or whatever, and someone got a picture of him with a Yak and wrote a story about it into one of those self-indulgent self-published Samizdats on Amazon, I would certainly buy it for her.  Cuz that's the kind of guy I am.