It's better to travel to Mongolia in summer than in winter. In summer the temperatures can hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but that's easier to survive than the -40 of January. Both are preferable to spring, though, when, John Man writes in this vivid story of wilderness adventure, "brutal cold gives way to sand-blasting gales that can flay exposed skin and strip the paint from a car."
Man has seen these Mongolian weathers up close, wandering around this vast country in search of its peculiar wildlife--a menagerie that includes rare wild camels and horses, mountain sheep, wolves, desert bears, and the elusive snow leopard. With the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, Man writes, Mongolia's economy had collapsed. Mongolians had responded, as always in times of stress, by leaving their cities and returning to the countryside to live off the land. In the late 1990s, with the economy improving, Mongolians were going back to their offices and shops, but with a new determination to protect the backcountry from the excesses of development that had ravaged neighboring China and Russia. As a result, the Mongolian government had taken an unusual step: not only would it encourage preservation by creating huge national parks and wilderness preserves, but it would also declare the entire, vast nation a special biosphere reserve, attracting both ecotourism and funding from international wildlife organizations.
The plan worked. And, Man is happy to report, Mongolia's wildlife seems to be thriving in a time when wild nature is in decline around the world. Armchair travelers and conservationists alike will find his book to be inspiring reading. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
British reporter Man has been obsessed with Mongolia's Gobi Desert since his boyhood, when he read of the exploits of American explorer/scientist Roy Chapman Andrews, who in 1922-1924 made one of the century's great paleontological finds by discovering dinosaur eggs and fossils at Flaming Cliffs (aka Bayan Zag). In an exhilarating blend of travel, history and adventure, the Gobi of Man's imaginationAall flat immensities and deathly extremesAgives way to a realm of austere beauty, with majestic snow-capped pinnacles, emerald oases, an exquisite interplay of reds, purples and ochres and a diversity of snow leopards, wolves, lightning-fast gazelles and endangered bears and horses. Highlights of his itinerary include Sacred Mother, a mountain revered by Buddhists, where he feels a sense of timelessness; the Great Gobi National Park, almost half the size of England; and the Singing Sands, an immense ridge of high dunes that vibrates and hums in the wind. A graceful and companionable travel writer, Man finds much to admire in the Mongolian people, including their intact tradition of mutual support, closeness to nature and rugged endurance in the face of enormous distances, sporadic roads, lack of water and erratic power supplies. Since Andrews's pioneering discoveries, reports Man, American, Polish, Russian and Mongol expeditions have yielded valuable clues to the evolution of early mammals, the extinction of dinosaurs and human origins. And the Gobi holds another surprise: a vast water table beneath its harsh surface, which now feeds thousands of wells and dozens of irrigation projects, could make the desert bloom. But the Mongolians may not be ready for such a transformation, surmises Man, as it would change their way of life and ecology. His book vividly captures both as they are, however, and it is enchanting. 12 b&w and seven color photos. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.