We asked to meet our guide before we began the trip. Mainly because the hostel we booked the trip with were cagey about their ability to provide someone with sufficient English skills for translation purposes. As soon as Khuu (pronounced 'hoo') entered the room and said hello we knew she'd be great. Her English was fantastic and, as we would soon find out, her sense of humour was wicked. She's from Southern Gobi region but now lives in the capital, working as a guide to help pay for her sisters' education.
On the second day of the trip, with the backdrop of the incredible 'White Cliffs' in the Dundgov province, South of Ulaanbaatar, our conversation drifts towards climate change. Khuu tells me about how she can see the climate changing and its effect on the landscape. It's getting drier each year and Khuu discovers more rivers have vanished from her tourist trail each new season, as she makes the long trips around the country with van-loads of adventure-seekers.
These changes have had a dramatic effect on wildlife. The land used to be graced with many herds of wild sheep, gazelles and donkeys. The lack of rain has meant there's no longer enough grass or water to support them.
She tells me that she thinks the nomadic lifestyle will die out and that most Mongolians want to leave the country because they think they can have a better quality of life abroad. I fear she is mistaken though. We may have more money but we are demonstrably no happier for it. Rather than exporting our disfunctional and self-destructive Western ways, in the name of so-called 'development', perhaps we should show a little more humility and learn what we can from societies like Khuu's before we obliterate them completely.