Mateusz Waligóra Crossed the Mongolian Gobi Desert Alone

Mateusz Waligóra Crossed the Mongolian Gobi Desert Alone

by Dominik Szczepański

– If the expedition is successful, Mateusz Waligóra will execute a feat of great importance, which will have no equal in the exploration of the deserts by Polish adventurers – This was said before the expedition by Marek Kamiński, the first man who had reached both the North and South Poles in one year.

Photo. Mateusz Waligóra

In August 2018, Waligóra set off from Bulgan in Khovd Province, located in western Mongolia near the border with China. His trip was to cover only the Mongolian part of the largest desert in Asia. The Chinese part is larger, but getting permission for its passage is almost impossible. In addition, it is more urbanized.

At Gobi desert. Photo Mateusz Waligóra

To reach the desert part of the Mongolian Gobi (since Gobi also consists of steppes and semi deserts), he had to hike through the mountains of Gobi Altai. It required him to pull a specially prepared hand-cart for the trip, to travel through the passes at heights exceeding 2,000 m above sea level. On the trolley, he transported all the food, equipment and water needed for his survival. His equipment consisted of a tent, down jacket and warm underwear – because at night the temperatures dropped below -10 degrees Celsius. He needed to carry water – because during the trip there were several days without a well on the route. When temperatures during the day exceeded 35 degrees Celsius, Waligóra drank more than 10 liters per day. Sometimes the cart had 90 liters of water on it, making a total load of over 200 kg to pull behind him.

Before the expedition, Waligóra assumed that he would be self-sufficient. This was to distinguish him from other travelers, who had managed to pass the same part of the desert with the help of camels, food drops, as well as being  assisted by cars that relieved them and helped to find routes and wells. He went alone, according to the routes marked out on several maps, and on which he had marked all potential wells before the expedition. However, sometimes it was easy for him to get lost on the thousands of desert paths left by the inhabitants of the desert.  At times, he had to wander in search of the right route.

When he came to Mongolia in mid-August, it was still not certain that he would even begin his expedition. On the Gobi, it had been the driest year since measurements have been recorded. But right after the drought, heavy rainstorms and floods haunted Mongolia.

After the hardships of the Gobi Altai, Waligóra entered the desert. There, the sandstorms became a threat, but he was able to survive them, often by sheltering in his tent. In the second part of the expedition, he had a problem with the inner tubes in the tires on the wheels of his cart. Near the end of the expedition, he had to patch and glue them every few hours to keep going. Several spokes on the wheels also broke during the trip, making the successful finish of the trip rather risky!

On October 15th, at approx. 12 noon local time, Mateusz Waligóra arrived at his destination in Sainshand. In 58 days, he had covered 1,785 km on his feet. He is the first to have crossed the Mongolian part of the largest desert of Asia, entirely alone!

Map: Joanna Kopka National Geographic Polska Traveler

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3 years ago

Some details about previous attempts: Gobi is a desert inhabited temporarily by nomads. People have been pacing it for centuries. Among the attempts to cross the desert the Sarah Marquis expedition deserves attention. She tried to cross the desert twice during her march from Siberia to Australia (2010). She used previously prepared discharges of food and equipment. Reinhold Messner, one of the greatest explorers of all time, the first conqueror of all 14 eight-thousanders also tried to pass this desert in 2004. Messner assumed that he would use the help lifts by nomads. He also benefited from their hospitality. As… Read more »

1 year ago

There was a guy who attempted a record-breaking bicycle ride on the most difficult sand piste in Australia. In the middle of his adventure he found a tourist info board displaying early XX c. miners commuting on bicycles the same way couple times a year. Well, pity of him. If there is no written record or we are not aware of it we should not assume we are the first to do what we think is really hard.