Mongolia #26 Day 14 of the Trek (09/10/15)

DSC02437 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02437 © DY of jtdytravels

It was a warmer night – with no frost.  For the first time, I slept under the sleeping bag rather than in it.  Mind you, it was still only a few degrees above freezing.

DSC02438 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02438 © DY of jtdytravels

Soft pre-sunrise hues over the bay beside our campsite.

DSC02440 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02440 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally the sun hit the far side of the lake.

DSC02444 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02444 © DY of jtdytravels

 …then it was our turn to receive some warmth from the sun

DSC02447 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02447 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun highlighted these fluffy seed heads.

There was an option this morning to go for a walk and be picked up along the way… or to stay in camp.  This came about because we had to wait for two of our vehicles to return from Olgii where the con-rod in one and a broken leaf in the other car’s suspension were being fixed. Some of us decided to stay in camp and have some time-out.  We kicked the remains of the camp fire into life and sat around it, chatting and relaxing until midday. The vehicles reunited, we drove on until we found the walking group. Our destination for the day was Khovd where there’s an airport. This would be our point of departure from far west Mongolia; the end of our trek.

DSC02451 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02451 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way, we came across a rather impressive, very Russian styled memorial.  As with many things with a Russian influence, there appeared to be plenty of money for building, but nothing ever set aside for maintenance.  Built and then forgotten.

DSC02452 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02452 © DY of jtdytravels

Yaks grazed contentedly on the wide open steppe.

DSC02454 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02454 © DY of jtdytravels

Our cars left a dust trail as we drove down into the town of Khovd.

(Elevation 1405m, 48.02N, 91.57E)

Khovd is the capital of Khovd Province, approximately 1580km (982mi.) from UB. The town’s population of  81,479 (in 2015) is made up of more than 17 nationalities and ethnicities all of which have their own traditional dwellings, dress and cultural differences.

The climate is harsh with the summer temperature regularly reaching 40°C (104°F) and falling to as low as -30°C (-22°F) in winter.  The weather is dry with an annual rainfall of only 122.8mm (4.8in.) per annum. Despite this harsh climate, over two million livestock are herded here and, quite amazingly, the area around Khovd is famous for its watermelon production.

At present Khovd is connected to the Russian electricity grid and its prone to blackouts if the town falls behind in its payments! So generation of hydro-electricity from the abundant snow melt is becoming more important.  It’s hoped that new projects will generate enough electricity not only for Khovd’s needs but also for the power needs of the adjacent aimags (Provinces) of Uvs and Bayan-Olgii.

DSC02458 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02458 © DY of jtdytravels

We drove a short way out of town to find a camp site beside a swiftly flowing stream. This was our last camp site for this Mongolian trek with Tim Cope.

Dinner tonight was a bowl of soup followed by a lamb dinner with potatoes and carrots. It was cooked in a pot with hot stones.  Really delicious.

DSC02465 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02465 © DY of jtdytravels

After dinner we were entertained by three Kazakh performers in national costumes.  

DSC02463 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02463 © DY of jtdytravels

The instrument played was the traditional morin khuur. I say traditional, but under the Stalinist regime, musical instruments had to be standardised and ‘modernised’ using different materials and construction methods. The top and bottom of the traditional morin khuur was made of skins. The sides had ‘sound holes’. Today, the instrument has a wooden soundbox, f shaped holes and a soundpost. Bows were traditionally made of horse hair. Todays strings are made of nylon.

DSC02467 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02467 © DY of jtdytravels

The firelight flickered over the face of the throat singer.

DSC02470 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02470 © DY of jtdytravels

These performers brought to an end the final night of a memorable trip.

DSC02472 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02472 © DY of jtdytravels

Before I turned in, I repacked my bag. And now, I have to let this biscuit have the final say in this diary of our trek.  I bought it in a pack of biscuits way back on my first day in China on 6th September.  That biscuit pack lived in my backpack, all day every day, one or two biscuits being nibbled at from time to time. They were not overly hard, nor overly sweet, yet at the same time rather nice in flavour.  I wasn’t hungry between meals during the Walk on the Wall, nor between meals in Mongolia. So now, after all of that time, there was still one biscuit left in my pack. And it was not broken! There must be something very special about those biscuits!!!

And there had certainly been many things special about our trek. I was able to muse over them as I fell asleep in my tent on my last night under the Mongolian stars.

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel photos are on

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Mongolia #18 Day 8 of the Trek (03/10/15 Part b)

DSC02069 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02069 © DY of jtdytravels

The eagle competition was about to begin. This young handler, dressed in his elaborately embroidered clothes, had climbed up the rocky hillside with his eagle and awaited his turn to launch his bird. The stage was set for the main event!

Waiting to release eagle

The aim of the sport is simple really… the winner is the bird that takes the shortest time to fly from the point of release to the time it lands on its owner’s arm. When the starter gives the signal, the handler on the hill removes the eagle’s hood and sets the bird free. The eagle then SHOULD fly straight down to its owner on the horse and be reunited. The emphasis is on the word SHOULD! It doesn’t always happen that way.

[NB. I took lots of video but we are having no luck downloading it to WordPress at the moment…. so some photos taken from the video will have to suffice… my apologies.]

Eagle soaring

Several of the eagles had their own ideas about how to spend the afternoon… they soared the thermals giving spectacular flight displays. No prizes for that…  but it was really good to watch these majestic birds soar overhead.

DSC02130 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02130 © DY of jtdytravels

Eyes skyward… watching eagles soar!  A wonderful sight.

Eagle landed

When those soaring birds finally came down to land, many decided to check out the crowd rather than return to their owners. It was fun for us …  frustrating for the handlers.

correct landing

A few did as they were trained to do … they returned to their owner on the horse…

this to great cheers from the crowd and a possible chance to win the event.

Eagle returned to handler

Reunited…  no winner… but the possibility of another chance on another day.

How do you remonstrate with a bird this size?

DSC02129 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02129 © DY of jtdytravels

In amongst the crowd, I noticed this man with a wonderful face.

At times like this, I just wished that I could have understood his language;

heard his stories; learned so much more about his country, his people, his culture.

DSC02119 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02119 © DY of jtdytravels

A grandfather with grandchild… taking in all the activity and the ambiance.

Perhaps, one day, this child will become an eagle handler… who knows?

DSC02124 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02124 © DY of jtdytravels

In a nearby area, an archery competition was underway.

DSC02125 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02125 © DY of jtdytravels

Archers, dressed in traditional archery garb, took aim with crossbows.

This is another sport taken very seriously by the Kazakhs, and other Mongolians.

DSC02083 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02083 © DY of jtdytravels

Earlier in the morning, traders had arrived at the festival with there gers and their wares carefully packed onto their camels.  They set up a market near the event ‘field’.

DSC02120 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02120 © DY of jtdytravels

There were lots of small beautifully embroidered items for sale.

DSC02122 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02122 © DY of jtdytravels

I resisted the temptation to buy; well, almost!

DSC02138 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02138 © DY of jtdytravels

Just a small embroidered ‘dingle-dangle’ destined for our Christmas tree.

I had to remember that we had a 15 kilo limit for the plane.

DSC02137 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02137 © DY of jtdytravels

Oh… and a key ring of Kazakh boots – again for our Christmas tree

DSC02121 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02121 © DY of jtdytravels

But when it came to the wide variety of Kazakh embroidered rugs and mats, I looked, but for once, I resisted buying a rug! Beautiful though they were, and much as we love our floor rugs and carpets from many parts of the world, and even though Jennie’s favourite colour is red…. these colours just wouldn’t go with our decor at home.

DSC02136 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02136 © DY of jtdytravels

 Where ever there’s a festival, there’s always food. Lamb kebabs and fish were on offer.

DSC02139 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02139 © DY of jtdytravels

After a great day watching something very different from anything that I’ve ever seen before, it was back to the gers for a short stop. On the way, we passed by a veritable line up of those Russian “oo-warz-ik”, the ‘boxes-on-wheels’ vehicles so popular in these parts.

DSC02145 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02145 © DY of jtdytravels

Late afternoon scene back beside our ger camp.

DSC02143 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02143 © DY of jtdytravels

This old poplar also looked great in the late afternoon sun.

DSC02146 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02146 © DY of jtdytravels

We rounded out the day by attending a concert back in town. Performers at the concert were dressed in embroidered traditional garb and entertained us with their Kazakh music.

We still had another day at the Eagle Festival to look forward to… and so do you!

More anon

David

All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.dymusings.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

.