Mongolia #27 Day 15 of the Trek (10/10/15)

 

DSC02478 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02478 © DY of jtdytravels

We woke to a cloudless and cold morning but no frost in our peaceful campsite. But it wasn’t peaceful for long.

Everything had to be packed up, the camp and our personal items.  We were all reminded that we couldn’t take more than 15kg (33.1lbs.)… and that included carry-on bags… unless we were prepared to pay an excess baggage fee.  

Meanwhile, gifts and tips for the crew were being worked out.  ‘This and that’ went into this bag while ‘that and this’ went into another bag, and so on. At last everything was worked out and the presentations took place.  I think everybody was happy.

DSC02481 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02481 © DY of jtdytravels

Our full crew of drivers and cooks

DSC02479 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02479 © DY of jtdytravels

Our drivers got ready to take us on one last drive together… into Khovd town for a little extra time to look around and perhaps do some last minute shopping. 

DSC02482 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02482 © DY of jtdytravels

There was only room in my pack for something very, very small…

a ‘Mongolian boot’ keyring for our Christmas tree!

DSC02487 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02487 © DY of jtdytravels

For a town so far from UB, Khovd punches above its weight.

DSC02488 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02488 © DY of jtdytravels

It even had a “Pizza Hut”… but we didn’t eat there.

DSC02491 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02491 © DY of jtdytravels

We had lunch at a restaurant before heading to the airport on the edge of town, there to await our flight which was scheduled to take off at 14.30.

It was weigh in time… the moment of truth! I think we all went over the limit but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the limit was in fact 20kg.  The sting in the tail came when we were told that the airline going back to Ulaanbaatar charged a higher rate per kg than the airline that flew us from Ulaanbaatar.  My excess cost AUD6.90 – but that’s not a fortune in anybody’s language!

Tim told us not to get our hopes up about the flight being on time. He said that the flight was more often than not delayed, sometimes for up to 12 hours or more!  We were most thankful when we received our boarding passes which showed some faith on the airlines part that the flight was ‘on time’.  And so it was – we left only about 20 minutes late.  

DSC02493 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02493 © DY of jtdytravels

The wind sock hung limply on its mast.  The wind was not going to help our 13 year old Fokker 50 get off the ground! 

DSC02494 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02494 © DY of jtdytravels

I’ve never seen the wheel-bay flaps used for advertising before.

It was a 3 hour flight to UB plus we lost an hour.

DSC02501 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02501 © DY of jtdytravels

Mongolia is a big brown country.

DSC02509 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02509 © DY of jtdytravels

Surprisingly, there are many lakes scattered across the country.

DSC02516 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02516 © DY of jtdytravels

But there are also many sand dunes.

DSC02519 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02519 © DY of jtdytravels

The last light of the day cast long shadows.

On arrival in UB, we went straight from the airport to a restaurant for our farewell dinner.  We ate at ‘BD’s Mongolian Barbeque’, a place I’d eaten at when I was last in UB in 2008.  The place hadn’t changed much… except for the fact that photos and videoing was not allowed any more at the bbq area.  But, it was still a good feed.  There was a huge range of types of food to select from.  You took what you wanted to a large circular hot plate where the chefs cooked your selection as one mixed up meal.  A repeat visit to collect more goodies and have them cooked was a tempting option. But I resisted.

DSC02521 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02521 © DY of jtdytravels

Tim had written a short summary about each of us.  He read these out, often to our amusement! It was around 23.00 by the time we got back to the Tuushin Hotel to check in and collect anything we’d left in storage whilst away on the trek.  It was after 01.00 before I was ready to have a much needed shower and feel the comfort of a proper bed.  Oh… but it was good!

And the next day, it was time to say farewell to Tim and to my trek companions. It was time to think about heading back home.

Members of the group started leaving UB during the early hours of the morning heading for all sorts of places to continue on either straight home or via some other exotic destination.  I didn’t have a flight until 17h55 so had all the morning to wander around.  Michael wasn’t leaving until the next day so we decided to walk to the Government Department Store to have a look around. Eventually we found out that the top floor was the place to be to find all things Mongolian.  A few tee shirts and a couple of Christmas tree dingle dangles later we left.  Michael had all day so he went his way and I headed back to the hotel.

I got a little lost on the way back to the hotel but this was no problem at all as it took me along some streets I hadn’t been on before.  Eventually I arrived in Chinggis Khan Square at noon.  I was so pleased I’d got ‘lost’ as I arrived in time for “The Changing of the Guard” with all the pomp and ceremony of such an event.

DSC02529 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02529 © DY of jtdytravels

An impressive ritual took place.

DSC02530 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02530 © DY of jtdytravels

Very smart, colourful uniform.

DSC02531 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02531 © DY of jtdytravels

He was watching me!

Formation marching; from video

Formation marching; from video

The guard goose-stepped off duty,

no doubt part of a drill left over from the “Russian” days.

 

DSC02535 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02535 © DY of jtdytravels

Very colourful, very precise, very impressive.

After that little interlude it was back to my room for some last minute packing.

DY ; from video

DY; from video

And so that really is the end of the saga of my Mongolian trek with Tim Cope.

Well almost. There’s just one thing left to do…

DY shaving; from video

DY shaving; from video

I just needed to shave off that seventeen day beard!

Especially since it was all white!!!!!

DY from video

DY from video

And as I finish this task, there’s just more one thing to say…

Thank you for joining me for the journey

on this trek through the vast landscapes of far western Mongolia.

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

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More of our travel photos are on

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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

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More of our travel photos are on

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Mongolia #25 Day 13 of the Trek (08/10/15)

DSC02405 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02405 © DY of jtdytravels

It was another cold morning, -10℃, (14℉) with frost on my tent. My toes were still frozen! The sky was almost cloudless above our picturesque camp site.

DSC02404 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02404 © DY of jtdytravels

The sun began to creep over the hills and into our valley.

DSC02407 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02407 © DY of jtdytravels

Breakfast was the usual scrambled eggs with bacon but with a few extras in the form of orange slices and dried apricots.  Very nice.

DSC02408 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02408 © DY of jtdytravels

Before we set off for the day, our driver, Pujee, posed with my travelling companion, Michael from London, alongside Pujee’s trusty Toyota HiLux.

DSC02410 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02410 © DY of jtdytravels

Leaving our drivers to pack up camp, we began to walk for about half an hour to the site of four standing stones… well, two standing stones, one ‘leaning’ stone and one definitely tired, lying down stone! There’s a growing problem in the steppe areas of the standing stones being stolen and sold to museums, smashed or indeed used to help get a car out of a bogged situation. Perhaps, respect for the stones is waning. 

DSC02411 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02411 © DY of jtdytravels

A nearby small lake reflecting that huge blue Mongolian sky.

DSC02417 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02417 © DY of jtdytravels

After our vehicles caught up with us again, we drove on to see a “Silent Village”. It looks like a village in the distance but it is in fact, a cemetery… hence ‘silent’.  Tim had told us that these villages had tricked him when he was on his big trek. Can you imagine, trekking along on your own and you see what you think is habitation… people… company…  and a chance to share a meal. But no! Not here.

DSC02415 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02415 © DY of jtdytravels

We ventured closer to have a look. These were relatively new graves within a walled area.  The ground is very hard and rocky so a mound is built over the body.  At a later date a stone surround might be built.

DSC02414 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02414 © DY of jtdytravels

 An older grave with surround.

DSC02413 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02413 © DY of jtdytravels

A much more substantial grave site.

DSC02420 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02420 © DY of jtdytravels

Now there’s a grave site with a pretty spectacular view.

Pity the incumbent isn’t able to enjoy it!

DSC02419 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02419 © DY of jtdytravels

There wasn’t a lot of vegetation except for a few tufts of White grass.

DSC02421 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02421 © DY of jtdytravels

Wonder of wonders… here in the “Silent Village” one of our drivers managed to get phone reception!  The driver was still vertical so it wasn’t a call on the “royal telephone”!  The silence is broken! Modern technology.

DSC02422 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02422 © DY of jtdytravels

We drove on through stark countryside under the clearest of blue skies.

The sky here really is amazingly blue.

DSC02423 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02423 © DY of jtdytravels

When we came to an ovoo on a pass, of course we had to make the obligatory stop and perform the, by now, well known ritual of walking around the ovoo three times clockwise, each time adding another stone to the ever growing pile.

DSC02424 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02424 © DY of jtdytravels

Oh oh! More vehicle problems. And no habitation in sight anywhere. Just as well our drivers were fairly knowledgable as mechanics… at least we hoped they were.

Up and running again, we set off back to Olgii.  We stopped there for a while, long enough for me to finally get to a bank that had both power and people, both at the same time. Finally I got my hands on some more Mongolian money. 

With local money in my pocket, we wandered off to the Italian coffee shop… I’m not sure whether the coffee or the free WiFi was best! Nonetheless, we partook of both.

Others managed to find some shops!  We had lunch at a restaurant, climbed aboard our vehicles and set off towards the town of Khovd… but not for long. 

DSC02433 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02433 © DY of jtdytravels

On the very outskirts of Olgii, one of the cars dropped a con-rod, or something like that, and it wasn’t going anywhere fast.  The passengers from that car were unloaded and shared around the other cars… a bit of a squash but that’s how it had to be. We drove on leaving the ailing car stuck on the side of the road looking a little ‘down in the mouth’.

It was around 19.15 before we came to a lake where we could camp for the night. As I got out and walked around our vehicle, I could hear hissing from a back tyre.  A rock we’d driven too close to, just before we stopped, had sheered of the valve!  This was the only problem our vehicle suffered throughout the trip due mainly to Pujee’s careful driving and the good condition of the vehicle when we’d started.  The corrugated and rock strewn roads really do punish vehicles in these parts.

The light faded but it wasn’t too cold… there was a good cloud cover. So, after dinner, most of us sat around a fire while Tim read from ‘The Silent Steppe” by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, a first-hand account of the genocide of the Kazakh nomads during the 1920-1930’s under Stalin.  It was 22.00 before we went to bed after what had been another eventful day in the far west of Mongolia.

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

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Mongolia #23 Day 12 of the Trek (07/10/15 am )

I woke at 06.45 but stayed in the warm sleeping bag (the one I’d borrowed from Tim) for an extra 45 minutes. It was still  -9℃  (15.8℉) and no one was moving yet.

DSC02325 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02325 © DY of jtdytravels

When I did emerge, the scene was magical… an absolutely cloudless sky above snow capped mountains which were reflected in the still clear waters of the lake.

DSC02319 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02319 © DY of jtdytravels

And there, by the lake, was my little tent with Tim’s sleeping bag airing on top. It could stay there in the sunshine while I had breakfast… such as it was! Just watery porridge; the muesli was running out. No wonder I lost weight on this trek.

DSC02324 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02324 © DY of jtdytravels

Before we headed out for the day, Tim explained something about this wonderful Tsambagarav mountain and glacial region that we were experiencing.

The Tsambagarav National Park has an area of 110,960 hectares (274,188 acres). The permanently snow-capped Tsambagarav Mountain is 4193m (13,737 ft.) high and is sacred to Mongolians.  Several other peaks are also permanently snow-capped. Many glaciers and numerous glacial lakes dot the park.  Deep rocky gorges and waterfalls are common.  There are petroglyphs and Turkic standing stones to be seen as well.

We would need to keep our eyes peeled for the wildlife of the area. It was possible, though not at all probable, to sight elusive Snow Leopards and other endangered wildlife including Argali sheep, Ibex, Rock Ptarmigan and Altai Snowcock.  We would be more likely to spot an Altai sheep, the largest wild sheep in the world.  An adult male can weigh in at over 35kg (75 lbs.).

We would also probably come across more of the Kazakh and Uriankhai nomadic herders who live in the area during summer.

DSC02329 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02329 © DY of jtdytravels

Time to leave. But we didn’t get very far at all. Dirty fuel again stopped one of the vehicles.  So we decided to walk until the problem was fixed.

DSC02334 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02334 © DY of jtdytravels

Very soon, we were up to the snow line again.

DSC02336 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02336 © DY of jtdytravels

The edges of the river were frozen.

DSC02339 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02339 © DY of jtdytravels

After walking for two hours of following the stream up the valley, we came to this dwelling. The people who live here are not Kazakhs but Turvans, displaced/refugees from Tuva. I’d never heard of Tuva before and that’s not surprising… it was only recognised as an independent state by two countries; Russia and Mongolia… and that only from 1921 until 1944.

We stopped to ask directions and were promptly invited in for tea. So hospitable.

DSC02340 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02340 © DY of jtdytravels

This little one wondered what was going on.

DSC02345 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02345 © DY of jtdytravels

The inside of the house was lined with colourful rugs, lino and plastic sacking. We shared our lunch of a delicious soup which had some extra flavour added… a little of the sheep that our crew had killed the night before! 

DSC02349 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02349 © DY of jtdytravels

The lady of the house…

backed by the wall rug and plastic coverings for the walls.

DSC02351 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02351 © DY of jtdytravels

The man of the house.

DSC02350 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02350 © DY of jtdytravels

Another member of the household.

DSC02352 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02352 © DY of jtdytravels

There were some handcrafted mats, rugs, bags and clothing for sale. Margaret bought a couple of small rugs from the home owner who seemed very pleased.

DSC02357 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02357 © DY of jtdytravels

An image of Genghis Khan was knotted into the pattern of this large wall rug.

DSC02344 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02344 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally, it was time for us to bid these hospitable people farewell and leave them to eke out their survival existence in this harsh, inhospitable landscape. Meeting people like this in their home, in their environment, made us all so thankful for our own way of life. How very fortunate we are… and may we always be grateful for that.

motor bike

Meanwhile, our drivers were testing their 4 wheel drive skills getting to us. They had to ford the ice covered stream near the herder’s dwelling. One of the locals showed the way across on his motorbike.

car crossing stream

After all of our vehicles had crossed the stream, it was time to climb on board and head higher up in this wintry wilderness. More of that 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

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Mongolia #22 Day 11 of the Trek (06/10/15 pm )

After lunch near the river in Tsengel, we headed up a valley, intending to cross a pass, but the snow was too thick. So we had to go back down and try a parallel valley.

DSC02262 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02262 © DY of jtdytravels

And in that valley, we stopped to ask advice from a local horseman who was looking after his flock. They all looked like silhouettes against the snow.

DSC02263 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02263 © DY of jtdytravels

The view back down the track that we’d just followed up the pass.

DSC02264 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02264 © DY of jtdytravels

Looking ahead, the track was getting icier and the prospects for getting over this pass were not looking good. Would we have to turn back yet again?

DSC02266 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02266 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally, we made it over the pass and came upon this delightful meadow and pond.

DSC02267 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02267 © DY of jtdytravels

Animals grazed peacefully in this beautiful valley.

DSC02268 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02268 © DY of jtdytravels

And the view just seemed to get better and better, the further we went.

DSC02269 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02269 © DY of jtdytravels

It was decided to camp for the night beside a quiet lake, surrounded by snow covered mountains. It was cold but it was stunningly beautiful.

DSC02271 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02271 © DY of jtdytravels

We marvelled at what we found down at the edge of the lake just a short distance from our campsite. This was a photographer’s dream find!

DSC02274 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02274 © DY of jtdytravels

Fantastic ice sculptures had formed as spray from the lake had frozen on plants.

DSC02277 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02277 © DY of jtdytravels

Crystal clear ice surrounded plant stalks.

DSC02288 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02288 © DY of jtdytravels

The ice crystals followed exactly the shape of the plants.

DSC02289 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02289 © DY of jtdytravels

In other places the ice hung like stalactites.

DSC02293_2 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02293_2 © DY of jtdytravels

Extra layers of ice were added each time the wind blew. The temperature didn’t rise above zero during the day and so they didn’t melt… and who cares about the cold with such delightful sights to enjoy.

DSC02291 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02291 © DY of jtdytravels

Layer upon layer of ice on one stalk. It was very difficult to stop taking photos… each piece was so unique, so beautifully sculptural.

DSC02297 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02297 © DY of jtdytravels

 The spring and summer grass had been harvested to be kept for winter feed.

DSC02298 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02298 © DY of jtdytravels

A local paid us a visit; just looking; checking us out.

DSC02304 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02304 © DY of jtdytravels

It was indeed a beautiful campsite.

DSC02305 © DY of jtdytravel

DSC02305 © DY of jtdytravel

Having stopped early, there was time to go for a walk before dinner.  Fences are very uncommon in Mongolia.  This stone fence guided stock to the water’s edge.

DSC02308 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02308 © DY of jtdytravels

And this timber fence may have been built to keep animals from the water.

DSC02311 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02311 © DY of jtdytravels

A yak herder came over to our camp to look us over.

DSC02314 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02314 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the yaks was also curious.

rock hopping

We’d set out to walk around the lake but our return to the camp was cut off by streams running into the lake. Some of us rock hopped across the stream, trusting that we’d get to the other side without wet  boots.

4 wheel driving!

Some of the vehicles came to the rescue, but first they had to rescue themselves!

4 wheel driving 2

One after another the cars crossed through the slippery mud.

4 wheel driving 3

Would he make it? Of course. It was a Land Cruiser. I have one at home!

After all of this drama, we had dinner; chunky vegetable soup.  It warmed us up as it was very cold and the cold was making my nose run. The next activity could have possibly made my eyes run with tears… if I was a vegetarian. But I’m not.

sheep

Tseren had bought a sheep for the crew to kill in the traditional Kazakh way. 

Tim

Tim explained the process as we watched on in fascination… even if some were a bit squeamish!  To begin the process, a small incision was made in the animal’s chest just below the sternum – an area known to be rather devoid of nerve endings.  A hand was inserted into the pleural cavity and the aorta snapped.  Death was instantaneous. This method of killing means that no blood is spilt as it all remains in the cavity to be scooped out later.  These people are Muslim Kazakhs and, for them, the spilling of blood onto the ground as sacrilegious.  The skinning, gutting etc. was then a little more familiar but I was surprised at just how easily the skin came off.

So this is how you get your meat for dinner out on the steppes. It doesn’t come from the supermarket already nicely packaged and ready to cook. It’s a hands on job.

DSC02332 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02332 © DY of jtdytravels

Back out on the steppe near the camp, yaks grazed amidst stunning scenery. And that was just one of the wonderful scenes from this day to ponder upon when I turned in to sleep in my tent under the stars. Sleep came easily after a truly memorable day.

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

.

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Mongolia #21 Day 11 of the Trek (06/10/15 am )

DSC02200 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02200 © DY of jtdytravels

We woke to a still and clear, cloudless sky.  I was up and outside by 07.00 to find our hosts already milking their yaks.

DSC02209 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02209 © DY of jtdytravels

Our host with his wonderful fox fur hat.

DSC02210 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02210 © DY of jtdytravels

A nearby house was similar to the one owned by our hosts.

The smoke of the morning fire wafts across the fields, bringing the house to life.

DSC02212 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02212 © DY of jtdytravels

Barren hills, yaks and rider on a modern ‘horse’!

DSC02213 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02213 © DY of jtdytravels

A more settled form of Mongolian farming with mud brick houses.

There aren’t many trees for building but there is a lot of dirt for making mud bricks!

DSC02199 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02199 © DY of jtdytravels

Mud brick wall construction.

DSC02215 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02215 © DY of jtdytravels

A little face in a doorway.

DSC02218 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02218 © DY of jtdytravels

The little one’s father.

DSC02217 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02217 © DY of jtdytravels

Another local

By now the animals had been milked and our morning tea was ready for us – three milky bowls of it.  All very well except we had to follow the local custom and add some curdled cream to it.  It wasn’t too bad…. I managed three bowls of the stuff.

Tseren had left earlier to drive the 28km (17.4 mi.) back to Olgii to get our passports and permits which would allow us to proceed into the National Park.

So after a breakfast of watery porridge (muesli wasn’t on offer) the usual scrambled egg with ‘bacon’, dry bread and cheese and a cup of tea), we started walking.

DSC02219 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02219 © DY of jtdytravels

We managed to walk about 3km before being picked up by our vehicles.

DSC02220 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02220 © DY of jtdytravels

In this barren landscape, I was surprised to see a small group of larch trees in their golden autumn colours. They are definitely survivors in this harsh climate.

DSC02223 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02223 © DY of jtdytravels

Nearby, on a broad stony plain, stood this large traditional Turkic stone.  In a project that lasted from 1007 to 2012, a group of archeologists and scientists studied these stones across many of the countries where they occur. Their conclusions can be read in their project notes; 

 ‘The Stone Guards of the Great Steppe’.   http://balbal.kz/en

They found that many of these stone sculptures face East. The reason for this is that “the ancient Turkic tribes and nations adhered to the Tengrian faith – veneration of the Immortal Blue Sky – in their belief and traditions. The setting up of the stone sculptures … often signified that a well-known person of ancient Turkic society is buried there.”

DSC02234 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02234 © DY of jtdytravels

The indigenous Old Turkic name for these stones is “badiz”; a figure, carved in stone. As seen here, Turkic stones usually have a bowl or a bottle of vodka carved into the base, possibly to provide the liquid needed in the after life. This stone would appear to have been placed on a mound, very likely a burial mound.

DSC02236 © DY of jytdytravels

DSC02236 © DY of jytdytravels

The stones inevitably stand in the middle of BIG landscapes. The authors of the project make the comment that; “centuries later, it seems as if these monuments hand us a message from our ancestors: ‘We preserved these lands for you, and your mission is to pass them on to the next generation, so that they stand the test of time.” A sage message for all of us no matter where we live, especially today as we witness the effects of climate change on our world.

DSC02238 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02238 © DY of jtdytravels

Oh oh! Another flat tyre slows our progress.

DSC02240 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02240 © DY of jtdytravels

We were now getting closer to snow again and feeling colder!

.

DSC02247 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02247 © DY of jtdytravels

We drove into the small town of Tsengel.  It was really good to get out of the cars, go for a walk and try to capture some of the essence of this place with my camera.

DSC02249 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02249 © DY of jtdytravels

Most of the houses were simple design, functional, made of timber and mud bricks.

DSC02244 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02244 © DY of jtdytravels

Three little girls, all rugged up against the cold wind, smiled a warm welcome.

DSC02245 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02245 © DY of jtdytravels

Cuties, aren’t they!

DSC02248 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02248 © DY of jtdytravels

The hinges on this metal door are made from a discarded rubber tyre.

DSC02250 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02250 © DY of jtdytravels

The washing out to dry… innovative clothes line!

DSC02252 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02252 © DY of jtdytravels

A timber bridge crosses the river that runs through the town. Low in water during the autumn period, the river obviously carries a lot of water in the time of the spring thaw.

DSC02254 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02254 © DY of jtdytravels

What water there was in the river was frozen over.

DSC02255 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02255 © DY of jtdytravels

Large ice crystals formed near the river’s edge.

DSC02257 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02257 © DY of jtdytravels

The bridge across the river also marked the boundary of the National Park, the destination we had been seeking for a couple of days now! As we crossed the bridge, our papers were checked at a rope barrier strung across the bridge. Before entering the park proper, we stopped in a grove of larch trees for lunch… well, what purported to be lunch!  We were offered three small apples, one of them tart enough to suck the inside of your cheeks together for a week, a small mandarin and a chunky shortbread-like biscuit. 

DSC02260 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02260 © DY of jtdytravels

Lunch over, we said farewell to this neat timber and mud brick town with its colourful corrugated iron roofing… it could be used as part of a Colourbond roofing advertisement! Our next activity was a walk in the National Park… more of that 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

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Mongolia #20 Day 10 of the Trek (05/10/15 )

It had been dark when we arrived at the home of the ‘bath lady’ in Oglii so it was interesting to investigate our surroundings in the morning.  The sky was heavily overcast with a little light rain falling off and on but the wind of the previous two days was all but gone.

DSC02188 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02188 © DY of jtdytravels

The small compound was filled with our vehicles.  Our rooms were in the buildings on the left, the brown building at the far end housed the kitchen and the room where we ate.

It was a slow start to the morning.  Items that had been blown around the day before were being looked for and found, sometimes stuffed in the most unusual of places. Socks, gloves, jackets, thermals, you name it… these were anywhere other than where they used to be, or indeed, where they might have been expected to be. In the panic of the wind storm, they’d been stuffed just anywhere to prevent them from being blown away any further and lost.

DSC02189 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02189 © DY of jtdytravels

Our accommodation was in this dusty street, little more than a back lane way. Just out of view, in this photo, lying beside a lamp post, was a goat’s head.  I can’t understand why it wasn’t eaten; everything else is!

DSC02190 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02190 © DY of jtdytravels

Further along the street, some colour brightened up what was a dismal part of the town.

The plan for the day was to drive out to a National Park and do some walking. But, first, we needed permits to enter.  All of our passports were collected and taken away to who knows where.  This takes time in Mongolia, so we headed for the centre of town, firstly to visit the National Museum and then to fill in some more time with a little extra last minute shopping.

Now shopping costs money as we all know… or a valid credit card. I can’t remember whether I mentioned earlier that, unbeknown to me at the time, my credit card was hacked a day or two before I left Australia.  The first thing I knew about it was when I received an email from my bank asking if I’d bought a pair of shoes in the States.  No! I hadn’t. And I’d told the bank where I would be and when… the USA was not on that list. 

By the time I received the bank’s email, I was in China and I soon found that fixing that sort of thing was not as easy as I would have hoped.  My return email to the bank did not sanction the purchase, of course, and so my card was immediately cancelled, of course. So no credit card! Fortunately both the Chinese and Mongolian tours were all paid for so the only cash I needed was for incidentals and a few tips.  I had enough USD and AUD to cover those expenses.  In China I’d had no problems as the banks were able to help me. However, in Mongolia, except for in UB, the situation was slightly different.  And by the time we got to Oglii, I’d run out of Mongolian money. I needed some more.

The saga of the money began in Oglii the day we went to the market. I finally found a bank that could/would change foreign currency notes.  Just as I got to the teller, the power went off.  Therefore, no money transactions possible. So now, while in the town centre, I went to the bank next to the museum and… again the power went off.  I went back after the museum visit to find the bank closed… it was lunchtime.  Oh, well, who needs money anyway?

After our sortie into town we went back to the ‘bath lady’s’ house and had lunch; soup and dry bread.  After lunch we were ready to set off on our travels again but not before a quick stop at a supermarket for some last minute nibbles and snacks.  It was 15.00 by now. A late start!

DSC02192 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02192 © DY of jtdytravels

Not far out of town we made an unscheduled stop in this valley. Why?  There was a nomad lying in a gully just off the side of the road.  Was he dead or alive? His trusty horse and eagle were waiting nearby for their owner to sober up. He’d obviously enjoyed the Eagle Festival.

By now, it was blowing a gale again, so there was no chance of camping by the lake that we were heading for.  Instead, we prevailed upon a group of nomads and ended up being shared around a few families for the night.

DSC02193 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02193 © DY of jtdytravels

Michael and I ended up together again in a flat roofed house that had about 6 rooms.  We were shown our room; large with rugs on the floor but no beds.  This wasn’t a problem as we had our Thermarest mattresses etc. and we’d been sleeping on the ground anyway.  Having put our stuff away, we ventured into the kitchen/living room which was opposite our room.  

DSC02195 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02195 © DY of jtdytravels

In the corner of that room was a metal, dung-fired furnace that was used for cooking and also to heat water which was piped through out the house to heat it. The lady of the house lit the fire and very soon a bowl of hot tea had been prepared. She made us feel very welcome.

DSC02194 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02194 © DY of jtdytravels

It wasn’t long before all of this food was laid out on the table.  Apart from the colourfully wrapped individually sweets, wafer biscuits, and fried pastry (centre back), all of the rest of the food was of dairy origin – some soft and fresh, some rock hard.

This was the most important room of the house, particularly during the cold winters. It had a linoleum covered floor with cupboards along one wall.  These appeared to contain household items.  There was also a couch, a table and four blue-painted wooden chairs.  Some cooking utensils hung on the wall near the furnace.  The area around the furnace was tiled. 

DSC02205 © DY of jydytravels

DSC02205 © DY of jydytravels

A TV took pride of place in one corner of the main room and there were family and wedding photos behind the telly. I was asked to take photos of these photos of the important people in their lives. The photos were rather faded to begin with, and behind cracked glass, but they at least gave a family ambience to the house and a sense of the couple’s personal history.

DSC02208 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02208 © DY of jtdytravels

Our hosts wedding photo… interestingly in western wedding clothes.

DSC02202 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02202 © DY of jtdytravels

Our hospitable hosts on the evening we stayed with them..

The main bedroom was off the living room and a clock ticked above the door.  An ornate clock also hung above another door which led to a wide corridor that ran down the centre of the house.  Amazingly, for a place where time matters little and the day is programmed by the length of the day, sun up to sun down, both clocks agreed with each other!

The roof of the building was constructed using rough poles as rafters cross-laid with planks, all still in natural condition.  This added a certain warmth to the home.

DSC02196 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02196 © DY of jtdytravels

Before the day was over, I wandered out into the open area around the house. Just before sunset, the landscape and the animals glowed in the golden late afternoon light. 

DSC02197 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02197 © DY of jtdytravels

Daylight was beginning to fade as I walked back to the house, enjoying the last of the view. I looked forward to a better night’s sleep. It had been a strangely uninspiring day after the excitement of the Golden Eagle Festival. However, that disappointment was tempered for me by the priviledge of meeting and staying with this Mongolian family. It was a real bonus.

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

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

.

Mongolia #17 Day 8 of the Trek (03/10/15 Part a)

Today was the day many of us had been waiting for; the first of two days of the famous Eagle Festival which shows off Mongolian/Kazakh prowess at eagle handling and horsemanship.

DSC02014 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02014 © DY of jtdytravels

The day dawned cold and windy but not frosty.  Instead of the beautiful blue sky we had become so used to, the sky carried a heavy load of cloud.  This was the view looking down the road leading to our overnight ger camp.

DSC02015 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02015 © DY of jtdytravels

We shared our location with a family who had a couple of gers, animals and two cars. Their site was sheltered by some old trees. It was amazing to see how they had managed to get their roots through the rocky river bed to a subterranean water source.

When in town, the cooks had taken the opportunity to buy some fresh bread, so that was good. Both black and white bread were on offer at breakfast.

And after breakfast, it was time for us to enjoy the Golden Eagle festival, an event of great significance in Mongolia which has been held in Olgii on the first weekend in October since 1999.  This event, the largest gathering of eagle hunters and their eagles in the world, is now recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Event.  The eagles are the stars of the show; prizes are awarded for their speed, agility and accuracy.  Their trainers are inspected to find the best traditionally dressed individual. The festival also showcases other Mongolian pursuits such as horse-riding, archery and the goat carcass  tug-of-war (Kukhbar) on horseback.

DSC02019 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02019 © DY of jtdytravels

The schedule of events looked very interesting and so it was with great anticipation that we headed off to the festival grounds for the opening ceremony.

DSC02081 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02081 © DY of jtdytravels

The ‘Welcome’ sign with rows of white rocks demarcating the event ground where all of the activity for the next two days would take place.  

DSC02082 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02082 © DY of jtdytravels

The grand march of horses, handlers and eagles began.

This area was backed by a rocky hill (to the left) from which the eagles would be launched.

DSC02093 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02093 © DY of jtdytravels

The official line-up… an impressive backdrop for the day’s events.

DSC02047 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02047 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of the eagle handlers/trainers were quite young.

I loved his hat…fur and feathers! It would look good in my hat collection.

DSC02024 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02024 © DY of jtdytravels

Contestants wore their finest clothes and head gear.

Note the hare hanging from the saddle… it would be eagle prey later in the contest.

DSC02040 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02040 © DY of jtdytravels

An old timer’s hat made from multi-coloured skins.

DSC02028 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02028 © DY of jtdytravels

Although eagle handling has traditionally been a male only ‘sport’, there were two young female trainers at this festival. Imagine having a mighty bird like that so close to your face! It’s all about trust… and, of course, the bird was hooded!

DSC02036 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02036 © DY of jtdytravels

The eagles hoods, or burqas, are preferably made from soft but strong kangaroo hide.

DSC02087 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02087 © DY of jtdytravels

An unhooded bird looks intently at something in the distance. Eagles have 10 times better seeing power than humans. This eagle’s handler is very trusting… over time, bird and handler become as friends. Note the tethering bands and the thick leather gloves that protect the handler’s arm from those very sharp talons.

DSC02044 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02044 © DY of jtdytravels

Horses also sported special tackle for the occasion.

DSC02140 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02140 © DY of jtdytravels

A beautiful old engraved and coral studded silver saddle

DSC02114 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02114 © DY of jtdytravels

An old saddle cloth, and saddle. Some saddles can be 100+ years old.

  The spiral “Y” shaped stick is an extra support to help hold the weight of an eagle.

DSC02132 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02132 © DY of jtdytravels

A rider, and his bird, contending with the wind show how the arm support is used.

DSC02073 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02073 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the festival competitions is for the best dressed handler. This young man must surely have been in the running for that with his beautifully embroidered coat and fur hat.

DSC02086 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02086 © DY of jtdytravels

Detail of the intricate Kazakh embroidery on the back of one of the coats.

DSC02108 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02108 © DY of jtdytravels

More fine embroidery… the full ensemble on a horse.

DSC02110 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02110 © DY of jtdytravels

Traditional Kazakh style of embroidery is all done in chain stitch.

DSC02102 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02102 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of the ladies were also dressed in their best.

Many hours of work must have gone into this coat… now a family heirloom, no doubt.

DSC02100 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02100 © DY of jtdytravels

This baby’s chubby cheeks caught my attention… no need for any fine embroidery!

DSC02097 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02097 © DY of jtdytravels

I only saw two raptors that were not Golden Eagles.

DSC02100 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02100 © DY of jtdytravels

What a beautiful bird!

DSC02128 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02128 © DY of jtdytravels

While waiting for events to begin, all visitors had the chance to inspect and photograph the contestants; humans, birds and horses. There were some really big cameras in use. Although this guy wasn’t being ‘pushy’, many of his colleagues were absolutely awful, in your face awful. Some of them obviously thought that, if your camera wasn’t BIG, you had no right to be taking photos. How wrong can you be. All of my photos and videos were taken on my small hand held Sony HX90V and I’m very pleased with the results… and I hope that you are too.

More of the main events 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

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Mongolia #16 Day 7 of the Trek (02/10/15 pm)

Before we left in the cars to travel onwards, we took time to farewell our cameleers and horsemen… and of course the camels and the horses.

DSC01964 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01964 © DY of jtdytravels

Our four cameleers rest after their busy few days trekking with us.

DSC01965 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01965 © DY of jtdytravels

On behalf of all of the group, each cameleer in turn, from oldest to youngest, was given some goodies, a tip and, most importantly, a blue silk scarf known as a Khata … also known as a Khadag or hadag.  The Khata  is a symbol of peace and well being and is the highest symbol of respect, well wishing and greeting in Mongolian culture. It’s always presented to the oldest or most distinguished person first.

The colour blue is also very important to Mongolians. It represents the eternal blue sky in this ‘Land of the Blue Sky’.  We had all certainly enjoyed those wide blue skies.

DSC01982 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01982 © DY of jtdytravels

A cameleer and his camel… ‘led by the nose’ takes on a new meaning!

DSC01980 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01980 © DY of jtdytravels

This camel seemed to shed a tear at our parting.

DSC01989 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01989 © DY of jtdytravels

But as for this one…. the smile says it all… no more packs to carry for awhile!

By the shape of those humps, a long drink of water wouldn’t go astray.

DSC01987 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01987 © DY of jtdytravels

The camels looked a little lost without our red duffle bags.

Still work to do for the lead camel.

DSC01969 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01969 © DY of jtdytravels

We also thanked the horseman in the traditional way, again with a blue Khata. 

DSC01973 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01973 © DY of jtdytravels

He seems happy enough with the tip!

DSC01991 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01991 © DY of jtdytravels

A handshake of thanks from Tim, and we went on our way again, by car not by foot.

DSC01997 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01997 © DY of jtdytravels

And just as well we weren’t walking!  We were back into the vast open landscapes so typical of Mongolia.  After a couple of hours we had reached this vantage point… and a well earned leg stretch.  Ahead, the multiple tracks that crossed the steppe were obvious.   Each driver had chosen his own way but, generally, the latest set of wheel tracks were followed.

DSC01995 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01995 © DY of jtdytravels

Looking ahead, we could see, in the distance, a lake known as Achit Nuur. 

DSC01999 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01999 © DY of jtdytravels

Achit Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the Uvs Aimag of Mongolia, in the far west of the country. It’s at an elevation of 1,435 m above sea level.  It covers an area of 290 km²; is 28 km long, 16 km wide, and 10 m deep.

DSC02003 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02003 © DY of jtdytravels

With no wind the clouds were reflected perfectly in the lake.

DSC02009 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02009 © DY of jtdytravels

Further on, we passed a nomad’s ger with the modern essential, a Russian ‘box-on-wheels’. The van’s Russian name sounds something like “oo-warz-ik” (phonetic). Although Mongolians still love their horses and camels, many have this form of transport as well. 

DSC02010 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02010 © DY of jtdytravels

Not a lot grows on these stoney plains.

DSC02011 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02011 © DY of jtdytravels

Where there’s some water, the larch trees grow, small in size but in abundance.

Location of Oglii

Our destination for the day was Olgii (Olgiy). It was near here that we were scheduled to witness the Golden Eagle Festival over the next two days; a much anticipated event.

Weather Chart for Oglii

Olgii (sometimes written Olgiy) is the capital of Bayan-Olgii Aimag (Province).  It experiences a desert climate with long, very dry and cold winters and a short warm summer.

Nestled beside the Khovd River near the Altai Mountains, Olgii is 1710m (5610 ft) above sea level. In 2008, its population was 28,496, mainly of Kazakh origin.  The area is known for the annual Golden Eagle Festival held in October, and also for embroidery and Kazakh music.

Olgii is 1600km (994mi.) by road from UB, and 1000km (620mi.) of this distance is unpaved. You can travel between the two cities by bus.  Even under ideal conditions, that journey takes 48 hours; and under not so ideal conditions, it can take 3 to 5 days. There’s no rail link but there is a small airport with one paved runway. Flights to UB are said to be ‘regular’… to other destinations they are irregular, whatever that means!

Because of this relative isolation, Oglii hasn’t developed as quickly as more eastern parts of Mongolia.  Much of the city centre was built during the 1950-1980’s and has only had a spurt of growth since 2005 when many new apartments, shops, restaurants and hotels were built.

DSC02012 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02012 © DY of jtdytravels

We had dinner at one of those restaurants; a bit of a treat and it gave our cooks a rest. It was a Turkish restaurant and dinner consisted of tasty and very tender marinated lamb cubes with grated carrot, coleslaw, potato balls and rice with a dob of tomato sauce on top.

DSC02144 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02144 © DY of jtdytravels

After dinner it was a 25 minute drive to our ger camp – not the place that we’d expected to be staying at in town; Tseren had decided that was too noisy and not suitable.  So we ended up at a temporary six ger set up much nearer to the site where all the activity of the Eagle Festival was to take place.  This was supposed to save travel time and be much safer and quieter.

However, there was no running water here. And, as Olgii offered the first chance since leaving UB of running hot water and a SHOWER, some of us decided to go back to town for just that reason.  So, at 21.00 it was back into the vehicles for most of us for the run back into town to the public bath-house.  It took a bit of a Cook’s Tour around town to find the place but, at last, our vehicles pulled up outside a low-set building.

Inside, there were two rows of back to back cubicles, ostensibly males on one side and females on the other; but, in the event, we were all mixed up.  Who cares?  Running hot water gushed from the shower head and it made no difference that the place needed a good upgrade to fix broken tiles and leaking and rusted fittings.  A wooden duck-board bridged the hole in the floor down which lots of brown water washed as the clean water from the shower head and the dust on my body mixed.  No need for a shampoo when you’ve got a No. 1 hair cut.  I just stood there luxuriating in the almost forgotten experience of hot water over body.

Olgii has a bath-house because the Russian era demanded that the collective approach be followed when it came to hot water.  Quite rightly. It’s so much cheaper to produce hot water in one place and pipe it around the city than for everybody to have smaller individual water heaters. We were therefore rubbing shoulders with the locals who use the facility all the time.  I’m not sure how often the locals strip off in the middle of winter when the temperature can be as low as -40ºC (-49ºF) even if the bath-house is steamy.

DSC02430 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC02430 © DY of jtdytravels

The large Stalinist era central powerhouse still provides the town’s hot water.  

After the shower it took another 25 minutes to drive back to the gers. By then, those we had left behind at camp, were fast asleep in their grubby skins!  I, on the other hand, felt good and clean and was ready for sleep. Once again, all of the others opted to sleep en masse in the six gers.  Not me. I opted once more to sleep in my own tent. I went to sleep thinking with much anticipation of the Eagle Festival that would be our lot on the morrow. And I did sleep, and very well, in my own tent, 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

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels