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

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Bhutan : #1 Paro

There’s probably no greater contrast to be found in the world, than the contrast between the rush and chaos, hustle and bustle of the Indian city of Kolkata and the peace and quiet of the mountain Kingdom of Bhutan.

P1000198  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000198 © DY of jtdytravels

Our morning flight took us away from the millions of people who crowd Kolkata, over and through the foothills of the Himalaya, to the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon where a mere 700,000 people inhabit the whole country of Bhutan.

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From Google Map Images

From Google Map Images

Map showing Bhutan in relation to India, Nepal and Tibet.

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P1000195  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000195 © DY of jtdytravels

Unfortunately, we were seated on the ‘wrong’ side of the plane and only caught glimpses of the mighty Himalaya.  Never-the-less, just the sight of them is enough to stir the blood and make one anticipate a very different type of experience.

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P1000187  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000187 © DY of jtdytravels

We flew in Royal Bhutan’s Airline, Druk Air, which has a distinctive and proud logo depicting the Thunder Dragon.  This airline has only a very small fleet and we flew on one of its two Airbus 319s.  Our destination was Paro, the only commercial airport in the whole country.  Pilots have to hold a special license to be able to fly into this airport.

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P1000199  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000199 © DY of jtdytravels

There’s only one airport because the Paro Valley is the only place in the whole country of Bhutan that has a long and flat enough stretch of land to construct an airport!  As we banked through the hills, we could just see, far down the valley, a yellow, flatter area of rice farms.  And that tiny strip of yellow was our destination; Paro Airport.

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P1000200  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000200 © DY of jtdytravels

The approach was quite exhilarating with mountains to the left and right of the wing tips.

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P1000206  ©  DY  of  jydytravels

P1000206 © DY of jydytravels

 Safely on the ground, engines off, the calm and serenity of Bhutan began to set in.

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P1000205  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000205 © DY of jtdytravels

Welcome to Bhutan.

Bhutanese art and style is evident even at the airport terminal.

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P1000209  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000209 © DY of jtdytravels

Attention to detail in the art work.

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P1000210  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000210 © DY of jtdytravels

No busy highways outside this airport terminal… just a tranquil country scene.

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P1000212  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000212 © DY of jtdytravels

Rice fields and typical farm houses in the Paro valley.

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P1000214  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000214 © DY of jtdytravels

Driving up out of the valley, up is the only way to go, we came to a viewing spot.  From here we could enjoy the clear blue, unpolluted sky and begin to breath in the pure mountain air as we looked up the valley we had just flown through.

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P1000215  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000215 © DY of jtdytravels

Down in the Paro valley, beside the cold mountain stream and some buildings under construction, was that runway!  While we were in Paro, we were to experience several times the unusual sight of a plane coming into land below us.

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P1000216  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000216 © DY of jtdytravels

Prayer flags are a common sight in Bhutan.  One hundred and eight is a significant number to the Bhutanese so those who can afford to do so, erect this number of prayer flags to commemorate the death of a family member.

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P1000219  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000219 © DY of jtdytravels

As we drove higher into the hills, we saw, far away across a valley, our first glimpse of the famed ‘Tigers Nest Monastery’, an iconic and much photographed symbol of Bhutan.

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P1000221  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000221 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look through the camera’s tele lens shows just how precariously the monastery is perched on the rocks of the mountain side.  We planned to walk up there to visit the monastery later in our Bhutanese journey, but for now, we just viewed it, in awe of those who built it in the first place and of those who still live there today.

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P1000224  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000224 © DY of jtdytravels

Throughout the hills there are small farms dedicated to growing the Bhutanese red rice which is a red japonica rice.  It is semi-milled which leaves some of the red bran adhering to the medium-sized grains.  It takes a little longer to cook than white rice but less time than brown rice.  It retains its pink colour, is soft and slightly sticky.

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P1000223  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000223 © DY of jtdytravels

As timber is plentiful, it is the basic resource used for building.  This simple dwelling, possibly someone’s first home, shows the use of rough sawn planks.

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P1000222  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000222 © DY of jtdytravels

This is the traditional style of house seen throughout the Bhutanese country side.  Usually three stories high, the ground floor is used to shelter animals, the second floor is where the family lives and the top floor and roof areas are used to store  grain etc. The open style roof area allows for ventilation of the storage.

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P1000230 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000230 © DY of jtdytravels

Decorated windows provide a great place to watch the world go slowly by.  No rush here.

Chillies and jerky hang to dry from the lower windows.

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P1000236 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000236 © DY of jtdytravels

A phallus painted on the side of a house is very common sight in the countryside, though not so much in the towns.  It’s an ancient symbol of fertility and is said to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

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P1000238  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000238 © DY of jtdytravels

It comes as a surprise to many western visitors to find this symbol depicted in many different ways not just on houses but in the arts and crafts, especially in the countryside.  ‘Gift wrapped’ with ribbons, dragons and snakes, this symbol comes in many guises.

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P1000234  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000234 © DY of jtdytravels

A patient Dad carries his sleepy son in a traditional shawl.

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P1000240  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000240 © DY of jtdytravels

Not many houses have flower gardens; vegetables usually take priority.

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P1000228  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000228 © DY of jtdytravels

Where ever you drive or walk in this country, there is a view down into a valley.

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P1000227  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000227 © DY of jtdytravels

And you also need to stop and look up.

The snow covered peak of Mount Jhomolhari is impressive.

Seeing that is a reminder that Bhutan is bounded in the north by the mighty Himalaya.

So much beauty – and this was but the start of our Bhutanese sojourn.

More anon.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

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Greenland, Helicopter Ride to the Glaciers, 16 August 2012

 

Finally – it was the day for the much anticipated helicopter ride to a glacier!  Some light cloud came in early in the morning which could have dampened the enjoyment somewhat, or even caused the cancellation of the flight.  Thankfully the cloud lifted mid-morning leaving us with another crystal-clear Greenland day.  The flight to the glacier was brilliant.  Toby said that our group was his first for the season that had been able to do everything on their itinerary without substantial changes due to the weather closing in.  Lucky us!  I was rugged up and ready to fly!

Yours truly – Tasiilaq in the background     (P1010355 © DY of jtdytravels)

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How could one not enjoy this!      (P1010370 © DY of jtdytravels)

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A mass of Crevasses criss-crossing glaciers      ( P1010369 © DY of jtdytravels)

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One of the views from our landing spot     (P1010373 © DY of jtdytravels)

We landed on a gravelly knoll in the middle of a large ice cap which gave a great panorama of a number of glaciers and we looked down on the fjord we had travelled by boat on the 15th.

Float ice making its way down ‘our’ fjord    (P1010371 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Our 1980 built Bell 212 Helicopter    (P1010374 © DY of jtdytravels)

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On top of the world! (P1010385 © DY of jtdytravels)

Here I was, seemingly on top of the world, literally and figuratively. I was in ‘seventh heaven’! It was warm with not a skerrick of a breeze.  Just another perfect day in the natural paradise of Greenland.  We had 40 minutes to wander around and take in the breathtaking views before the return flight.

Stunning views    (P1010403 © DY of jtdytravels)

And as usual, I looked down as well as out and found some small plants surviving even up here on the ‘top of the world’.

Such tiny beauties! [Silene acaulis] (P1010377 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Even the dried flowers of Silene are attractive  [Silene acaulis]  (P1010391 © DY of jtdytravels )

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Tough conditions, tough plant!  (P1010402 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Lichen and Birch (P1010395 © DY of jtdytravels)

Much too soon for me, it was time to get on board for the flight back. There’s never enough time to explore.

Pilots get ready to take off again    (P1010405  © DY of jtdytravels)

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After takeoff – closer view of a glacier    (P1010408 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Surface of a glacier    (P1010409 © DY of jtdytravels)

Skimming over a glacier’s surface, the world was suddenly all in black and white and greys – not a colour to be seen.

Back up to the sweeping big picture    (P1010411 © DY of jtdytravels)

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An impressive last view    (P1010412 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Out across the Fiords again    (P1010414 © DY of jtdytravels)

It was amazing to look down from on high onto the ice flows.  I looked down from the helicopter at small chunks of ice which, I knew from experience, were really large icebergs (some six stories high) when seen up close in a small boat.

Over the hills, back towards Tasiilaq  (P1010416 © DY of jtdytravels)

And so back to Tasiilaq and the end of another magical Greenland experience… I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse of just how spectacular it was.

Preparing to leave Greenland    (P1010423  © DY of jtdytravels)

In fact this was our last Greenland experience.  We had lunch at the hotel, picked up our gear and then had to wait for the helicopter to finish an emergency evacuation job.  Then it was free to take us to the airport for a mid afternoon flight back to Reykjavik in Iceland.  And from there, our next destination was  to be The Faroes.  More of that anon   D

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY COPYRIGHT  © DY of jtdytravels