11 February 2016

A Photo Diary Of Mongolia

Mongolia inspires. 

The immensity of its 'eternal' landscapes. The way the local people live their homes within those vast landscapes. The impact all of this has on your daily life. 

As I said, Mongolia inspires and I receive some spectacular photographs taken by our guests during their Eternal Landscapes Mongolia experience. 

As a thank you to all our guests that permit me to use their images of Mongolia, I have uploaded them into the new Eternal Landscapes Photo Gallery. It's an ongoing project but experience Mongolia‬ through the eyes of our travellers.

Mongolia is such a richly diverse country that I couldn’t hope to represent all elements but my aim is that they help to provide a feel for the inspiring experiences that Mongolia can provide.

Here are four images from our 2015 trips that that will shortly be making it into our Eternal Landscapes Mongolia Photo Gallery.

Mongolian Horse Games

This image was taken in the Bayandalai district of the southern Gobi. It was during a community mini-Naadam held to honour the local ovoo (sacred shamanistic shrine) - we were invited along to the celebration by the Batsuuri family that we work with. The ovoo was erected by the local herding families in the area to show respect and gratitude and to honour the spirits of the mountains of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park - the region where the families have their livestock pasture. 

The ovoo (with juniper (known as arts in Mongolian) and the sacred blue khadag (scarves).  

After a ceremony to bless the ovoo, the rest of the day was dedicated to the 'celebration' part - mainly wrestling and horse games interpreted with eating and drinking (naturally!).  The main image was taken as the local herders and 'aduuchiin' (horse wranglers) competed to pick up a 'uurga' (a type of lasso combined with a long pole particular to Mongolian pastoralists). 

Northern Mongolia Reflections

Zuun Nuur is a lake in northern Mongolia in Khovsgol Province.  For me, northern Mongolia is not just the highlights listed in the guidebooks such as Lake Khovsgol but also the quieter places in-between that make this region so special – the ancient deer stones, meadows of wild alpine flowers, winding rivers, volcanic landscapes and lakes.

On our Untamed Mongolia trip we take three days to cover what is typically a one-day trip - from Jargalant to Murun crossing the Ider River and heading  north across some wild and beautiful grassland dominated mountain passes passing through the community of Shine Ider. 

We leave these days flexible as although there are no hiking trails there is plenty of scope for day-hikes within these timeless landscapes. The area is also rich in archaeology including burial mounds (some dating back to the Bronze Age) as well as Deer Stones - known as Bugan Khoshoo in Mongolian they are believed to possibly be ancient grave markers for warrior chiefs.

This image was taken as the sunset on a foot exploration of the local landscapes surrounding Zuun Nuur.

Life Of A Kazakh

Tsambagarav Uul National Park stands high above the provincial borders of Khovd and Bayan-Olgii aimag and forms part of the Mongol Altai Mountain Range. The 4208m peak that the national park is named after is one of Mongolia’s most beautiful snow-capped mountains and surrounded by wild open valleys.

Dakhar is a retired eagle hunter. He doesn't want to be retired. It's just the ache in his bones due to arthritis is forcing him to retire. He still herds the families livestock together with his son and daughter in law. He also still has an eagle which he continues to train.

We went to Tsambagarav to research the area in relation to offering trekking experiences there. But, having met Dakhar and spent three nights with him and his family, we ended up not worrying about what the competition will be offering and how we can compete. Instead, we chose the option 'just to be'. Dakhar has lived in the Tsambagarav region his whole life and he showed us a more local aspect to his home.

He showed us where during the Communist era in 1988 an earthquake caused an avalanche down the Zuslan Creek on Tsambagarav killing a large population of horses belonging to the local cooperative. He shared with us his memories of the yearly wolf hunt and under his guidance, we discovered fresh wolf scats. We learnt about how the pastures are used in the summer by Mongolian herding families and then in the winter by the Kazakh herding families.  And after many attempts, we finally caught sight of the large group of Siberian Ibex grazing on the side of the mountain that Dakhar had noticed through the binoculars within minutes of arriving when all we could see was shrub!  We also just sat under the immensity of Tsambagarav and enjoyed the silence.

A Mongolian View

Where? Khogno Khan Nature Reserve in the south of Bulgan Aimag. Khogno Khan itself is an immense granite massif that extends north to south for some 12 miles and east to west for around 6 miles. It also rises to 2000 feet over the surrounding steppe and sand dunes.  It is home to what was once a very important monastery - Erdene Khambiin Khiid.

It may only be 285km from UB but the views here provide the perfect antidote to the rush and crowds of everyday life elsewhere.  Sometimes it's not necessarily where you visit but how you visit. 

Mongolian Wrestling Outside of Naadam

Back in September and October, we arranged  the logistics for a photography workshop led by US based photographer Scott Davies. This image was taken by one of Scott's participants - Paul Allerton.
Wrestling (known as bokh) in Mongolia is one of Mongolia’s most popular sports. 
During the national Naadam Festival, held in Ulaanbaatar in July, 512 wrestlers compete in a single elimination tournament of nine rounds (during Naadam in rural area there may be a smaller number of rounds).
However, wrestling takes places all year round and one of the best locations to experience top level competitions is the Wrestling Palace in Ulaanbaatar where tournaments take place prior-to and during national holidays and important anniversaries. You can get close up to the action, all for a ticket that costs around 15,000 MNT!
If reading about Mongolia has inspired you, why not come along on one of our small group Mongolian adventures and fall in love with the landscapes and culture of Mongolia? I look forward to welcoming you!