29 October 2013

Trekking To Mongolia's Tsataan - Where the Reindeer Roam

Take a  brief photographic tour of Mongolia's smallest ethnic minority group - the Tsaatan (Mongolia's reindeer herders). All images are by our Eternal Landscapes guest who has just retuned

The Tsaatan (also known as Dukha)  are Mongolia’s smallest ethnic minority. There are two main areas where the Tsaatan community live and herd reindeer in Khovsgol Aimag in northern Mongolia  - these are called the East and West Taiga (Tsagaan Nuur village is located between these two areas, central to the entire Tsaatan community). Though the regions are geographically distinct, the two groups share many kinship ties and are part of the same wider community. 

The East and West Taigas can be accessed by riding by horse towards the edge of the taiga, and then to the actual Tsaatan camps. The selection of the taiga to be visited depends on a variety of factors including trail conditions and weather, schedule and location of herders, and other events happening in and around the taiga.

We're lucky that we are blessed with returning clients - two of which persuaded a friend to join them this year as they spent time on a horse trek visiting the Tsaatan. They wanted it combined with a road trip so travelled north from Ulaanbaatar.

Hui Li has been kind enough to share some of the images from their trip. Enjoy a brief but spectacular journey to the land where the reindeer roam...in the words and photos of Hui Li. 

Russian Furgon 4x4 van, sunrise, northern Mongolia
An early rise on day 2 as we continue our journey to Murun

Local police in Murun, the provincial capital of Khovsgol Aimag, Mongolia
Paparazzi at work while waiting for our border permits
The landscapes of the open taiga, Khovsgol Aimag, northern Mongolia
Entering the Taiga, habitat of the reindeer people, aka the Dukha or Tsaatan
Making tea the traditional way in the forest steppe, northern Mongolia
Boiling water to make tea
Our tent camp for the night, taiga landscapes, Khovsgol Aimag, northern Mongolia
Home with a view. En-route through the taiga

One of the steep descents through the taiga, northern Mongolia
Making the descent to the tepee (Ort)

The home of the Tsaatan reindeer herders in Mongolia  - known as an ort
An 'ort' - the Tsaatan name for their home (yes, it is similar to a teepee) 
Part of a reindeer group belonging to a Tsaatan family
If you're interested in such an experience, please get in touch. I don't offer group tours to the Tsataan due to the environmental impact on this fragile ecosystem but can offer a private tailor made tour for you instead. 

8 October 2013

Mongolia's Otgon Tenger Mountain - The Abode of the Gods

Although the nights are now cold and ice is starting to form on the streams and rivers here in Zavkhan Province, we’ve consumed enough calories to keep us going through the harshest weather. Otgon Tenger is the reason we're here.

En-route through the Khangai
We’ve spent the last two nights camping at the foot of and exploring the surrounds of Otgon Tenger – considered by many as the spiritual centre of the land and Mongolia’s most sacred mountain. This is the highest mountain in the central Khangai Range – with its permanent snow-capped peak it is said to be 4021m. Tenger (the God of the Eternal Blue Sky) has been on our side – granting us spectacular views. 

In the Abode of the Gods

Mongolians consider the mountain to be the mystical abode of Ochirvan - the fierce, dark blue protective deity of the Buddhist religion (traditional Mongolian beliefs have held that wrathful deities inhabit many of Mongolia's sacred mountains). 

The peak and its environment are protected to conserve the high alpine ecosystem and form part of the 95,500-hectare Otgon Tenger Strictly Protected Area. In fact, it is the only mountain in the entire Khangai range to have a permanent glacier. Övör Badarkhundaga Nuur is a glacial lake nestled in a cirque just below the south face of Otgon Tenger. 

Otgon Tenger is remote and spectacular and although considered a pilgrimage site by many Mongolians (according to the ranger we spoke to,  the president of Mongolia is required to come to Otgon Tenger at least once every four years and make an offering) it receives very few western visitors.

We offered  khadags (prayer scarves) and burned artz (juniper) at the main ovoo. Hopefully we paid sufficient respect to the mountain. We certainly felt honoured to be there.