Finally got back to civilization if you could call this civilization. While everyone was having an exciting day on the other side of the world, I had a normal day in Western Mongolia. What is a normal day like in Western Mongolia? First let’s start with last night. My second night in a Ger tent with Andy, Kevin and Kip. Kip is an Australian living in Singapore. Have you ever slept with a grizzly bear? That’s what it is like sleeping in the same room with Kevin. His snoring can wake up the dead. The two girls in the next Ger tent, Jenn and Zaya, heard his snoring. Andy snores more like a purring cat. Kip and myself both tossed and turned. Furthermore, every two to three hours, a Kazakh woman would come in and take out the burned out dung and replace it with new dung and relight the fire. One problem. The tent turned into a sauna. It got as hot as a dry sauna. The first time we all got up and left the door open to let the hot air out. I finally fell asleep and was woken up by the same woman, except Andy and Kevin continued their symphony of sound. By then, it was around 5 AM and I decided to walk to the local Starbucks. Couldn’t find the Starbucks and asked the sheep when it was. They pointed me to the goats and told me that they would lead me there. So I got no more than 2 1/2 hours sleep. Some of you might want to know what the bathroom was like. Someone dug a hole in the ground and put a small orange tent around the hole. One problem. The zipper was broken. Oh well, the view was great. Seeing sheep, men on horseback and goats parade past you as you enjoyed a Mongolian toilet.
Finally breakfast was served at 7:30. A wonderful breakfast. Our Kazakh hosts made us Russian pancakes. Russian pancakes are made with yogurt and delicious. Try it. It was now time to pack up our clothes, camera gear, computers and all the accessories. My portable charger or brick served me well and I had all my camera batteries, iPad and Mac charged and ready to face Western Mongolia. I will miss the Ger tent and great bathroom facilities. Maybe Olivia will let me put a Mongolian toilet in our backyard.
We then drove around ten minutes over rocks and huge ups and downs. Our Kazakh hosts had arrived early to the local Mongolian Eagle Hunters Festival and set up a Ger tent for us to have lunch, warm ourselves and rest during the day. Most of you are aware that I have been to some far out places and seen some way out stuff, but the Mongolian Eagle Hunters Festival is high up on the list. Andy and Kevin outdid themselves. I was in awe of the spectacle. I will try to describe what I witnessed, but no matter how I describe it, I will not do justice. My pictures will describe the scene better. The locals set upon their version of a flea market where they were selling hand made clothing, rugs, hats, gloves and other items such as knives, covers for the eagles heads, horse whips etc.from rugs laid out on the ground. My hosts brought some of their wares. I bought Olivia a warm looking long down vest and handbag that were done in the Kazakh Russian style and of course, hand made. They were so cheap, I was almost embarrassed to pay their price. The Eagle Hunter festival started. The first thing that all the hunters, on their horses with their eagles did, was all gathered together at a long bench and various older people talked in Kazakh. Then a young Kazakh man sung a song in Kazakh and Mongolian women threw candies at the eagle hunters. The eagle hunters then lined up and paraded around with some of the eagles wing spread. My cameras, I was shooting with two, were constantly clicking. The eagle hunters then went up a large hill with their horses and eagles. When the eagle hunters hunt, they hunt in twos. Two hunters, two eagles and two horses. One hunter released the eagle from on top of the hill and the other eagle hunter wanted for the eagle to land about one half mile away. The receiving hunter called out to the eagle in Kazakh and most of the eagles landed on the receiving hunters arm. The eagles were so graceful and the hunters were dressed up in beautiful traditional dress. There were also a few women eagle hunters. More on that tomorrow.
It was now time for lunch. We were served Mongolian dumplings for lunch with mutton and vegetable soup. Great. Then a real treat came. Andy and Kevin had each eagle hunter, with some of their children and some eagles, come into the Ger and pose for pictures. There were 53 of them. I took some pictures and Andy promises to send us a collage of them all.
The next event was something that most of us only hear about. Mongolian tug of war. What is Mongolian tug of war? There are two horsemen and one referee all on horseback. There is a goat carcass on the ground. The referee has each horseman hold the carcass and they tug back and forth on horseback. The winner pulls the carcass away and then throws the carcass in the air. The tugging back and forth between two horsemen with each holding a goat carcass cannot be described. The horsemen moved and some of them even advanced through the crowd and we had to scatter to let them through. My cameras clicked and clicked. Got at least two screen savers. Imagine seeing a picture of this and asking “What is going on?” There were only about fifteen foreigners at this festival in the middle of no where.
The next event was Mongolian horsemen running on horseback and picking up some marked stones from their saddles. Beauty and grace that is beyond description.
It was now around 4 PM and time to wrap up. We all loaded our stuff for the drive to Bayan Ojhii and civilization. Over hills and rocks as our three vehicle caravan drive.
One of our vehicles ran out of gas and we all had to squeeze into two. Our luggage was delivered earlier. We are staying in a place called the “Eagles Nest”. I would describe it as a building that was left over from the Communist regime. Andy said this is the best hotel in town. At least has a bathroom and hot shower. I stood under the hot shower and washed away the last three days of dirt and grime and rebounded with a toilet seat. Our cooks travels with us from the Ger camp and made us dinner. Dinner was mutton, beef, boiled Mongolian dumplings and carrots. Delicious.
I need some downtime. We are leaving at 10:30 for a special photo shoot. Will keep you in suspense until tomorrow.
Just a normal and typical day in Western Mongolia