Mongolia Monday- Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve

We arrived at the Steppe Nomads ger camp at Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve with a broken rear spring on the Land Cruiser, not sure what this meant for the remainder of the trip. While Pokey and I settled in, Khatnaa got on his mobile phone and called the Nomadic Journeys’ office to sort things out. We got laundry done and took welcome hot showers.

That night, at dinner, Khatnaa explained the situation. He would need to take the car out to the tarmac road (13km on earth road each way to get to and from the reserve) the next afternoon to meet up with someone from UB who would bring the new spring out. Then it would have to be installed. How long? Half a day. Did we want the office to also send out a new guide and driver to finish the trip or would we wait for the repair? That decision took about two seconds….we’d wait and finish the trip together. In any case, Pokey and I weren’t sorry to have a break to simply hang around camp and relax.

Khatnaa then said that the car was drivable, with care, and we would go out the next morning at 6am, which is exactly what we did. I was impressed by what he considered staying on “easy” roads. We parked and took a good, long hike down to where he thought we might see argali, which we spotted off in the distance almost as soon as we stopped to glass the mountain.

We also got great photos of a big herd of Mongol horses and cranes, but really had to dodge the mosquitos. Back at the ger camp around 1pm, Khatnaa grabbed a quick lunch and took off. To our surprise and pleasure he was back at 5:15, after having to replace BOTH back springs because the replacement was longer than the original one. Dinner was quite festive with beers all around.

We only had one day at Gun-Galuut, but it was a full one, packed with great scenery and animals.

Steppe Nomads Tourist Camp

Morning coffee in front of my ger in my comfy Mongol del and felt slippers

Early morning light along the Kherlen Gol with Baits Uul ahead on the right

12-13 argali grazing; look in the middle among the shrubs for the white dots which are their rumps; why good binoculars are a must

Riverside view

Local herder's gers with a line of grey herons in front

I believe this is a Japanese quail chick

The horses we got great photos of, with the ger camp in the background; they were in the water to get away from the mosquitos

Endangered white-napped cranes

Small toad

Frog

Wetland and mountain, with cranes

More of the horses; in the afternoon a breeze had come up which kept the mosquitos away, from us at least

Sometimes the action got pretty hot and heavy

First time I ever saw a caterpiller in Mongolia

That evening Khatnaa told us that the next day’s drive wouldn’t be a long one, so we would go out into the reserve in the morning and leave after lunch. We went around the “backside” of the mountain, the side away from the river, parked in a draw, got out and almost immediately spotted four big rams running over a ridge to our right. I only was able to get a couple of butt shots before they were gone. But, within minutes, we spotted an argali ewe and lamb to our left. And then a large group moving up the draw directly in front of us, but a pretty long ways off. It’s estimated that there are less than 100 argali in Gun-Galuut, so we saw a fairly good percentage of the population in two tries.

Argali Ewe and lamb

Good-sized spider

We drove to the next draw over where we hoped the argali rams had gone, but saw no one. Pokey wanted to do some sketching, so she stayed with the car while Khatnaa and I hiked up onto the mountain again. Coming around a ridge, the view opened up to the entire river valley. We found a couple of rocks to sit on and simply enjoyed the scenery for a half hour. It was so quiet, except for the occasional animal. No cars, no planes, no radios, no voices. Just. Quiet. One of the things I treasure about being in the Mongolian countryside.

View of the Kherlen Gol valley, looking east

Of course I had to have my picture taken

Back down on the wetland, we spotted a whooper swan

A beautiful butterfly

And on the other side of the river, a pair of demoiselle cranes

On our way out of the reserve that afternoon, we stopped by this small lake to photograph another whooper swan

This enormous coal mine at Baikhanuur is visible from the road to and from the reserve

Next week: Onward to Jalman Meadows in the Hentii Mountains