On my first trip to Mongolia in spring of 2005, I managed to get a couple days at Hustai National Park, enough to know that I wanted to go back when the daytime high was more than 32F with howling wind (ah, early May in Mongolia!). Hustai is the most accessible place to see reintroduced takhi, or Przewalski’s horse. For 2006, I arranged to have the use of a car, driver and guide so that I wasn’t dependent on driving around with other, non-artist visitors.
I needed to be in the park at dawn and at the end of the day in order to get what I’d missed before because of cloud cover- takhi in great light. This excerpt is from my first day.
9-27 10:15 am Wed.
Just got back from the morning “game drive”. Left a little after 7:30 am and got to the valley just in time to catch the light about 8 am. Hit the jackpot, Two takhi just on the shadow side and then coming into the sun.
Went back up to (the) pass, seeing more takhi and the 2 eco-volunteers from France who I sat with last night. Missed a great shot of a bull marel (a species of elk) because the driver didn’t stop in time. Continued over and down around the backside of what my guide says is called “God Mountain” because all the spire-like piles of rock look like flames of fire. There were takhi at the base of a particularly picturesque part of it and the guide asked me to take her picture. She pointed out another mountain where she said lynx live.
We continued on into what she says is called “Happy Valley” and it sure was for me. Came upon 2 groups of takhi, one waterhole. I think the issues were who got to drink first and can I steal some of the other guy’s mares. (There are 3 largish songbirds pitty-pattying around on the top of the ger as I write this entry)
We entered a part of the valley with trees along one side and it turns out they are saxaul, which I didn’t expect to see until I went south (and it turns out that I hadn’t. Something must have gotten lost in translation, because I found out this last trip that they for sure weren’t saxaul trees). There were also some domestic horses, which the driver got out to shoo away. We circled around out on the grasslands and saw 2 small and 1 large group of gazelle. Final stop was the research center, which was looking pretty sad and almost derelict last time. It’s humming now. Offices for the ec-volunteers, the managers, biologists, ecologists and a kitchen. There’s even curtains on the windows.
So, I’ve gotten my evening light and early morning light. Now it’s just seeing what kind of behavior I can record.
I liked the waterhole setting and plan to eventually do a big painting with both harems that tries to show what I saw that morning. In the meantime, I had this reference from elsewhere in the park of a mare with a beautiful gesture.