Mongolia 2009

Back from the Mongolian Countryside!

I got back to UB a few hours ago. It was the road trip of a lifetime, wildlife wise. At both Gun-Galuut and Baga Gazriin Chuluu, I saw and photographed argali almost every time we went out on a “game drive”.

Some sightings yielded over 100 images in 20 or so minutes. I got argali in morning light, argali in evening light, argali at dusk, argali in shadow but doing interesting things.

There were large groups of rams, small groups of rams, nursery groups of ewes and lambs and mixed groups of both sexes.

I photographed one group of rams at Baga Gazriin Chuluu that was out in the open at the base of a rocky hill about 800 meters from the road. They were a little nervous, but didn’t run away. In fact, they ended up being so tolerant of our presence that we were able to get out of the car and take turns taking pictures of each other with them in the background.

A lion’s share of the credit for this has to go to one of the Best Guides Ever, Khatnaa, who seemed to have an uncanny feel for where the animals might be, even though he hadn’t really done this kind of thing before. He runs his own tour company, but took me on via Nomadic Journeys. His English is very good, so I learned a lot about Mongol history and culture and he helped me on my pronunciation since I am determined to learn at least conversational Mongolian.

Besides argali, I’ve photographed ibex, cinereous vultures, golden eagles, upland buzzards, black kites, demoiselle cranes, endangered Siberian white-napped cranes and even a lady bug. Plus Mongol horses and bactrian camels.

I’ve also been able to visit gers, eat Mongolian summer “white food” like aruul, cheese, yogurt, cream and airag and yesterday went to a local “mountain washing” ceremony, complete with chanting Buddhist monks, tons of mutton and gallons of airag, plus a 7km horse race, anklebone shooting contest and a wrestling competition.

I’m in UB tomorrow and then off to Ikh Nart, I hope. The weather has been, shall we say, unusual. About two hours out of UB last week, we got clobbered by a hail storm so serious that Khatnaa turned the car around to protect the windshield. Some of the hailstones were an inch across. He has dents in the roof of his Mitsubishi SUV. That fast-moving front caused serious flooding in UB in which 21 people died.

As we approached the hotel this afternoon, it started to rain here in UB. By the time Khatnaa had pulled into the parking lot, it had started to hail. We sat in the car for almost 20 minutes until it was just raining hard. Once again he turned the car so that its back was to the storm. He commented that he could never remember two storms like this in one month.

The scientist who I am to travel to Ikh Nart with is due in at 10:40 tonight. Whether the flight will come in is anybody’s guess with this weather. Stay tuned.

And photos to come as soon as I do the jpeg conversions.

Visit the AFC website here

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