Perfect start to a great day!
You can read Part 1 here. The Expedition schedule was planned to coincide with the naadam (festival) that is held at Arburd Sands ger camp every year to celebrate the camp’s anniversary. Since we were going out to a part of Mongolia, the far western Gobi, where there were very few herders I knew this was the perfect opportunity for the participants to get a taste of Mongol culture and just have a fun time, which we certainly did!
We set up camp the afternoon before, having driven about five hours from Ulaanbaatar.
Camp Central at Arburd Sands, cook tent on the right, dining tent on the left
Was this a great campsite or what?
We had time the next morning to get in some painting and sketching…
View from the dunes
Magvandorj working on a landscape
Tugs-oyun added the camels to her piece
Sharon Schafer worked on recording the various plants in her sketchbook
Time to go to the naadam!
Some of us helped with the set-up, including putting up a ger
We took a few minutes to get a group shot
The local people had started to arrive, many on their horses. Here’s an example of Mongol leatherwork.
Magvandorj and I sketched the horses
Our drivers, Batmaa and Sendag, helped with the real Mongolian BBQ….khorhog (mutton or goat cooked with extremely hot rocks in the metal containers)
The tails of the horses who will be racing are wrapped part way down.
The centerpiece of the naadam site….a big maikhan (summer tent)
The opening festivities included a performance by a morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) player and a long singer who had a wonderful voice; and their brocade del were spectacular
I’m presenting a painting I did of our host’s father some years ago. I had brought it to Mongolia for my exhibition at the National Museum of Mongolia and decided that it needed to stay in the country and with the family, which has shown me great kindness and hospitality over the years
The procession that starts the horse race. The jockeys are all singing a song to their horses that tells them that soon they will get to run and run and run.
Three of the jockeys were young girls
Heading out to the starting point
In the meantime, the anklebone shooting competition had gotten under way
The target…stacked sheep’s anklebones; if hit they fall off the back into the box
The competitors holding the piece of wood from which they launch an anklebone. You do not want to get hit by one if it goes off-line
At last the horses and riders came back into view
Racing to the finish line
The youngest riders were accompanied by at least one adult the whole way
One of the girl jockeys. She exuded determination and seriousness
The after-race feast…khorhog, salads and various dairy products like cheese, aruul (dried curds) and…
The legendary mare’s milk of Mongolia….airag
Then it was time for the wrestling, Mongol bokh. He’s doing the traditional Eagle Dance before a bout.
And this youngster did a great job with his own version.
The wrestlers in the traditional garb are more experienced and have probably earned rankings in the soum or aimag. Any local guy can enter and see what he can do, but the highest ranked wrestlers get to pick their opponent, so the odds aren’t good. There is no weight division. It’s everyone against everyone. The rules are very simple. First part of the body to touch the ground other than the feet means you lose. Within that simplicity is an infinite complexity of tactics and mind games. I’ve really become a fan.
I found myself making a tough choice. I wanted to watch the wrestling, but a demonstration of catching and riding young horses had begun. The horses won out because I really needed more reference of riders using the urga (the long catchpole)
We saw how 2 year olds are caught and ridden for the first time. It was a rodeo. This good-looking sturdy horse is feeling a bridle for the first time and he’s pretty sure he doesn’t like it
He really would rather not
The punctuation point and a moment later the bridle fell off, but all to no avail
Protesting in vain. As you can see, we could get as close to the action as we wanted. Some were a little too close, but no one was hurt
Maybe not so bad after all
Just love this photo of a young Mongol girl, totally at home on her horse and in her “nutag”, the land where she was born
One of my favorite catch photos. The horsemanship we saw that afternoon was jaw-dropping, but nothing special for people put on a horse at age three. They ride like we walk.
The winner of the horse race