Last sight of Boon Tsagaan Nuur.
Now the long run to Takhiin Tal in the west began. We traveled through the deep Gobi with the Gobi Altai Mountains to the south. No paved roads, but mostly good earth roads, a lot of it graded and well-maintained.
Memorial ovoo, well-known in Mongolia. It was built by a son in memory of his father, a very famous wrestler who died in a tragic accident.
The Five Snouts. This little ribbon with hand-drawn heads of the five species of livestock the Mongols herd was unlike anything I had seen at any other ovoo.
Good earth road.
Gobi Altai mountains.
We turned south in the late morning and stopped for lunch here.
The boundary of Chandmani soum and a photo op!
We dropped down into a very large valley set between the mountains
Our next stop was the soum center of Erdene. One of the drivers need a part for his van. It turned out that our other driver had relatives in town and we were invited to lunch! Which included all my favorites: buuz, aruul, urum, suutaitsai (steamed mutton dumplings, dried curds, clotted cream and milk tea). It was a feast.
Not only did we get an amazing lunch, but the women made buuz for us to take with us.
Finally, it was time to go. On the left is Batmaa, who relatives these are.
A shot of Erdene with the typical mix of gers and permanent buildings. The Mongol dogs, called bankhar, are gathered around a female in heat. I got quite a few photos of this canine domestic drama.
On the road south again, we passed this very large herd of sheep and goats. Sustainable land use in a big issue in Mongolia. People can now have all animals they want, which was not true in socialist times. In many places the land is badly beaten up and overgrazed now.
Into the mountains again. At this point I was wondering what we would see. Would there be snow leopard habitat to photograph? These hills went on for miles and were definitely not what I have seen images of snow leopards in.
But rather suddenly, the landscape became much more rugged.
Now I knew. This had to be snow leopard country. I had our guide ask Batmaa, the driver who grew up in the area. He confirmed that the big cats are found here.
We stopped for a pee break and so Batmaa could look for a knife he’d lost three years ago. I had my camera with the 28-300 lens with me as I went off to find a large rock. Suddenly people called me back. I came running to them, looked up and, wow. there was a Siberian ibex nanny looking down at us.
I ran to the van, got the camera with the 80-400 and got some pretty good shots like this one, considering they were way, way up on the ridgetop.
A last look before they vanished.
As we continued down the canyon, it was magic light time on the mountaintops.
We passed a small ovoo.
There was a road of sorts, but with lots of rocks. The vans got us through just fine.
As we came out of the canyon, this gorgeous sight met our eyes. Our destination for the next day….Eej Hairhan Uul, the sacred mother mountain.