The WildArt Mongolia Expedition 2013

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Part 10: From Takhiin Tal To Darvi Soum And….Saiga Antelope!

On the road again

On the (earth) road again. Taken through the windshield of the van.

We were sorry to have to leave Takhiin Tal so soon, but ahead of us, with luck,  would be sightings of the world’s most endangered antelope, the saiga. At one time there were millions. Poaching reduced their numbers in Mongolia to a low of 760 at one point. Biologists had calculated that below 600 the species would no longer viable. A turnaround came when the World Wildlife Federation helped set up the Saiga Ranger Network, based in Darvi Soum. That was our next stop, where we hoped to be able find and speak with the Network coordinator Batsaikhan Baljiinnyam. But we had quite a drive ahead of us…

Local herder

Local herder

Ger

Ger in a protected spot. One of the Mongols told us that gers serve as a compass in the countryside. Since they always face south, once you spot one you know which way is which.

Trees?

Oncoming traffic for the day. One motorbike.

Unexpected

Unexpected trees.

Gers

Gers in a really lovely spot that I’d love to go back to and have time to paint.

The road and the stream became one for quite a distance.

The road and the stream became one for quite a distance.

Bugat.

The soum center of Bugat. Typical size and setting.

Leaving Bugat I suddenly saw a lammergeier/bearded vulture right by the road!

Leaving Bugat I suddenly saw a lammergeier/bearded vulture right by the road!

He took off and I got some nice aerial shots.

He took off and I got some nice aerial shots.

Where better to stop for lunch but near a herd of camels?

Where better to stop for lunch than near a herd of camels?

We wen up into another rugged pass.

We went up into another rugged pass. I wasn’t sure exactly where we were, but knew that the driver of our van was heading towards the Sharga area, as I had requested, since that was where we had a chance to see the antelope.

We came out of the pass onto this upland area and within a few minutes, oh my gosh, there was a male saiga antelope!

We came out of the pass onto this upland area and within a few minutes, oh my gosh, there was a male saiga antelope!

Female saiga

We started to see them almost everywhere it seemed, including this female.

We spotted a number of vultures circling and it turned out to be two species, a smaller griffon vulture and the much larger eurasian black/cinereous vulture.

We spotted a number of vultures circling and it turned out to be two species, a smaller griffon vulture and the much larger eurasian black/cinereous vulture.

That is a patch of snow on that mountain. In early September.

That is a patch of snow on that mountain. In early September. Camels and earth roads, a combination I never, ever get tired of.

By the time we got to the soum center, we calculated that we had seen at least twenty saiga, far, far more than my wildest dreams. And did they put on a show. I've seen a lot of wild hoofed animals, but never a species that runs like these do.

By the time we got to the soum center of Darvi, we calculated that we had seen at least twenty saiga, far, far more than my wildest dreams. And did they put on a show. I’ve seen a lot of wild hoofed animals, but never a species that runs like these do.

We drove into Darvi to get petrol and water. Notice the solar panel on the left.

We drove into Darvi to get petrol and water. Notice the solar panel on the left.

The second van didn't show up where expected at the petrol station, so we went looking for them and found that they'd been stopped by a flat tire. Hundreds of miles on earth roads through the deep Gobi and we get a flat in town.

The second van didn’t show up where expected at the petrol station, so we went looking for them and found that they’d been stopped by a flat tire. Hundreds of miles on earth roads through the deep Gobi and we get a flat in town. Sendag, the driver of that van, took care of it that evening, to my surprise. He found someone at 8:00 at night who repaired the tire for about $8.

We had seen the lake Ikhes Nuur when we drove into town and decided to see if it would be a good place to camp. It was.

We had seen the lake Ikhes Nuur when we drove into town and decided to see if it would be a good place to camp. It was.

Gers with a view of the lake.

Gers with a view of the lake.

Our camp.

Our camp.

Thus ended quite a day. Our mission on the morrow was to find Batsaikhan and learn about saiga conservation.

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