On our way back south to Bayanhongor from Ganchen Lama Khiid, we saw lots of yaks.
The last day of the 2014 WildArt Mongolia Expedition had finally arrived. One more night in the countryside and then back to Ulaanbaatar. The day took an unexpected turn that led to a perfect final evening….
We stopped at one last herder’s ger and, along with a very nice Land Cruiser, there was also this equally nice Mongol horse, ready to ride.
The big sightseeing stop for the day…what can only be called a temple dedicated to the Mongol race horses, located near the Aimag center of Arvakheer. As we drove up to it I realized that we had camped a few hundred yards behind it on our outward bound trip, not knowing what it was. I had assumed it was some kind of Buddhist installation and, in fact, that was one facet if this amazing site.
The main structure is this semi-circle, surrounded by stupas and flanked by statues of what I assume are famous race horses. I really want to go back here for at least a half-day sometime just to hang around, sketch and do some watercolors.
Not exactly what I expected to see at a place dedicated to horses.
Beautifully sculpted statues of famous race horses.
In one corner was this pole with khadag suspended from it.
The center pole.
Behind the “temple” was this extraordinary sight- a fence completely covered with khadag and, on the ground, hundreds of horses skulls. On the plain in the background is where we had camped.
A large and very colorful wedding party showed up while we were there. Here are two of men…lookin’ good.
We traveled on north and came upon an extensive wetland complex in fabulous light, complete with yaks, horses and endangered whooper swans.
Concerned about it being very cold this last night out, the drivers told us that they had called the Nomadic Journeys ger camp in the area, Delger, and had arranged for us to stay there in gers instead of camping in our tents. As the light faded to night, we made a long run through sandy areas with no directional signs, arriving at the camp after dark but to a warm welcome.
The next morning we could see the lovely spot the camp was in. It turned out that this was the day the camp would be packed away for the year. Whew. The previous evening we had all gathered in the cozy, warm kitchen ger along with our host, camp manager Ariunbold, eating noodles, drinking vodka and having a great final dinner together.
One of the camp dogs. I was told they are there to keep wolves away.
We said our good-byes and began the final leg of the Expedition, passing this attractive row of shops.
A last photo op…horses crossing a river!
And the final stop, now not far from Ulaanbaatar, to see this statue of a shaman, facing south and festooned with khadag.
Ulaanbaatar ahead in the sunshine. I liked coming into town behind this truckload of horses. The countryside and the city.
And so ended the 2014 WildArt Mongolia Expedition. We met every goal that I had set for both habitats and endangered species. We are the only western artists now to have gone to Takhiin Tal, the first takhi release site, where we saw both takhi and khulan, and Sharga/Darvi where we saw over thirty saiga antelope. We met the scientists working to conserve these species and saw snow leopard habitat, complete with ibex. We forded flooded rivers, camped under Gobi skies, visited and hiked an important sacred mountain, attended a local naadam, stumbled upon an ambler horse race, explored a very special monastery, and painted and sketched as we went.
Now there will be a special group exhibition of paintings from the Expedition, featuring myself, Tugsoyun Sodnom and Oidoviin Magvandorj. It will be at the Union of Mongolian Artists Gallery in Ulaanbaatar from June 27 to July 8. There will be an opening reception on the 27th.
I want to say a very special “Thank You!” to Nomadic Journeys and their staff, who made the Expedition possible and contributed greatly to its success. bayarlalaa
I head back to Mongolia on May 28 for eight weeks. There will be another WildArt Mongolia Expedition, this time to the northeastern mountains and the famous steppe grasslands to try to see and photograph six species of cranes, three of them endangered and also Mongolian gazelles. So stay tuned!