I loved our hidden campsite in the birch grove. I did as many sketches and watercolors as I could since I have no idea if I’ll ever be at that place again. Here’s a two-page set of drawings from my journal.
And here’s one of the watercolors I did.
We weren’t, however, alone. The grove seems to be headquarters for a large number of black-eared kites, a very common bird that one doesn’t pay much attention to after awhile while traveling around. Well, you sure couldn’t ignore this crowd, which carried on enthusiastic “conversations” until nightfall.
They also nest here.
It was such a lovely spot.
And it wasn’t easy to leave.
But we needed to get food and supplies for the last leg of the Expedition, so we packed up by late morning and drove the short distance into Chandmani, the soum center. There is also a Chandmani in Gobi Altai Aimag, which we drove through on the first Expedition in 2013, so now I’ve been to both of them. The guide had to get some money, which gave me a little time to wander around and find quite a few things of interest.
Heroes from socialist times, along with WWII, are honored with statues in various towns. This one says “Khodolmoriin Baatar R. Chadrabal”.
I thought this next one was awesome. So perfectly an expression of its time and a good work of art. The plaque says, I think, “Bimaulsin Baatar/Bayaibalin Tegshee”.
And, providing a contrast nearby, was this very cute playground.
On the ground near the red hero statue was a wonderful sculpture of oversized anklebones (shagai). The real ones are used for an apparently endless number of games, many of them involving alcohol consumption. Each of the four sides represents a specific domestic animal: horse, sheep, goat or camel.
I was not surprised, this being Mongolia, that there would be a statue of a horse.
I was, however, quite surprised to see a statue of an argali.
It seemed a sleepy town, like most soum centers I’ve been to, not many people out and about.
The town’s setting, with the northeast side of Jargalant Hairkhan Uul as a backdrop, was very nice. We went into the town center and, wow, it was hopping! The local naadam festival had just ended and people had come into town to do their shopping.
This was one of the few soum centers I’ve been in (not a huge number) that really had a main shopping street. Our first stop was this shop. I was dazzled by the riot of color and the variety of goods. I’m posting a lot of photos of it for two reasons. One is that I just want to share the experience, which is not one that visitors often get. I had the best time poking around and taking photos with my phone camera. The second is that I am so tired of uninformed, to put it diplomatically, Americans seeing the herder’s gers and how country people live, and going on and on about “those poor people” living in poverty as if it was some kind of degraded life that they need to be rescued from by the noble westerners. It’s true that most herders don’t have a lot of cash money. They also don’t accumulate a lot of stuff because everything they have is going to have to be packed up and moved at least a couple of times a year. But they have what they need and if they want something they have access to shops like these.
As you have probably guessed by now, the Mongols are not a people who are afraid of color. Westerners have commented on that for as long as any have made the journey to the Land of Blue Skies.
We were almost ready to leave when a woman came in wearing a del the same color as one I have. Our eyes met and I got up the courage to have my guide ask if she’d have her picture taken with me. I got a smile and a nod. Mongols almost never smile for photos, having been taught to keep a serious face since childhood. I’ve learned to keep a neutral friendly expression for these photo opps.
We left the first shop and went to have lunch, which turned out two of my favorites! Buuz and khuushuur. I have yet to get tired of either.
We needed to go to one more shop to get meat.
There was a huge poster attached to the wall. It was information about snow leopards. It says that there are 37 living on Jargalant Hairkhan Uul. The photo shows camera trap images of two leopards who have lost a paw in a trap, so other information on the poster is about not setting traps.
But we go into the shop and I see this. I was not able to find out the whole story behind either the poster or the traps. When I do I’ll be writing a post about it.
It turned out that there was no meat on site. The proprietor made a phone call and about 20 minutes later a local herder came in with a small bag of fresh mutton. In the meantime I took some more photos, including this stack of ger felts.
We went back to the car and got in. In the meantime, some of the local goats started to put on a show.
As we were leaving I spotted this horse tied to a fence and had to get some photos.
Now we really did need to get going. Our destination? Back east to Dorgon Nuur to camp in a different location than before. Will there be mosquitos? Find out next week.