Mongolia Monday- 5 Photos Of Favorite Places: Khar Us Nuur

Sunrise with Jargalant Uul in the background
Sunrise with Jargalant Uul in the background

On my second trip to Mongolia in 2006, which I did on my own through Nomadic Journeys, I wanted to go out to the west to visit Khomiin Tal, the third location where takhi/Przewalski’s horse has been reintroduced. I flew out to Hovd, which is around 1000 miles from Ulaanbaatar, met my guide and driver and headed east about 130 miles, most of it on earth roads. I knew nothing about anything in Mongolia at that point and it was all a brand new and exciting experience.

An unexpected sight was Khar Us Nuur National Park, which has been set aside to conserve and protect a complex of three lakes and their connecting channels. It is also one of the great birding hot spots in the world. But it’s difficult to get to the lakeshore in most places due to the thick reed beds. We camped on the shore of one of the channels the last night out in the countryside. Here are some of my favorite photos of a place I’d love to go back to sometime.

The steppe
The steppe at sunset, looking back to the east with the lakes behind me. This was my first look at the legendary grassland steppes the now exist only as remnants in Mongolia.
Cormorant
Great cormorant using an old wooden bridge as a fishing perch
Weasel
Stoat or ermine who popped up on the old wooden bridge right near where we were camping.
Bactrian camels
Bactrian camels near the soum center, Dorgon. This was the first large herd of camels that I’d seen in Mongolia.

There is a previous post about great wildlife watching places in Mongolia that includes Khar Us Nuur. You can read it here.

Mongolia Monday: 5 Photos Of Favorite Places- Hustai National Park

This installment of my occasional series “Five Photos of Favorite Places” features Hustai National Park, one of the three places in Mongolia where takhi/Przewalski’s horse has been reintroduced and by far the easiest to get to, since it’s only a two hour drive from Ulaanbaatar, the capital, and most of that is on tarmac road. You can view the other parts by scrolling down the Categories drop down menu in the right hand column to “5 Photos….

TTakhi stallion, April 2005- This was from my first trip to Mongolia in spring of 2005. It was freezing cold, literally, and it was very windy. But I was enchanted with my first look at the world's only true wild horse running free (I'd seen them for the very first time at the Berlin Zoo in October 2004). To me, this head shot sums up what they are about...a very special horse that looks like it just stepped out of a cave painting.
Takhi stallion, April 2005- This was from my first trip to Mongolia in spring of 2005. It was freezing cold, literally, and it was very windy. But I was enchanted with my first look at the world’s only true wild horse running free (I’d seen them for the very first time at the Berlin Zoo in October 2004). To me, this head shot sums up what they are about…a very special horse that looks like it just stepped out of a cave painting.
Takhi foals, September 2008. I always look forward to seeing the new generation when I visit Hustai and of course the foals are fun to watch as they romp around and play. There are now around 300 takhi in Hustai and they are doing well.
Takhi foals, September 2008. I always look forward to seeing the new generation when I visit Hustai and of course the foals are fun to watch as they romp around and play. There are now around 300 takhi in Hustai and they are doing well. The world population, counting both captive and reintroduced horses is around 2000. A studbook established in 1978 keeps track of every one of them.
Siberian marmot
Siberian marmot, July 2010. Hustai is one of the few places left where one can see marmots in any number. Their population crashed by close to 90% due to demand for their pelts by the Chinese. Now they are an endangered species where once there were millions. I’d gone to Hustai for the weekend with I driver I’d had before, but no guide, and Onroo didn’t speak English. But we got along fine with my little bit of Mongolian and a phrase book. It is a running joke between us that we will always stop for “taravak”….marmots, so I can try to get a good photo like this one.
Hustai landscape
Hustai landscape, August 2011. “Hustai” means “birch” in Mongolian. There are birch woods like these above a certain elevation on the mountains in the park. You can see two grazing takhi in the middle. From this point on up to the bare rocks like you can see in the background “bokh”, or elk, are to be found, the same genus as the Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk of the United States, but a different species.
Birches
Birches and blue sky, September 2012. Last year was the latest that I had visited the park and so I saw the fall colors for the first time. And they were spectacular!

Mongolia Monday: 5 Photos Of Favorite Places- The Gobi

The legendary Gobi….what images it conjures up, some true and some not, as it turns out. A land of contradictions. A desert, but mostly without sand. A byword for dryness and lack of water, but rivers flow through it, there are lakes and it’s known as the source of the sweetest and best vegetables grown in the country.

I grew up in Redwood Country….forests. I’ve always loved forests. My mom loved the desert. Me. Not so much. Until I met this desert.

A view I love…a Mongolian earth road stretching out ahead as far as one can see, Juiy 2010
Time to milk the camels at the only herder’s ger for many miles. Got my first taste of camel’s milk airag, July 2010
It does rain in the Gobi and everything can turn green in a matter of hours, July 2010
My tent on Orog Nuur, a remote Gobi lake, just myself, my guide, the cook, hundreds of birds and gazillions of mosquitos. When camping in Mongolia, you can stop and pitch your tent pretty much wherever you want to, July 2010
Last glow of evening light on The Flaming Cliffs, made famous by Roy Chapman Andrews’ Central Asiatic Expeditions of the 1920s, Sept. 2006

Mongolia Monday: 5 Photos Of Favorite Places- Hangai Mountains

I visited two very different parts of Mongolia in 2010 on my two week camping trip: the Gobi and, directly to the north, the Hangai Mountains. Today I’d like to share five of my favorite photos from the mountains, which I hope very much to explore more in the future. I think you’ll see why…

Gachen Lama Khiid, Erdensogt Soum- this has to be one of the great undiscovered places in Mongolia, an old monastery located north of Bayanhongor in Bayanhongor Aimag. I could spend days sketching and painting this beautiful temple and the stupas overlooking the river valley. There are more photos and the story of our visit here.
We had spent the night camped out on a hillside with a lovely view. The next morning I crawled out of my tent to the sight of local herders moving their yaks out to graze. Being in plain view, we soon had visitors, including this older gentleman. He perfectly sums up the dignity and presence of the Mongol country people. He also knew I was taking pictures of him...
We had to come down out of the mountains proper to circle around to get back in to our next destination. There was a small temple just outside a small soum center. I peeked inside and was treated to this riot of color, all kinds of candy and other food left as offerings. I don't know the story of the statue, but wish I did. More on the day I took this photo and the one above here.
Our destination that day was Khuisiin Naiman Nuur National Park, a series of nine ("naim" in Mongolian) mountain lakes, only accessible by car by driving up the length of this incredibly beautiful valley, which is where we camped for one night. I could have stayed there two weeks. More photos here.
We wended our way higher into the mountains reaching a pass where we found this fantastic ovoo made of wood and festooned with dozens of blue khadag (offering scarves). The tradition is to walk three times around it clockwise and leave some kind of offering or token, even if it's only a stone that one has picked up from the ground. Ovoos are always on high places and passes. The creation of them dates back far beyond the arrival of Buddhism to the ancient beliefs of Tengerism (or what westerners call "Shamanism"). More photos of the beautiful, wildflower-filled mountains here.

Mongolia Monday: 5 Photos of Favorite Places- Baga Gazriin Chuluu Nature Reserve

This will be a occasional, on-going series of images of my favorite places in Mongolia. Baga Gazriin Chuluu means “Small Earth/Land Rocks”. There is also an Ikh Gazriin Chuluu (Great Earth Rocks), but I haven’t gotten there yet.

In July of 2009, my driver/guide and I pulled into the ger camp, which is located in the reserve and got settled in. I came out of my ger and was greeted with this amazing light and a woman riding down the valley. I had a feeling I was going to like this place.
It was my good luck to be there on the day of a local mountain blessing ceremony or local naadam. There was a horse race, wrestling, anklebone shooting and lots of people just riding around on their horses.
Seeing argali was my purpose for going there and within a couple of hours the first morning, my driver spotted this group of rams within sight of the car.
The following year, 2010, I got to go back as the first stop on a two-week camping trip. Here's the spot my driver/guide (same one as in 2009) picked.
Driving around, we came upon a short valley which had a number of cinereous vulture nests, including this one with a juvenile who was almost ready to fly. We climbed up on the rocks to get above him and I got some great photos.

There are more photos of Baga Gazriin Chuluu, including the story of my first trip there in 2009 here.