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Mongolia Trip Pictures (Page 1 of 2) from July 26 to August 06, 2010

To proceed to Mongolia Pictures Page 2 or read the Mongolia Journal.

Our Route through MONGOLIA. Covered approx. 2580km on the motorcycles.

July 26, 2010. We enter Mongolia from Russia at the Border Post north-west of Tsagaannuur.

It takes some time to get used to picking the right track and knowing which way to go.

A steep washed out rocky track leads up a mountain pass. We pause at the top and pay respect to our first ovoo, one of Mongolia's many stone cairns.

The weather is always changing. One minute it is sunny, the next minute the wind has picked up and dark clouds are engulfing us.

As we watch the fast approaching ever darkening sky behind us, we hope we can make it to Olgii a 100km south-east before getting wet.

We stay at the Blue Wolf Ger Camp in Olgii. The "hot showers" on the sign is very important, a luxury not always available in Mongolia.

This building houses the Blue Wolf Travel Agency, Camp reception and restaurant.

The Blue Wolf Ger Camp is set up, it seems, in the midst of an old industrial yard, with a decommissioned above ground bunker to one side and dilapidated buildings to the other.

Our own little ger, a traditional circular felt yurt.

Inside the comforts of a double bed.

Instead of stringing a clothes line for laundry, clothes are hung where ever. Note these are not ours.

July 27, 2010. A rest day, but we have the rare chance to see and hear a local girl performing traditional folk songs at the restaurant. Besides a couple of Australians we were the only tourists.

We met a wonderful Australian couple, traveling the world via back packing.

In the evening we were invited to a Mongolian Wedding celebration.

The Bride and Groom.

We are in the midst of the festivities.

Relatives and friends get together after the actual wedding to celebrate.

Mike and Megy, who is the sister of the groom and our translator, as no one else spoke English.

We had pre-ordered besbarmak (literally "five fingers"), a special local Kazakh dish consisting of meat and pasta squares. Note the Vodka, which seemed to be refilled continuously.

The wedding party had large platters of sheep (mutton) meat served. Everyone ate right from the large platter.

The groom received the sheep head, which is a special honour.

He popped out the eyes and ate them. We also received part of the sheep head to eat. We are not sure which part, but we quickly swallowed it.

These ladies are the same age as Ruby.

The older women are dressed in traditional dress.

Each table is stacked with food. Only a quarter of which was consumed.

Western Mongolia has a large population of ethic Kazakhs.

Megy with her sisters.

Ruby tries her first cup of Suutei Tsai, which consists of milk,tea,and salt.

The parents and relatives of the bride. It is toasting time again.

Mike even had to give a speech, which was translated by Megy. They were very happy to have us among them.

The man in the middle was the coordinator and made everyone sing a song to the grooms & brides parents. We left before it was our turn.

July 28, 2010. We had hired a driver/guide for the day through Blue Wolf Travel.

Our vehicle for the day a Russian made 4x4. Simple but also very capable.

We head east from Olgii into the Altai mountains. Our first major water crossing...

...does not end well.

Upon exiting the river we slide into the embankment and completely got stuck.

But our driver/guide Artac has a plan.

Taking his shoes off and rolling up his pant legs, we hand him stone after stone...

...which he places behind the rear wheel to build a base.

After about 10 minutes another vehicles arives with a bunch of locals.

With their help we are able to get unstuck.

We continue heading south-east.

In the distance we can make out our destination the permanently snow-capped Tsmagarav Uul (4,202m).

We enter a green valley populated with nomads and their gers.

We decide to stop at one of the ger camps.

These gers are moved at least four (4) times a year, mostly with the change of the season.

It does not matter how windy or cold it is outside, inside when the stove is burning it is toasty warm.

Artac is looking for the eagle hunter. This is his home.

The family is busy sheering the sheep in a make shift circular fenced area.

We are welcomed by the head of the household. Four (4) eagles are tied down in the grassy steppes.

They are massive.

We are facinated by them and able to take hundreds of pictures.

An eagle has a protective eye lid, which can be seen here.

Here the lid is open.

The following pictures are close up shots, showing different features of the eagle.

The eagle ready to take off...

... and here his wings are spread upon approach.

The eagle hunter joins us.

He personally trains the eagles.

The eagles familiarity and calmness with the eagle hunter apparent immediately.

One of our favourite pictures (of hundreds)

The eagle hunter in his territory. The vast open steppe of Mongolia. There are no other tourists to be found here.

Amazingly the eagle hunter calls Ruby over...

...for a one on one with the eagle. She could not believe how heavy the eagle was. Being scared never even came to her mind.

From the huge smile on Ruby's face this was the experience of a life time.

The eagle hunter normally wears the leather glove for protection, but this picture proves how gentle the eagles really are. Also a sign of how well trained they are.

It is Mike's turn.

He also is totally awe struck.

Afterwards we join the family in their ger. It is colorfully decorated.

Immediately a variety of fresh dairy products are layed out on the table ... aaruul (dried milk curds) and aarts (very sharp, soft, fermented cheese), fresh butter and bortzig (fried unleavened bread).

It is Suutei Tsai time. We each get a cup of milk tea to drink. Not drinking it or eating the food presented is an insult to the family, therefore we try everything at least once.

We thank our host and continue onwards. Horses are an important part of Mongolian life and everyone owns one.

Another river crossing, which we master without a problem.

In this barren landscape nomads make their home.

After about three (3) hours we stop on the slopes of a steep ascent to cool down the engine and add water coolant from the river.

We park the vehicle and take a walk. Straight in front of us is the permanently snow-capped Tsmagarav Uul (4,202m).

We have a good view of the glacier. This area is part of the Tsambagarav Uul National Park.

We descend to the base of a 7m high waterfall.

The water is pure and ice cold.

Our lonely 4x4 parked in the barren landscape. Not far from here...

...we find this ger, home to a family of (8). The head of the household welcomes us.

At this altidute we did not expect nomads making their homes.

We are immediately invited into the cosy ger to share lunch. The women of the house prepares the traditional fermented milk tea.

As Mike gets comfortable beside the table by kneeling onto the ground,...

...we notice behind him freshly slautered animal parts hung up for drying.

In one corner a sack of milk was fermenting and dripping into a bucket below. A thick white yogurt like substance would build up inside the sack.

Note the grass inside the ger and of course no home is complete without a TV, a couple of 12V batteries charged by solar power and satellite dish.

In the centre of the ger is the oven for heating the interior as well as to cook and make tea.

We share the lunch and desert that was packed for us by Blue Wolf with the family. The peanut butter, strawberry jam and english style bread was a huge hit.

We had read that almost every ger in the country doubles as a tiny brewery or distillery. There was no escaping it now, as the head of the household pulls out a bottle of homemade airag or koumiss (made from fermented mare milk). It is tradition that the host pours a bowl of the home made distilled brew and hands it to the guest, who then performs a short ritual to honour the sky gods and four cardinal directions.

The ritual consists of dipping the left ring finger into the drink and flicking into the air four times before wiping your finger across your forehead. Then you take a sip of it and hand it back to the host who in turn also takes a sip from the same bowl. This ritual is performed with each guest and continued throughout our entire stay.

This was the lady of the house, who continuously ensured that we had enough milk tea.

The chief of the household, who was in charge of pouring the homemade airag or koumiss (alcohol made from fermented mare milk).

We watch as water is brought in from the near by river in a bucket and dumped into a large bowl on top of the wood/yak dung burning stove. As water starts to boil, pieces of tea from a tea block are chopped off...

...and added to the water. Then the brew is filtered and milk added.

This picture is priceless. The entire family gather for a picture inside the ger. Three (3) generations of Mongolians.

Outside horses with colorful saddles are tied up.

We take a closer look at the yaks.

Clothes and...

...Yak dung is spread out on the grass for drying.

Ruby with second generation daugther.

It is time to make our way back to Olgii.

The view of the vast steppe below before our descent.

The 4x4 trail ahead of us.

The picture does not cleary show the steepness and dangerous drop-offs.

Back at our camp, the owners are setting up a new ger in the yard.

July 29, 2010. We leave Olgii behind and start the long journey to the capital of Mongolia. It takes /-50hours of riding of some not very pleasant road conditions.

50km south of Olgii we pass the Tolbo Nuur, a fresh water lake at 2080m. It makes for a nice change in the treeless scenery.

Our first significant water crossing.

Mike takes a closer look to determine the best way to cross.

As Mike crosses the river, a father and son Polish team in a modified Mitsubishi van arrive as well.

Our first encounter of a large herd of wild camels grazing in the steppe.

Ruby rides past them. These camels, called the Mongolian Bactrian camels, ...

...are the two (2) humped type with shaggy wool coat.

If it is not camels grazing, then it is wild horses.

The 230km stretch between Olgii and Khovd City is not bad and we are able to cover the distance in six (6) hours.

In Khovd City we check into the Myangan Ugalzit Hotel (we are the only guests). We received the lux room (which means deluxe room) for 25,000Togrog ($18.00)/night.

The room was on the second floor and consisted of a bedroom, living room, toilet room and shower room.

We pick up a bottle of Chinggis Khaan Vodka, just in case we are invited into a ger again.

We had met Ian from Great Britain on his Yamaha Tenere earlier. He was traveling with the father and son Polish team in the van. We convinced them to stay with us at the deserted hotel.

July 30, 2010. Around 7am we leave Khovd City and the Altai Mountains behind heading south-east into the Gobi Desert.

We come upon another ovoo, one of Mongolia's many stone cairns, which seem to be located mainly on top of hills.

50km along the track we get our best view of Khar Us Nuur (Dark Water Lake), which is the second largest fresh water lake in Mongolia.

We are unable to get close to it due to the marsh that surrounds it.

The tracks start to deteriorate and we have large sections of washboard.

If it is not washboard, then we are in the sandy part. Both are not pleasant.

A closer view of a Mongolian Bactrian camel.

Not sure how this got stuck in his nose.

We had planned to refuel in Darvi, but the Petrol Station was closed. We decide to use up our reserve (5) litre Benzin. It would take us to the larger town of Altai.

Not far from the Petrol Station we met up with a couple of Spanish motorcyclists who had motorcycle trouble. Mike was able to determine the cause and send them on their merry way. (for more details read journal)

The locals with their motorcycles were hanging out around the pumps and waiting for the owner, who probably went for lunch.

An interesting picture, as no matter how remote we are women are fashionably dressed, even with high heels.

After covering 293km we set up camp. The last 20km had been very bad washboard road.

Sitting in our folding chairs we take in the calming landscape.

From our tent we watch the sunset. Please proceed to Mongolia Pictures Page 2 to continue to follow our journey through the incredible country.

To proceed to Mongolia Pictures Page 2 or read the Mongolia Journal.