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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



July 15. DAY ONE: TUUL RIVER  We were ready to leave for our countryside trip by around 10am, after having some breakfast at Bernard's. The weather started out a bit gray and there was some drizzle as we headed out of UB but it cleared up for the afternoon and we were really hoping that we'd be blessed with good weather for the rest of our countryside trip.  After about an hour out of UB we passed an enormous hawk eating lunch on the side of the road.  When we pulled over he eyed us carefully but didn't go very far away.  He was reluctant to distance himself from the goat's head he was eating, clearly something he'd gotten off of a local family not through his own initiative.  I snapped a few shots of him but when we didn't leave right away he swooped farther into the field to wait for us to go away.  Mongolia was supposed to be full of wildlife and the prospects of seeing other animals was exciting. Our main stop for the first day would guarantee at least one other wildlife viewing, the Khutai National Park, a park dedicated to the reintroduction of Mongolia's Takhi wild horse.

The entrance to the park had a nearby ger camp and a small museum about the history of the Takhi horse in Monoglia.  The park was started through the help of a Dutch Foundation and since opening the population of wild Takhi horses had reached about 150 in the park.  Due to environmental difficulties, namely Mongolia's severe winters that continue to claim the lives of many domestic and wild animals, and human destruction the Takhi horse had become extinct in Mongolia, its homeland.  However, specimens survived in zoos around the world so the horses were being bred in other countries and flown to Monoglia for reintroduction.   

The Tahki is a small horse with distinct features.   It has a tan color, with the males being a bit darker than the females, a dark stripe down its back from mane to tail, dark markings on its knee joints, a short mane, and larger head than domesticated horses.  The guide that took us around the museum ger told us that the wild horse also has more chromosomes than a domesticated horse.  I asked if there had been any inbreeding between Takhi and the domestic Mongolian horse.  The guide said not but more than a few horses at the Naadam shared similar features with a Takhi so I have to believe they crossed gene pools at some point in history.  The museum visit finished with a video showing how they started the park and how the barrier area around the park was also being developed so the local people benefited as well.  The barrier area part of the project helped the nomadic people learn crafts that they could use to earn additional income.

The park guides were out with other groups looking for a harem of horses to view.  We ate some lunch while we waited for one to return.  Dusk was supposed to be the best time to view the horses because they come down to the river to get water but we were hoping some could be located in time for our visit.  When the guides returned the word was that they had found one herd but we would have to walk about 1km to view them.  So, we were off.

When we reached the area we had to walk up hill a bit before the guide could show us where the herd was grazing. We were still quite far so they were only recognizable with binoculars.  A couple of Australian woman joined us as we climbed further up the hill to get a look.   We could only get within 200m without disturbing them and at that range we could seem them okay without the binoculars.  They knew we were there as well and kept looking to keep at eye on us. There were 8 adult horses and three babies.  Only one adult was male and this was his harem, which he guarded and kept within a territory that was specified by his defecation.  After a lingering look we wandered back to the car and set off through the park, away from the main entrance.  

Amara had seen us looking at the photos of an 8-9th c man stone collection that was arranged on the far side of the park so he took some initiative to find out where it was and take us there.  It was his first time to locate this site so when he became uncertain as to whether we were going in the right direction he veered off of the dirt road and headed straight for a ger.  The local nomads pointed us in the right direction.  They moved around in the region during the seasons but always staying in the same general area so it was even possible to stop for directions on the open steppe.

The man stone collection was quite good.  A number of them were well in tact but the site was in no way being protected.  The stones were just assembled in a group and looked strange just sitting alone in the midst of the grassland.  From the man stones we took a different road back up and over the hills to returned to the highway.  We passed a large ovoo along the way and stopped to take in the view.

Our campsite wasn't far for the first night.  We drove past a few other tourist camps and chose a quiet spot for ourselves along the Tuul River.  It was a beautiful spot but our enjoyment of the scenery was immediately dampened by the hellish population of insects.  They were incredibly vicious.  Our caustic 3M repellent helped but was only effective on exposed skin.  The very large biting flies didn't let clothes stop them from trying to get at our blood.  Fortunately, as the sun started to set (around 9:00pm) they bugs gradually faded away.  We made our dinner of pasta and cheese from the tailgate of the truck.  The cooking supplies were limited to one pot and a gas burner but we managed.  Across the river we could see a scattering of herdsmen gers and herds of horses and camels grazing.  

ULAAN BAATAR July 2-3 July 4-5 July 6 July 7-8

NAADAM July 9-10 July 11 July 12 July 13

COUNTRYSIDE July 14 July 15 July 16 July 17 July 18 July 19 July 20-21


BALDAN BARAIVAN July 25-30 Intro About Baldan Baraivan Mani Buteel Buddhist Festival The Restoration Work Another Naadam & About CRTP

ULAAN BAATAR July 31-Aug 1