August 02 - August 18, 2011
M  O  N  G  O  L  I  A
Gobi , Altay Mountains & Hovds Gull Tour
Group Journal Day 08
Submitted by Kathy Kline
Aug.  09, 2011 Tuesday

Itinerary: Visit the Moslem city of Ulan Olgi, Drive through the Altai Mountains, Visit the Eagle Hunters. Overnight in Hovd city

  The long day of driving on bumpy mostly dirt and rocky roads began with an early 8:00 am departure from our lovely Kazakh Altai Peak campsite. From Boloroo, we learned about Kazakh cultural traditions: they care about cleanliness and wash their hands both before and after eating. To signify that you are finished drinking tea, hold your cup with your bent fingers from the top. Anything else will result in getting more tea poured into your cup. Kazakhs listen to their elders and respect them. Elderly parents select the poorest and weakest child, often the youngest, and ask them to live with them in their old age. Other siblings contribute to the family welfare. The daughter-in-law cannot sit on her in-laws’ bed. Guests sleep in the northern situated bed opposite the door. Since they tend to share the ger with in-laws, their children make love under a blanket after midnight when others in the ger have gone to sleep. Women put a pillow over their faces to smother sounds.

We made numerous photography shoot stops en route. Yvonne sprinkled some vodka at an ovoo as an offering. We passed Tsambgrarav, a snow-covered mountain.Mongolian scientists claim that they saw a tall snow “man” running fast. We photographed a mosque as Kazakhs tend to be Muslim. A stupa had the 4 animals: lion, bird/garuda guardian, dragon and tiger. Electricity was brought to this province in 1949.


Lake Tolbo is 18 km long. We took pee breaks using modest hills and the van for cover. We saw our first yaks which were black. Later, we saw cute yak babies and some ground squirrels. Interesting to see the numerous gers with both solar panels and satellite dishes.
Our first major stop was in the countryside where we encountered an eagle hunter with his bird. There are two types of eagles: steppe and mountain, the latter being used to hunt fox. They eat about 1 kilo of meat per day and can go 2-3 days without eating or drinking. We were welcomed into his 40 year old mother’s ger. She was stirring a pot over a fire in the process of making arak, liquor from horse and yak milk. We also tasted homemade yak tea (surprisingly good), yak cheese – soft and hard, biscuits with a liquid type of yak butter (unexpectedly good and somewhat sweet), and yak yogurt. The children stay with their uncle in town when they attend school. The 3 and 5 year old boys are still too young to go to school. The older boys loved trying out Jim’s digital camera. He pronounced them quite good.

We also stopped to photograph a man cutting grass with a lathe.  Our last night’s ger prepared box lunches were eaten mostly in our two vans as the wind and high altitude made it a bit chilly for an outdoor picnic. Cormorants were at a nearby island.

We passed several herds of 2 humped domestic camels, lots of horses, sheep and goats. We picked up a young O…man who was headed to Khovd from where he would take a 48 hour bus trip to Ulaanbaatar to attend college.

Our arrival in Khova was at 5 pm which was much earlier than we had anticipated. Many shared in a shot glass of Yvonne’s yummy smooth Mongolian vodka. Since we will remain here for 3 nights, we can settle in. Dinner at 7 pm began with pleasant cole slaw type salad followed white rice cooked by Meli, French fried potatoes and for the vegetarians, a selection of cooked vegetable strips, and meat for the carnivores.

The wind swirled and the rain in the distance brought fresh snow last night.

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