Thursday, August 30, 2018

Photography Tour, Camels, Horses, and a Ger Visit, Kharakhorum, Mongolia: August 29, 2018


Very near Kharakhorum we visited a group of camels. One of the young camels was hyper friendly and had been taught at least one trick. If you hold a cracker between your lips, the camel will take it. Dan volunteered to be the straight man in this gag. Before I could even snap the shutter, she grabbed the cracker leaving only cracker crumbs and camel saliva on Dan's lips. I think she really liked him because even without the cracker, she kept trying to smooch him.


Alison arranged for us to take photos of a photogenic Mongolian wrangler one early morning. His name is Batmunkh. Unfortunately, on that morning, the light was terrible and while Batmunkh seemed to be enjoying the attention, he was in a hurry to move on.


Late afternoon, we went on another ger visit. This was our first time in a Mongolian ger which is smaller and less decorated than the Kazakh gers.


These gers are occupied by two brothers, their wives, and daughters. Gombo, the older brother is married to Jambal and their daughter is Narangarav. Byambasuren, the younger brother, is married to Ganchimeg and they have a daughter named Maralgoo.

First, Jambal showed us how she milks the mares. The milk is fermented into Airag. The fermentation process destroys the lactose thereby allowing those who are lactose intolerant (like many Mongolians) to drink it. With an alcohol percentage of about 2% it is consumed by all ages.

Jambal milking a mare while her brother-in-law Byambusuren holds the colt
With the milking finished, Byambusuren and Gombo showed off their horsemanship skills. The long stick with the loop of rope at the end known as an "uurga." This is how Mongolian horsemen lasso their horses. Theoretically, the rope is slipped over the head of a galloping horse and the rope slides down the pole to tighten around the horse's neck allowing the horseman to gain control of the fleeing horse.

Gombo Ochir husband of Jambal
Byambasuren, husband of Ganchimeg




During most of our visit, it had been lightly sprinkling. As the rain stopped and the clouds let the sun through, the most vivid rainbow that I've ever seen suddenly appeared.



Gombo with his niece Maralgoo and daughter Narangarav
We were invited into their home where we were offered airag and eventually vodka. We also tried distilled mare's milk--another acquired taste. It is not polite to refuse the offered hospitality so better to put the cup to your lips and pretend.



Narangarav and Maralgoo, age 9,
before they put on their fancy dresses
Snuff bottles and the contents are prized possessions in Mongolia. When men meet, they each offer their snuff bottle to the other. Correct procedure is to admire the bottle, open it, and smell the contents. Then the bottles are returned carefully to the owner who usually wraps the bottle in a cloth and stashes it inside his deel (robe). We watched as Byambasuren exchanged snuff bottles with Baagi (our driver).


There was singing and toasting and gifts were given by us to our hosts. 



Back on the other side of the river and high on a hill near the monument to Chinggis Khan, we watched the sun set over Kharakhorum.


On the tops of hills or next to roads we often saw piles of stones adorned with scarves, skulls, or other bits. These mounds are called "ovoos" and the stones are deposited by Buddhist pilgrims as offerings to the deities. Pilgrims circumambulate the ovoos three times, clockwise, while reciting mantras and adding rocks, scarves, money to the pile. They ensure good luck for the traveler.



Next stop: The Gobi Desert

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