Man eating camels and a wolf? The Altai Tavan Bogd by horseback – Day 1 and 2

Crossing the river between Khurgan and Khoton Nuur (lakes)

Crossing the river between Khurgan and Khoton Nuur (two lakes)

After a long journey by car to the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park (photos here), we were finally ready to start our trip to the Potanin Glacier by horseback. The first set back was that due to almost non stop rain for the last two weeks some of the rivers were too high to ford and the high rocky pass, which we needed to cross, was covered with snow, which would be difficult for the horses, we therefore decided to take a slightly longer route around the mountains.

Luckily after all the rain of the past weeks we awoke to beautiful blue skies and a baby yak outside our tents. After packing and managing to load up the two pack horses, we were off! The pictures from here on are taken both by my Canon EOS 40D and my slightly less clear but drop proof and water proof Olympus – perfect for taking photos while on horseback.

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A young yak calf outside our tent

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A ger by Khurgan Nuur

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Heading along the north side of Khurgan Nuur with one of our little packhorses

We stopped for lunch consisting of a tomato and cucumber salad complete with cured horse meat – much tastier than boiled mutton which is their other staple meat. Piers quickly got his fishing rod out and had a few casts while we finished our lunch.

Fly fishing on Khurgan Nuur

Fly fishing on Khurgan Nuur

An orchid

An orchid

As Mongolians don’t name their horses we decided to give them our own names for practical purposes. We switched every day so we got to try them all and so that we minimized rubbing from the saddles.  The saddles consisted of a metal frame covered in wool and enclosed in leather. This was Fred – the laziest of the bunch.

As Mongolians don't name their horses we gave them our own names. This was Fred - the laziest of the bunch.

After lunch we had a very long and rocky ride which did not lend itself to moving at great speed…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, after a very long day we reached a naturally sheltered bowl where we set up camp. We saw lots of wildlife in the form of rodents – ground squirrels, pikas, and even a little hamster! As the light started to fade I caught a glimpse of either a deer or an argali sheep on a nearby ridge and shortly afterwards I saw this chap limping along with a broken or severely damaged leg. I know it seems improbable to see a wolf so close but we were 15km from the nearest ger and most of the dogs we saw were black and white sheepdog types so it seems unlikely to have been a dog…. Could it have been a wolf? Any thoughts?

An injured wolf?

An injured wolf?

Early the next morning I walked back to some Kazakh tombs.

Kazakh tombs in the shape of a ger

Kazakh tombs in the shape of a ger

Kazakh tombstone

Kazakh tombstone

A sleepy Gonz in the early morning light

A sleepy Gonz in the early morning light

Soon we were off and riding quickly across wide plains. After a couple of hours we spotted a herd of Bactrian camels so we went over to investigate.

A herd of Bactrian camels

A herd of Bactrian camels

They were not as benign as they looked and soon we were being chased by a rather aggressive one. Our guide tried to say they sometimes eat people but I think something may have been lost in translation…

My two friend being chased by a camel

My two friend being chased by a camel

Our horsemen fording a river with the pack horses before lunch.

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Our lunch stop was near another set of Kazakh tombs – this time made of mud bricks. The next four hours were all uphill and we went past some beautiful alpine wildflower meadows.

Kazakh tombs in the Molgoit Valley

Kazakh tombs in the Molgoit Valley

Ginger trailing behind up the hill

Ginger trailing behind up the hill

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alpine poppies

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It also became a lot colder and windier and we were all a little bit worried about finding a suitable campsite. Finally we found a herder’s winter hut which provided some protection and shelter.

Our bleak campsite for night number two

Our bleak campsite for night number two

Stoic horses calmly stood still as the temperature dropped and the wind increased

Stoic horses calmly stood still as the temperature dropped and the wind increased

More to come soon…

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