Our main goal for the Khustain Nuruu trip was to see takhi. Horses have been a huge part of my life since early childhood but I had never seen a true wild horse until this trip.
|Herd of takhi uninterested in posing for pictures but not nervous enough around humans to move very quickly. Despite the onset of spring, this river's ice crust was thick enough to support horses and people.|
|No more pictures! Mr. Sassy lets his troupe know that it is time to go.|
|Takhi coloring: variation on a theme|
|Mr. Sassy still has his eye on us from across the river|
|Takhi weren't the only amazing animals we saw that day. Several smaller herds of red deer dotted the hills in close proximity to the herds of takhi|
|Mr. Sassy is on the lookout as we continue to follow his retinue over the river and up the hill (Photo courtesy of Renee C.)|
After we had had our fill of wild horses, we made our way north back out of the park towards the main western road. Just past the park's borders we happened across a horse race.
|Surprise horse race just beyond the entrance to Khustain Nuruu National Park. We all got a good spattering of dust as the horses and their riders galloped past us.|
After lunch at a tsainii gazar (literally "tea place", more like a cafe) along the main western road, we headed south and then west through Uvurkhangai province towards Elsen Tasarkhai. Elsen Tasarkhai are the sand dunes along the Orkhon River in Central Mongolia, notable in that they are surrounded by non-desert environment. "Elsen Tasarkhai" roughly translates to "sandy split/division". It was about four hours from our lunch spot to the dunes but we were on a mission to find and ride camels. As the sun began to set, it seemed like we wouldn't be able to make it in time.
And then there were camels...
|Camels waiting for us at Elsen Tasarkhai|
|Closeup: camel saddle and septum piercing, which is the means by which one steers a Bactrian camel|
|This camel herder (temeechin) changes the camel's septum piercing for one more suitable for riding/steering. From where I stood, that looked like a painful process!|
|And we're off! The camel herders had us in group of three connected by lead lines. They walked alongside us on foot, meaning that there was little to do but sit back and relax (Photo courtesy of Renee C.)|
At first I was disappointed because we were grouped into threes and led by Mongolian handlers. Although I can admit that I was a bit unsure of how to guide, steer, and control a camel, this part was still a bit boring, as we didn't get above a walk. Our little caravan made its way across the flat sands up onto the towering dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai.
|Hooray for sand and camels! (Photo courtesy of Ninj)|
|It was a good day, sand in the face and all (photo courtesy of Ninj).|
A strange, creaky noise had been following our group from the beginning of the ride. We first brushed it off as some sort of rusted metal scraping against something that needed oil, as some of the lead lines had metal components. When I rode off by myself, I realized that horrible noise was coming from my camel! He was grinding his teeth in irritation, which somehow made the whole thing much worse.
|Miss Independent: by the time we headed back to camp, I managed to separate my camel from the group leadline and ride on my own. My camel was quite good and we managed a few stretches of proper trotting along the way (Photo courtesy of Ninj).|