24 October 2007

Hustai Park

Posted by JonHaley under: Mongolia .

Took another rip out to the country last Saturday. It had been a few weeks since I’d been out of the city and I was totally feigning for some air that doesn’t taste like I’m living in a giant campfire.

This trip was out to Hustai Park, about 90 miles due west of UB (3hrs on Mongolian ass-breaking-bumpy dirt roads). Total cost for driver, guide, and food was around $25, which we’re still debating whether or not was a ripoff or a fair market price; hard to tell because we’re not in the tourist season and price-cutting for these type of expeditions can get ridiculous as everybody and their brother with 4×4 or van wants to take you out to the countryside, and they’ll do it for damn near free if they have to. Regardless, of the economics, I was resolved to continue my policy of jumping at any and every opportunity to get out of the city and see the “real” Mongolia.

Everything was brown and gray on the steppe, with the bright blue sky. A little rain or some snow would have gone a long way to making thing prettier, but it is a semi-arid desert and this time of year things are quite dead and colorless. One thing I didn’t realize about the steppe before I came, was just how little is actually growing on it. The plants are there but are very sparse, which explains why the animals need to graze over such huge areas.

The advertised attraction of the park, without a doubt, and believe me there was a ton of hype about it, is the Przewalski “wild” horses (Takhi in Mongolian). They are the only extant ancestors of modern horses and are making a propitious come back in the park after nearly “pullin’ a Dodo” in the 1900’s. We were actually able to see them grazing on a hill without too much driving around and got to within a few hundred meters before they started scattering off. Not gonna lie here I’m glad that the horses are back and doing good, but they really were not all that impressive, at least from where I was looking, they looked pretty much like regular horses with square heads. Nonetheless, Prince Phillip, Julia Roberts, and some really random unknown politician from Canada were up on the wall of famous visitors so there must be some sort of impalpable draw for those enamored with the Equus genus. I’m more of a yak and camel fan myself.

Didn’t get to see too much more of the park after seeing the dang horses, just drove a bit further, stopped for lunch, and turned around for home. Definitely a place I’ll try to checkout again in the spring though, as they have lots more animals, plants, sand dunes, and some 4000+ year old neolithic graves sites.
On the way back home we literally ran into a ridiculously huge herd of yaks, followed by an even bigger heard of sheep and goats. I think 1,100+ for the former and 4,203 for the later (I’m not sure they count everyday, but the herders seemed pretty confident with their figures, after all it’s not like one’s going to run off somewhere, or get eaten, they’re a herd! it makes things a lot easier to handle). It’s sounds like a big number, but in the vastness of the open steppe it looked pretty reasonable. What was really impressive was the fact that all these animals were being controlled by about seven or eight herders on horses, a few camels and a dog. They were on there 60th day of herding having come all the way from the western Aimags (provinces) to the abattoirs outside of UB. Not sure why there wasn’t an easy option for them, as I am sure they have abattoirs in the west, and it probably wasn’t helping the meat quality by making the animals walk that far. But, historically, it probably wasn’t that out of line. Abattoirs and livestock transport happen to be big issue with the farming side of my family right now, so I thought I throw that in.

I put a lil’video action up in the media section, not much but it might give you a better feel for things.


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One Comment so far...

riv Says:

25 October 2007 at 12:28 am.

Yah Yaks and camels way to go Jonny. Glad you got out…will it get so cold there you can’t in the next few months? sure does look wide open …have you been able to check out the starry nights too? Keep positive and grounded and you are not alone we think of you everyday. Mah

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