MONGOLIA – Photographing the Kazakh Eagle Hunters – To Ulaanbaatar
Early to the airport again today: gear humping, Carnet process and additional security screening for lithium ion batteries.
Our Ulan Bator flight is on-time. Starting to see (more modern) versions of the faces I’ve studied for a year now in my research. Can’t wait. Fingers-crossed, only 2-more-days to our destination.
My Assistant Zak is outstanding to travel with; pleasant, capable, thorough, smart, and has great energy. He cares for the gear as if it’s his own. We take turns announcing ’10’ as we count, and recount the bag total with every move. Our bright yellow document pouch always in-hand.
Ulan Bator has a smell. A bit smoky, a bit indescribable, and cold as F**k.
Our local fixer, British expat Anna explains that the combination of coal fed power plants and the location of the city in a valley between 4 mountains creates and traps much of the pollution. Nice.
The airport-hotel drive is a thrill-ride. Accompanied by the smell of gasoline from our Russian van, the entire drive has rammed-full roads, and pedestrians crossing everywhere, with impunity.
It’s dark when we arrive at our hotel, nice place. We sit in the lobby for a quick meeting with Anna from the Panoramic Journey office, she has her 4 month old strapped-on in a baby backpack and looks ‘new-mother’ tired. We review itinerary and we are given our Mongolia ‘survival kit’; SIM cards, local mobile phones, first aid kit, satellite phone, coffee beans and bodum.
On Anna’s recommendation we dine next-door at Nomad, a Mongolian chain restaurant that we are told serves ‘excellent traditional Mongolian cuisine’, but as we eat, it occurs to us this is the Mongolian equivalent of Applebee’s, or Denny’s – but worse. For the rest of the trip we will refer to that dinner as that ‘boiled goat and potatoes in a bucket’ place.