MONGOLIA – Photographing the Kazakh Eagle Hunters – Meeting the Hunters

Sunday Dec 6 -Travel to Ulgii

(Nyamaa our driver in UB, always smiling)

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This morning is the best moment – after 4 days of travel, anticipation, gathering ourselves, we are taking the last steps towards our final destination.

We arrive at Jinggis Khaan airport at 8:45, only to find the check-in counter closed.  No sign of activity, zero, zilch.

At 10:00 staff arrive.  We experience the renowned Mongolian penchant for pushing and jostling.  Holy crap.  You have to experience it to fully appreciate it.  I feel as though we are all fighting for the last lifeboat.

Myself, Zak, our driver and fixer are full-on pushing-back other passengers who want to push past us, even as we are in the midst of our transaction.  Every one of our cases is weighed… 230 kilos total, we pay, per kilo, $US.  Ouch.

We learn there’s a possibility our equipment may not make the flight, tense times, until as our flight is boarding, our fixer relays the thumbs-up.

After clearing security, sitting in the boarding area, there is commotion among the ground crew, all passengers are brought back to redo the security process. Apparently, it was discovered that one of the passengers had bullets in his carry-on.

I’m struck by the notion, that having just spent six months shooting multiple campaigns for Air Canada, everything aviation feels very familiar.

Crisp and sunny, we bus out to a Fokker 50, a small prop-plane that can hold maybe 50 and squeeze-in for the 3 hour flight west.

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Success! We are in Ulgii, we made it and with all of our gear.

Ulgii is located in the westernmost province in Mongolia, at 1500 metres elevation, the population of the town is 30k, the province is 90k. 90% of the population are Kazahk, which is Muslim.

We are met by Aggie our guide as soon as we deplane, I instantly like him.  After grabbing a quick lunch at a delicious Turkish restaurant in Ulgii. We start the long drive to our final destination.During the hour and s half drive we get a first impression of the terrain which looks just like a vast gravel pit, rocks everywhere.

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Golden Eagle in Kazahk Home

We arrive at our host family home late afternoon, meet our first Golden Eagle! And get straight to scouting locations for tomorrow.

It’s dark and cold when we finish our day with a meal of mutton.