Sunday, January 23, 2011

Traveling in Zavhan

Five of us, - my colleague Oyungerel, the aimag tourism officer, representative from Greengold a pasture management project funded by Swiss Development Company and our driver- spent two days visiting herder projects in the aimag. Traveling in the winter in Mongolia is amazing. From Uliatsu, the capital of Zavhan, we drove to Erdenekhairkhan  where we stayed the night, we then drove onto some amazing sand dunes covered in snow before heading to Doruljin and then back to Uliatsu. Zavhan is not on the main tourism trail and traditional customs survive uncorrupted by exposure to international travelers. When hungry or thirsty we drove upto a ger, asked that the dogs were safe, and were invited in for tea, and fed buzz or meat, all for no payment. Should we encourage tourism in these places?

Relaxing in the hotel in Erdenekhairkhan

Steaming Buuz

Monastery at Erdenekhairkhan

These icons are made from animal fat
Monastery at Erdenekhairkhan

Relaxing at minus 20C


Collecting water, usually water is collected in trolleys, a friend suggested that this reflects the strong Chinese influence in Zavhan, there was a large Chinese settlement at Uliastu in Manchu times.

At Doruuljin soum a mining company surveying gold deposits has provided this bank of solar panels which provides electricity to the population for five hours a day from 7pm to midnight. Two sons of our hosts were working for the mining company which employs about 60 local peoiple. They hopw that the mine will be developed as there are few opportunities in the soum.

A rangeland management meeting in Doriljin

It was minus 41C at night but the ger was warm

Community tree planting

J and his wife from Community group were pleased to show us the meadows outside Uliatsu where they had harvested  wagons of hay and planted trees. As the sun set we drank vodka, 2 black vultures drifted overhead, a goldeneye and a dipper ( a Mongolian tick) flew along the stream kept open by water from hot springs. The conversation turned to lack of support from regional government and undue influence of powerful landowners.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A bad day for wolves

Saturday was a bad day for wolves: as we drove into Uliastai we passed one strapped to the front of a land cruiser, then later when I was walking in town a jeep drove by with one strapped to the bonnet. Mongolians have always hunted wolves, and for the herders of the 30 million livestock the wolf is a respected adversary in the struggle for a livelihood. Now the balance has been changed by land cruisers, spotlights, powerful rifles and an urban elite. Wolves are still widespread and not protected, not even in protected areas and the hunting pressure is immense. A World Bank funded study in 2006 estimated 20-30000 wolves were killed in 2004 out of a total population of between 50 and 100 000.  I showed these pictures in the workshop the next day and we discussed wolves . “Hunting was necessary but if there were no wolves there would be no animals. They were surprised that they were almost extinct in western Europe and farmers paid not to shoot them”. Later I asked my colleague Oyungerel about the use of wolves in traditional medicine, - the stomachs are used to cure stomach problems, and ankle bones are worn by guys to increase their strength and luck.Apparently it is especially lucky to kill or even see a wolf in January. So Saturday was probably not an exceptionally bad day for wolves.


Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year

The New Year in Mongolia is a time for parties. Christmas is not celebrated. The trees which have appeared in main squares are for the new year.

Office parties are more formal than in england and usually include singing and musicians, lots of good food, presentations and presents to staff and dancing.