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Flying with Eagles – Koryo’s Golden Eagle Pageant Tour Expertise

In October, Koryo Excursions ran their very first Eagle Pageant Tour!

The eagle pageant is a standard pageant held out within the far west of Mongolia. The pageant sees eagle hunters collect from all around the area to compete and showcase their majestic birds and the unimaginable ability that goes into coaching and looking with Golden Eagles.

In case you’ve heard of the eagle pageant earlier than, which may be as a result of there’s multiple. Throughout March, there may be an eagle pageant in central Mongolia, though that is way more geared toward vacationers, and one other in early autumn which is sponsored by massive firms. The celebration we partake in could also be a great distance from civilization, nevertheless it’s the true, unique, native pageant.

This yr, as tourism begins to open up as soon as once more, we set off into the wilderness to hitch within the festivities alongside Mongolia’s eagle hunters. While we solely had a small variety of adventurers be a part of us on this journey, the expertise was properly value working.

This was our first tour to the Eagle Pageant and noticed our intrepid tour chief Wealthy spend every week out within the wilds of Bayan Olgii, Mongolia’s rugged, stunning westernmost province. You could have examine his different Mongolian adventures up to now on the Koryo weblog!

As with all of our Mongolia excursions, the journey started in Ulaanbaatar with a grand whole of three passengers! Armed together with his sister-in-law’s automobile and a tourism allow, Wealthy led the tour all through this breathtaking capital metropolis.

The primary spotlight of the journey was the Gandan Monastery, the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ulaanbaatar, house to an unlimited statue of a Buddha product of sandalwood and a fantastically appointed temple. Having loved the enjoyable environment, neatly saved gardens, and historically styled buildings, the journey continued in a starkly totally different path – an enormous concrete Soviet monument constructed to honour the Soviet Union, an imposing reminder of Mongolia’s communist previous.

The Zaisan Hill Monument holds a socialist-realist mural on the within depicting the whole lot from troopers, Mongolian herders, cosmonauts, and much more.

Because the day drew to an in depth and the group loved a scrumptious lunch at an area restaurant, an opportunity to ease into Mongolian delicacies earlier than the true journey started, the day’s actions culminated in a stroll to the resort throughout the central sq., Sukhbaatar Sq., within the coronary heart of Ulaanbaatar, named for the revolutionary hero Damdin Sukhbaatar whose statue graces the centre of the sq..

The following day the journey continued, with a classically inconvenient Mongolian twist. Issues typically occur right here at quick discover, and we came upon early within the morning that it was ‘No Automotive Day’ in Ulaanbaatar. This inconvenience meant our go to to the Nationwide Museum was adopted by a stroll by means of the quiet streets of Ulaanbaatar to achieve an area restaurant and luxuriate in one closing style of civilization earlier than leaving town.

That afternoon, the group drove to Chinggis Khan Worldwide Airport and boarded the flight out to the far west. The airplane flew over a slowly freezing Mongolia, with the countless wilderness of the Mongolian steppe punctuated by patches of cleared floor the place native nomads had harvested feed for his or her animals readying for the oncoming sub-zero months.

Arriving in Bayan Olgii metropolis, the group we’re whisked off to their fantastically appointed Ger camp – a sequence of conventional Mongolian gers (yurts) which might function a base later in our adventures in and round Olgii Metropolis.

We woke as much as a hearty breakfast and loved the recent showers accessible on the ger camp earlier than assembly up with our wonderful transport for this journey, a pair of Uaz 452s – one for us, and one other for our devoted kitchen crew. The Uaz 452 is a wierd car, it all the time appears to journey sooner off-road than it does on the tarmac. So, with our autos ready and well-stocked, we set off for the glacier rattling alongside the uneven terrain we bid farewell to tarmac and civilisation for nearly every week!

Simply as all appeared properly, we obtained a warning of unhealthy climate, a standard hazard on this a part of the world, however one which risked upending our whole expedition! We had been informed if we needed to see the glacier, a real spotlight of the area, we would want to go off right away and climb to see this unimaginable sheet of ice that very day earlier than the unhealthy climate set it. With the danger of lacking out on this unimaginable sight, we had a fast itinerary change and headed off for an journey to our vacation spot the Potanin Glacier.

On the best way to the glacier, we made a cease at a small nook store the place we overindulged in a little bit of retail remedy, so, with sufficient beer to inventory a small off-license, items for native households, and snacks for us, we set off.

Having labored with our companions within the area for years, we belief their experience; their advice turned out to be good. Regardless of the clear air and heat solar, we may see the unmistakable signal of heavy snow clouds effervescent up over the horizon. The glacier itself was stunningly stunning, actually a possibility for some superb pictures, however we may really feel the wind selecting up – in the course of the summer time, at one of many main viewpoints there are spiritual stacks of stones known as Ovo’s these are usually wrapped in prayer flags which flutter within the breeze however as winter was drawing close to, many had been blown over, a transparent signal that summer time was quick disappearing.

Getting back from the glacier, we joined our crew in establishing the campsite and, to our shock, the kitchen crew had been already onerous at work making ready us a scrumptious dinner. We headed to mattress, barely aggrieved at having to vary the itinerary and miss out on a part of our mountain hike in case of some as-yet-unseen unhealthy climate. Nonetheless, the group was thrilled at having seen one in every of Mongolia’s most really superb highlights.

That evening, the magic of the day was considerably undermined by my very own midnight expertise – waking up for a visit to the bathroom I discovered our rest room tent had blown over, not eager to wake anyone up I made a decision to go across the nook as an alternative, nonetheless, there was no moon so I used to be out of the blue forged into an environment of pitch darkness – not splendid given the circumstances! Regardless of this personal little private journey, the day was a whole triumph!

The following morning I hoped I’d open my tent to a winter wonderland, justifying the change in schedule. Nonetheless, because the group gathered, it was clear that the “Beast from the… Northwest” had failed to seem. The effervescent stream that ran parallel to our campsite was nonetheless working as easily as ever and the Tavan Bogd nationwide park maintained its ubiquitous autumnal darkish inexperienced/brown color so far as the attention may see.

Persevering with the journey, we drove deeper into the Altai Tavan Bogd area in the hunt for the subsequent evening’s hosts – an area Tuvan household close to the White River, who would educate us about life within the area, and even give us recommendations on archery! Alongside the best way we stopped, like the nice Samaritans we’re, to assist an area household take down their visitor yurts. As winter was drawing close to, and with the specter of this imminent climate, they requested if we wish to assist disassemble their household yurt. What was barely embarrassing was the unimaginable velocity and ability with which they took the entire thing down – faster than we had been capable of pack up a couple of two-man tents within the morning!

Persevering with on we stopped to go to an area nomadic faculty in an area village – an ideal likelihood to work together with locals, and the youngsters of nomads.

Trundling on additional upriver, we stopped within the shadow of Shiveet Khairkan. Our host, a fairly portly Tuvan gentleman, who knowledgeable us he’d spent the day transferring from his summer time yurt to his winter homestead. Usually he mentioned he’d transfer later, however as soon as once more the hearsay of this impending storm had inspired him to maneuver sooner fairly than later.

After an satisfying night collectively in camp, and maybe a glass or two of scrumptious home made vodka and copious quantities of toasting, I shortly popped out for some recent air and to my shock, it was a whole white-out. Lastly, the storm had arrived, and what a storm it was. The snow hammering down utterly obscured any try and see various ft forward. Though I did really feel, to some extent, vindicated – if we’d been up on the glacier on this, fairly than ingesting with a big Tuvan, issues might haven’t ended so properly!

The following morning, we awoke early with the dawn to observe the solar peek above the horizon, mirrored within the icy water of the White River. Our host took the chance to present us an impromptu lesson in Mongolian archery, a standard sport, and ability on this a part of the world.

By now, the snow had melted round our tents, however the peaks of the mountains which surrounded us had been nonetheless tipped with glistening white, a reminder of the unimaginable show of mom nature we’d witnessed the night earlier than.

Bidding our hosts farewell, we set off. Our vacation spot as we speak was Khoton lake, one other spectacular spotlight of the Altai Tavan Bogd area. Once we arrived, we confronted an sudden subject – the herders we deliberate to stick with had disappeared. The climate forecast over the previous couple of days meant lots of the households on this scenic space had moved to extra dependable floor slightly sooner than deliberate.

Ultimately, we had been invited to remain on the ranger’s station, not fairly what we’d deliberate, nonetheless we realized from the native ranger {that a} household nonetheless remained within the surrounding forest; so we set off to search out them. Ultimately, having pushed deep into the wilds of this Mongolian pine forest we met the native household, pitched our tents and loved our night, glad that the worst of the climate was over… or so we thought.

Waking up the subsequent morning I skilled essentially the most unimaginable silence, not a sound may very well be heard, nearly as if I used to be underground. Regardless of the freezing night, I’d simply skilled, the morning out of the blue felt hotter, and cosier than I had anticipated. After a couple of minutes of having fun with my newfound rest, I got here to the conclusion that it was suspiciously too quiet.

Opening up the interior lining of the tent, the same old patchy rays of sunshine shining by means of the outer layer of the tent didn’t seem – which was odd. Was it nonetheless nighttime? Opening the outer layer I found the stunning fact; the snow had continued falling all evening and I used to be basically buried! After digging myself out of my snowy slumber, my thoughts turned to a extra vital subject – the tour group. After some frantic digging and some alternative exclamations, I began pulling snow away from their tents, ultimately revealing the door I imagined myself liberating our intrepid travellers from their icy confines; though because it turned out they’d uncared for to remain within the tents and had as an alternative opted to sleep within the heated Ger behind us!


We had deliberate to proceed on to go to a close-by waterfall, however the excessive snowfall made the onward journey treacherous at least, and lethal on the most, particularly since we couldn’t even see the place the winding path lead – so, as an alternative we spent the day with our hosts. We lit a hearth, creating a comfy indoor ambiance of their little wood home and loved the view exterior because the snow continued to softly fall, selecting the branches of the timber surrounding us. After a day of enjoyable, with a quick interlude to assist herd some Yak, we headed again to mattress, hoping the subsequent day would convey some clearer driving climate to assist us get away and proceed the journey.

The following morning, fortunately, the wind had cleared a lot of the heavier snow out of the best way which allowed us a window of alternative to get again on the street. Nonetheless, a lot to our dismay, the wind that had cleared the trail for us had created big snow drifts – some as much as waist-deep. Sadly, one of many many unusual jobs of a tour chief is to verify the autos are capable of traverse the terrain; this took the type of me repeatedly disembarking the Uaz and strolling by means of the drifts forward of the automobiles to examine the depth.

Ultimately, after a day of stress and fear, blended with concern that we would have to return again to the household, we encountered a car headed in the direction of us in the other way – an indication that the street forward may be much less treacherous than the street behind.

Later that night we arrived again in Olgii Metropolis – on our means in we stopped for a welcome cup of tea with an area eagle hunter, an indication of issues to return! Regardless of being one in every of many eagle hunters within the area, he knowledgeable us he wouldn’t be competing this yr as his eagle was nonetheless too younger – nonetheless he was good sufficient to present us a small demonstration and allow us to all pose for photographs.

After a last-minute change of plan attributable to some frozen water pipes at our supposed in a single day cease, we arrived at an area ger camp and at last acquired some well-deserved relaxation.

The following morning we felt embraced by Olgii Metropolis… primarily as a result of our ger camp had unimaginable showers and the primary likelihood to scrub with heat water since we arrived. So, after some lengthy showers and a fast shave, we set off for the day’s journey; the Golden Eagle Pageant.

Having stopped on the native retailers to select up some snacks, we handed the lads on horseback travelling by means of town of Olgii with their eagles on their arms – clearly on their option to partake on this unimaginable spectacle.

The pageant itself is held close to big rocky outcrops with a big area arrange within the centre. Surrounding the sector had been dozens of stalls promoting the whole lot from jackets and Kazakh carpets to drinks and snacks. Regardless of having a schedule to, in idea, preserve issues organised, the precise occasion was way more relaxed and disorganized – like a stopped clock, the official schedule was solely appropriate about twice all through the entire day.

The eagle hunters started to assemble for the opening ceremony – after years of travelling right here, I realised I knew lots of the taking part eagle hunters, and after a couple of years of Covid, it was good to see many of those older males had survived, persevering with to contain themselves on this unimaginable pageant. It was heartwarming to see the numerous younger, new eagle hunters – offering some hope that this celebration will proceed safely into the long run.

On high of the unimaginable sight of Golden Eagles, the hunters themselves wore some extremely immaculate costume – from conventional fur coats to intricate Kazakh costumes, each the hunters and their birds had been really a sight to behold.

At that second, I heard my identify being known as from behind me – to my delight, it was an eagle hunter I had met a couple of months earlier than who was strolling in the direction of me, reminding me I nonetheless owed him cash from a visit a couple of months earlier. Handing over round 20 {dollars} value of Mongolian tugrik, he tucked it up his sleeve and climbed straight into the world to start his presentation.

The pageant started with the opening ceremony – carrying the Mongolian flag, and with some Kazakh hunters carrying the Kazakh flag, the hunters, 40 or so, rode spherical and around the central area with their birds on their arms.

Amongst the male-dominated subject, there have been three or 4 feminine eagle hunters from the youthful technology. All being watched by big crowds, typically together with retired eagle hunters arriving to observe and help the present technology.

Shortly afterwards, they started to announce the occasions that will be happening. A combination of various occasions makes up the Golden Eagle Pageant;

–    One occasion is a contest during which every hunter is judged on their costume, the standard of their eagle, their horses, and the way spectacular every hunter seems with their eagle collectively.

–    One other consists of the hunter on horseback, with their assistant taking the eagles to the highest of the encompassing mountains – the preparation for this competitors takes round 20 minutes as these assistants clambered up the mountain. Then, by means of walkie-talkies, the assistants introduced every fowl ahead one after the other as every hunter known as their eagle from down within the area – the additional away the hunter from the eagle, the extra factors are scored.

–    Looking with a lure is one other competitors class. The eagle is one once more taken to the mountaintop while the hunter rides across the area with a lure hooked up to the again of the horse, typically rabbit skins, with factors scored based mostly on the space of the eagle from the lure.

As with all true-to-life occasions, there are all the time components of comedy blended in. Typically the eagles would get distracted and fly into the crowds, generally they might be distracted by different eagles, generally they might fly down, land, and simply watch their hunter driving round calling them, and one time, an eagle flew straight into the commentary field and perched subsequent to the commentator.

General it was a very unimaginable occasion. After so lengthy being closed off from one another because of the pandemic, for a lot of, this was a uncommon likelihood for individuals to fulfill and reunite – not solely the hunters who would had hardly ever left their villages, however tour leaders from throughout Mongolia, native drivers who normally know one another very properly, however with out tourism had not seen one another for years, and different locals and foreigners who had an opportunity to fulfill and work together for the primary time in years.

Alongside the accessible native meals, we had our personal kitchen crew onsite making ready our personal meals which added a layer of consolation to the expertise after every week of gruelling journey!

After the two-day occasion got here to an in depth, we boarded our airplane from one of the distant areas on the planet again to the hustle and bustle that’s Ulaanbaatar. Bringing to an in depth a very unimaginable journey.



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