The highland Altai region in western Mongolia is remote and rugged but blessed with unspoiled nature and amazing landscape. The region is mainly resided by ethnic Kazakh herders, who move around according to seasons, bringing along their mobile home the yurts and livestock, such as horses, camels, sheep, and cows. In this trip, we shall follow a household – the family patriarch is also an eagle hunter – to experience the annual migration from winter spot to spring grazing ground. The migration route is tough, and the weather merciless, yet the herders exhibit their resilience and adaptability to the environment in accomplishing the migration year after year, generation after generation.
This is a migration trip like no other, a journey with a family, through thick and thin.
Board a late-night flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, fly to Seoul, Korea for transit to Mongolia. (Remarks: tour members embarking from other countries may opt to meet the group during transit or in Ulaanbaatar)
Morning lands in Seoul, then catch a connecting flight in the afternoon to Ulaanbaatar, upon arrival transfer to a hotel in downtown. After dinner, retire early to bed to ease fatigue from long haul flights.
Early morning transfer to airport, catch a domestic flight to Olgii, the provincial capital of Bayan-Olgii in Altai region. Lunch upon arrival, later, visit the local market, where members could stock up winter gears suitable for local weather if needed, such as thick wool socks, gloves, winter cap. Overnight in Olgii.
After breakfast, transfer to Ulaanhus, where the host family – the patriarch is eagle hunter – winter home is located. Join the herder family in making preparation for the migration, such as packing and loading things onto the truck. The family’s women and children will take the truck to spring camp site, while the men would spend 5 days herding horses, camels, sheep, cows and yaks (with eagle tagging along) to move towards the new location.
Day 1 of the migration. Embark early in the morning. The herders would bring along their tents, food supplies, cooking utensil, and animal feeds for the livestock. We shall join the herders in walking with the animals for some 30km today. The support cars will follow the group, in case tour members get exhausted or feeling too cold, may hop into the support car. Overnight in yurt.
Day 2 of migration. Similar routine as day 1, moving slowly through snow carpeted landscape, facing possible challenges from weather condition. Learn about the survival skills of the Altai herders and their nomadic lifestyle. Overnight in yurt.
Day 3 of migration. Follow similar routine like before. Today’s overnight spot is at Buudal, a state-owned camp dedicated for nomads when they make a stop before the high pass at lake Khar nuur. The nomads of Sagsai and Ulaank-hus make a stop at Buudal for shelter.
Day 4 of migration. Today’s route would be more challenging, as the snow is deeper and the area very windy. Some weak animals might not be able to follow the pace of migration, and instead would be transported by camels. Witness how the nomads overcome difficulties and find solutions for ensuring a smooth migration.
Final day of migration. Arrive at the spring camp in the afternoon, being welcomed by women and children of the family, who have reached the new home ground a few days ago with truck. A sumptuous dinner will be served in celebration of a successful migration. Share the joy of the family and enjoy traditional Kazakh food.
A leisurely day spent at the Spring camp. It is a beautiful and isolated spot in the snow covered mountains of Altai Tavan Bogd national park near the lake Dayan nuur. Make a day trip to Dayan nuur, exploring the area and driving on ice (or one might even walk on the frozen lake).
Today we shall learn more about the eagle hunting tradition. The eagle hunters mounted on horseback with their golden eagles, giving explanation and demonstration on how it works. In the evening, gather around bonfire for a farewell party with the host family, sing and dance the night away.
Bid farewell to the host family, drive back to Olgii. Upon arrival, check in to a hotel and have a good scrub down, finally, hot bath/ shower is available. At night, enjoy a small concert by Kazakh folk singers, accompanied by traditional instruments.
Take a domestic flight back to the capital city Ulaanbaatar. In late afternoon, take a stroll at the nearby Chenghis Khan Square, a popular hang-out place for the locals. Suggest going for Korean food for dinner, the city has a sizable Korean community and offers authentic Korean cuisine.
Free and easy day. Sites of interest include Gandantegchinlen Monastery and Mongolian National Museum. Tour members may also opt to visit the State Department Store for last minute souvenir shopping.
After lunch, transfer to airport. Take a flight to Seoul, Korea for transit, however, due to extended layover hours, upon landing in Seoul, check-in to a hotel nearby the airport for rest before boarding the connecting flight the next day.
Early morning transfer back to the airport for the connecting flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. Arrival in the afternoon.
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Lam Yuet is an avid traveler, leaving her trails in four continents of the world. She had once spent two years making an Asia-Europe overland journey. Her tales from the road have been published under three titles – The Grand Overland Voyage, A State Called Home, and My Private Map.
She was a feature journalist, specialized in travel writing. As her former job involved lots of oversea assignments, she had experienced luxurious business tour as well as travel on a shoestring. Backpacking is still her preferred choice.
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