Hustai National Park

20120627-174952.jpg

20120627-175001.jpg

20120627-175013.jpg

the Hustai National Park is now the only place where the wild Monglian horse can roam free. The Takhi (Prezwalskii) horse became extinct in Mongolia and through a world breeding program have been reintroduced to this 50,000 hectare park.

The park is approximately 120 kilometers from UB.

Saruul, our Mongolian artist friend invited us to stay overnight in a ger camp with him and also Tugsoo. Saruul is director of the History Museum. We Had a driver and a large Land cruiser to travel through the park.

The west of UB road to the park in also the road we travelled to khorkhorin two years ago and thankfully in a much better state than back then. It did however take us back over the atrocious muddy roadworks of recent trips. The cars slide about all over the place and in parts are still directed through service stations and I hope the servos are being compensated for no one in their right mind would try to stop to buy petrol!

Also along this stretch is the most beautify green steppe. The dry hills have turned green since our last journey here a couple of weeks ago. It is truly a glorious sight to see the great green plains of the steppe country wander into the mysterious horizons.

For first time we saw long stretches of fences with crops and possibly potatoes growing for miles. The new food basket of UB? The trouble with fences is it cuts down the herding options for the nomadic people who have had their own kind of boundaries for hundreds of years.

Small towns along the way service the cashmere and wool industries, buyers, sellers, rough looking fenced factories and all sorts of industry on the Edge of UB.

Turning into the park area we drive once again through little Gobi sand dunes dotted with small trees. These sand dunes far more lush than further south. There are many wild flowers coming out and small herds of horses sheep and goats.

We stayed at a large ger camp on the edge of the National Park and decided on having a large lunch and a siesta so we could drive into the park in the late afternoon and watch for the horses to come down from the rocky hills and feed in the river valley.

It was a sensible option. We headed ten kilometers on from the camp into the beautiful park and saw many marmots and prairie dogs scampering about their burrows. We came across a herd of goats and sheep, though herding was also banned in the park… There was only one fork in the road and we had taken the wrong one, as usual. We headed into some really stunning landscape and stopped many times to take photographs. We met another vehicle asked the way and offered to follow the truck back to the other fork. In the back of the truck were two very unhappy looking goats, guess someone’s dinner tonight. And Nadam Festival is coming up soon and goat is always a celebration meat on the menu.
Back on the right track wevery soon came across out first small family of wild Takhi horse. Not so far off the road there stood a group of small chestnut horses with their distinctive short main and stocky build. And one white horse with foal. It was something special. Able to take some good photographs with canon camera for downloading later at home.

As we moved around the park we were lucky to come across about 50 of the horses. In one beautiful valley we stayed and painted for a couple of hours. Many small rodents, grasshoppers and insects played a concert for us.

As the evening approached and the air grew cold we saw more family’s in growing herd numbers up to a dozen or so horses together.

It was nearly dark by the time we returned to our ger and prepared a slap up meal by the warmth of our ger stove. And a delicious sleep again under the covers of sheep felt in the round walled ger room.

We gave ourselves a generous sleep in this morning. It began to rain and we returned to Ulaanbaatar satisfied we had a good session with the wild Takhi horse.

it is election day tomorrow. All the faces posted across Ulaanbaatar have vanished and we have been still urged not to go out tomorrow for the fear of riots. This stems from the riots in recent years after elections. The warning has gone out to American nationals and other western peoples in Mongolia. We had planned to sit in the gallery with our exhibition with Tugsoo.

Desert Sharing III

The DESERT SHARING III project Exhibition opened last night at the UMA gallery in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. It was opened by David Lawson, the Consular General and Trade Commissioner for Australia who has announced the Desert Sharing Project is now officially part of the Australian and Mongolian’s 40 year celebration of Consular Relations.

The exhibition was well attended by the artists of Mongolia and other foreign visitors. Many speeches were made, mostly in Mongolian and music played.

For this showing of the Desert Sharing project Dr. J. Saruulbyan was invited to exhibit hs work too.
Saruul is the Mongolians History Museum Director and a fine writer, poet and painter who comes from Khenti aimag. It was due to his invitation we had our last exhibition Desert Sharing II at the museum. Of that he had been impressed we had gone to the far north east of Mongolia to work in his country. Most city Mongolians these days have roots in the countryside and have deep connections with their land. The pride of place is strong in Saruul’s work and when he talks of country.

20120626-090849.jpg

20120626-090910.jpg

Preparations for DESERT SHARING III EXHIBITION

Preparations for exhibition at the UMA Gallery in Mongolia are almost finalized. Today we delivered the works to the gallery.

Opening tomorrow evening at 6.00pm. We have Australian Consul and Trade Commissioner David Lawson to open the show along with the director of the Mongolian History Museum Dr. J. Saruulbuyan. We have also invited Saruul to exhibit with our work. Saruul as well as being director of history museum is also a very fine visual artist as well as a writer and poet.

The UMA Gallery is very large and we can accommodate Tugsoo and Saruuls large paintings. Unfortunately we were unable to bring large works because of the difficulty bringing from Australia.
We have smaller works and many photographs from various Australian and Mongolian landscapes taken over the past years travel together.i have had prints made in Mongolia 60 x 40.

20120625-002236.jpg

20120625-002243.jpg

Ulaanbaata, June 23, 2012

We have been back in Ulaanbaatar now for a few days and mostly have been preparing for next Desert Sharing III Exhibition to open on Monday evening at the UMA Gallery in Ulaanbaatar.

Preparations have included working on some of the paintings started in the Gobi Desert, selecting and printing the large photographs for the exhibition. It is fortunate that most places here are open long hours so we can source materials and services.

As we have commented on previously, Ulaanbaatar is quite a different place to the serenity of the Mongolian countryside. The traffic in the city is chaotic and with the recently rain even more hideous to negotiate because there are huge puddles; or small lakes on the roads and footpaths. There are some crazy drivers who delight is speeding past pedestrians and soaking them with muddy spray. There is little attention paid to the drainage system and a mystery as to where the water is supposed to go.

Have met some Australian Soroptomist women for a second time in Tugsoo’s studio. They have been on a couple of adventures into the countryside and took a short horse riding tour. spring was not the best time to work with animals as the herds have recently come out of winter and as they described grossly thin and unwell. For a couple of mad horsey women this was very distressing. Summertime is when Mongolia comes alive. It’s the time for the large Nardam festival and all manner of festivities and holiday time. Schools and universities close for three months. Students often use this time to get out of the city and work in holiday ger camps to make some money, or anywhere they can find work.

Had another day in the country with Lkhamaa whol took me back to her relatives ger camp with the beautiful Yaks to meet Otga again and have a dress fitting for the traditional dell she is sewing for me. It’s a beautiful piece of Textile art and will be the most treasured spending I do in Mongolia. I plan to use the outfit as part of our Mongolian exhibitions in the Eltham South gallery. The dress is constructed from a turquoise blue silk with various bands of embroidery and the outer coat a red silk with black and gold braid. It is a traditional married woman’s celebration outfit. The sleeves will be made of green stitched silk and will hang down to my knees. This is so when the Mongolian cold weather sets in you can tuck your arms inside the sleeves. It is not a simple outfit for everyday use!

Staying at the ger camp currently as about 30 wrestlers in preparation for the Nadam Festival. We were lucky enough to be able to watch them training, in their colorful wrestling costumes. Otga usually does all of the cooking for the camp and at the moment is very busy with the wrestlers who need to be fed three Huge Meals a day! It’s hard to find sewing time between the food preparations, the wrestlers will train right up to three days before Nadam And have a couple of days at home and then fight for real against each other again.

It was surprising how quickly the spring brown grasses have turned to a healthy green and the scent of the new growth is unforgettable. I have probably talked about this particular smell of Monglian grass before. If only it could be bottled… The smell is a fine heady aroma of the best and freshest herbs including tyme, lavender, sages, clover and dandelions. The flowers are blooming now. Whereas Australia Springtime is usually the time our flowers come out here it is definitely summertime. The sad looking apartment blocks are becoming more alive with grass in the garden beds and many blocks have planted flowers such as marigolds. The city is changing and beginning to look less tardy.

The streets are also amass with political propaganda. Elections will be held on June 28, right in the middle of our exhibition. historically this has not been a good time I have found from experience to hold an exhibition. It has happened before that after booking a show the elections have been called. There are vans spouting party flags all over the city, huge billboards on the sides of apartment and city buildings, streets littered with faces full of promises to help the living conditions of everyone. One party is promising to pipe hot water into every ger in all the ger districts. That is according to locals a pipe dream… Other politicians promise to rehouse people in ger towns into the new apartment buildings. There are even promised to fix the traffic, the roads, cost of living and inflation. Speaking with people I meet there doesn’t seem to be a clear party that is considered Good. There are parties with members before the courts for corruption and all manner of questionable dealings. There is a flurry of road works taking place, but in most situations it seems cosmetic. It’s the big issues like drainage and complete resealing instead of ad hoc patching that needs to take place. The disabled here simply cannot get around, with any kind of ease.

I think one of the differences between life as I understand it and living in Monglia is that the people do not have expectations as the western life has. If you lived with the same expectations you would be very disappointed.

An example of normal life is after returning from our Gobi trip Unench parked his car, as he always does in his garage. This is not attached to the apartment but around the block in a car parking lane.

Overnight there had been some construction works, or perhaps it was from the new apartment block being built next door, a large chunk of concrete dumped outside his garage door. The concrete waste is far too heavy for one man to attempt to move alone. Phone calls were made to try and have the concrete moved. No success and who really is responsible? Unench has not been able to get t his garage since. Eventually this afternoon we found a shovel and a short of crowbar in our units verandah and between Mervyn and Unench they managed t move the lump. There are bits of building waste and rubbed all over the city dumped anywhere. I was surprised how calmly Unench and Tugsoo treated the inconvenience, in Australia we would have been jumping up and down and someone perhaps would have been sued.

Unench tells me there are laws in place here for such things as we have in Australia as far as people being injured from dangerous public works. The difference is if you tried to act upon it there would be no hope of any success. Perhaps somehow the blame would be put back on the injured party.

That’s enough for now, have to finish cataloging the new works. We hang the show tomorrow.

20120623-202826.jpg

20120623-202840.jpg

20120623-202847.jpg

20120623-202856.jpg

Camp 2 – Middle Gobi, Mandalgovi

Continued on from last post, I am now writing from the only hotel available to us in the capital town that is Middle Gobi Desert. We contemplated going on to camp but as its a further hundred kilometers from here the plan was to stop off again at a market and pick up those little things we realize we need from our first night out yesterday.

The drive out here was through an exceptional landscape of rocky outcros, sand dunes, winter ger camps and camels. We spotted a small herd of gazelle grazing in the distance. Many horses and goat herds.

20120609-190409.jpg

There is a sense I need to write quickly for tomorrow I will once more be away from wifi and computer battery points.

On arrival in the town we decided we would perhaps stay the night because a shower would be a good thing too and we could regroup tomorrow.

Firstly, the town is like a large outskirts of UB with many ger camps and rickety fences on way into town. I forgot to mention the first class bitchumen highway we linked up with and rode into town. Once the bichumen met the local road it stopped and for a kilometer into town the road was broken into lumps of concrete… Surely the new road could have resurfaced all the way into town.

The first hotel we stopped at a man came to our car and said it was closed. Only the new 4×4 vehicles n the drive gave away it was used by a political party. The cars were carrying political posters. Same story in every hotel. Until we found this small one.

I have no idea what the name is or that it even was a hotel but Tugsoo and Unench recognized it as one. Tugsoo went inside to negotiate beds for the night and soon reappeared to say that there was a small room with two beds only; we could do same as last night and share room and boys sleep on the floor. There is nothing else so agreed, and anyway it is cheaper than yesterday’s ger… And there would be a Beth or shower we can use. She also added a man would fix the plumbing, there is a toilet with our room.

Ok, set for the night we decided to look around for perhaps a better hotel and find the market. Nothing appeared so made our way back to the booked room. Unench was having some difficulty depositing the gear stick out of 4×4. While he and Mervyn stood in the car park reading the car manual, well, Unench read because it was written in Mongol they noticed just cams from the front tire a steel reinforcing rod sticking out of the ground ready to pierce the wheel. So Unench moved the car back a but to avoid the rod.

A little while later a small white car with two men inside attempted to turn into the space between Unench and the car parked next to us. He nudged the tow bar. Twice in two day!! I was standing with Mervyn by now and we shouted and indicated to the man to reverse. He looked at us with glazed eyes and pushed forward more, nudging the tail bar almost completely off. Now the tail bar was hanging from the side. The men In the car were clearly vodka affected. They gave a peace sign and didt seem to know what to do. Several people were watching. The man managed to just miss another vehicle as he reversed back into the road and tried to move into another car park. He obviously wanted to come into this hotel.

By now several people including the hotel staff had gathered and the police were called. We took down the number plate. No one seemed to be interested in swapping names and addresses or anything.

Eventually the local police arrived and by now quite a crowd had gathered around. I took some photographs with the canon camera and was told to stop taking them.

Mervyn and retired to sit in the car while the Morgan’s sorted out the problem, clearly we were just in the way, though we were the main witnesses. After theodicy took to the measuring of the car park with a long tape it appeared as if this was about to become a major event.

After further discussions and the arrival of the chief policeman arrived the who scenario moved to the police station.

The poor culprit was still standing around looking rather bewildered. Forgot to mention he had also left the scene and taken us drunk colleague away and returned to the car park where a man from the hotel reached into his car and removed the keys. He continued to deny touching Unench’s car.

The police drove his car to the police station and impounded it into a locked yard. We were told to say in the car while Unench and Tugsoo went into the police station.

The outcome is that the man would loose s license and spend the day in the cell. I understand it is immediate loss of license if caught drinking under the influence of alcohol.

20120609-194227.jpg

Then they announced they would take the car to the repair shop and have it repaired immediately. We are to stay in the hotel. That seemed ok, though Mervyn offered to go and et Tugsoo have a rest but she wanted to go. That left Mervyn and I to have shower and relax and wait till they came back.

We carried bags upstairs to our small room. Tiny room really. There was a man with his head inside the ensure fixing the loo who didn’t seem to mind us in the room. Ok so far. Until we asked if there was shower or bathroom somewhere. No. Not. Hmm. No shower, no bath. I took out my Mongolian language book and pointed to bath and shower. He seemed pretty sure the answer was still no. Ok then, it’s a wash in the hand basin. We could consider ourselves lucky to have a loo and a wash basin as we are in the middle of the Gobi desert. Get it into perspective, just because there is bichumen ans brick walls… The water of course is cold. And we are laughing because still because this is Mongolia. What a thrill for us to be here in the middle of the Gobi, a place of so many unrealized dreams. What to complain about, I am sitting on the bench that is called a bed, I have electricity, glass between me and the cold wind and wet carpet on the floor. Life is pretty good. We await the next chapter…

20120609-201845.jpg

20120609-201911.jpg

20120620-010158.jpg

20120620-010224.jpg

Ulaanbaatar and Desert Sharing

We are still here in Ulaanbaatar and the weather seems to be improving daily as summer emerges.

20120607-080451.jpg

20120607-080950.jpg

Our exhibition is drawing to an end tomorrow, and now we are beginning to get some media attention. Today a journalist came to visit the show and was so impressed she thought we needed more attention. Not long after we returned home Tugsoo received a phone call and the message we would be on the 3.30 Eagle TV news. We had 15 minutes to sit and watch our exhibition and hear our names in Mongolian. Tomorrow we have to return to the gallery where there will be another TV crew to interview us and apparently other newspapers are now interested. The story I wrote for the Mongol Messenger is also to be published this coming Friday.

Although it seems a little late it is better now than never and hopefully good publicity for our next show in June after the Gobi.

The national elections are coming up soon and this is also always a bad time for arts publicity, anywhere in the world. And especially here at the moment when there is much tension on the ground between the nomadic country people and the new industrial and mining companies.

We have noticed the difference, or is it just coincidence? While there are wonderful people we have been meeting there are others in the street that look at us as intruders. I dot remember this happening on our previous trip. It is helpful in understanding how new Australians and visitors must fell at times when they are not tolerated by a minority of our population.

Our friends say that here the difference between the rich and poor is widening, as in other western societies. I am aware of more people on the streets collecting bottles. There are also many one person street stalls selling nuts or offering the passerby an opportunity to weigh themselves on a set of scales. The warmer weather is bringing out the entrepreneur. Clearly there is much poverty in Ulaanbaatar now. In contrast can be seen in the numerous multistory buildings and flash cars on the road. There are car yards all over the place selling new or second hand Japanese imports; with the right hand drive instead of left as the rule is here. It would make sense for Mongolia to change the law and drive on the right like the majority of their cars.

20120606-234912.jpg

20120606-234935.jpg

20120606-234951.jpg

These photographs were taken this evening when we met a friend at the Blue Sky Tower for dinner. The Blue building that dominates the inner city is today working as a hotel with several businesses and restraunt. Two years ago when we were here it was unused, condemned because of the danger of pieces of glass falling. We had arrived early for dinner and took a look at the view from the top floor Restraunt. It was magnificent to see from the 23rd floor the road map laid out. Below us. And the view of high rise apartments reaching out to the hills and the amount of residential development on the outlying hills and valleys.

Still in Ulaanbaatar

20120604-235441.jpg

20120604-235458.jpg

20120604-235609.jpg

20120604-235633.jpg

A few more Ulaanbaatar images. Spent a little time in exhibition today meeting some people we met here a couple of years ago. Another trip to the Black Market and the wonderful fabric stalls. The market is such a mix of everything of food, clothing, all your ger needs, antique jewllery and anything else you can think of. It’s just the thickness of the traffic chaos getting in and out. The black market is definitely worth a visit or two and where there are bargains compared to the city stores. People move through the isles here like they do on r the roads; squeeze through any gap and not worried about manners or social rules. This is all that makes the place vibrant as well as the adrenal rush of needing to be totally aware of you bags and pockets.

Mongolian Hats, History Museum, Temple and Ger Town assault

20120531-210414.jpg

This morning we collected the hats we had commissioned from the ladies in this art studio. They are special because they have been made to size for us and will be a lovely addition to our collection of Mongolian Hats.

20120531-214129.jpg

20120531-214213.jpg

The top hat is a female hat and the bottom one male. The women working in this studio make beautiful hats as well as flags. Everything is cut out and sewn by hand and machine.

Afterwards we took a taxi into the exhibition at the History Museum. Have I mentioned the taxis? Don’t think so… Taxi is simple in Ulaanbaatar; just stand at the curb with arm out and wiggle your fingers. All cars in Mongolia can be taxi. You have car, you are taxi and can by law pick up and charge a fare. Usually the fare is by kilometer so if big traffic jam no extra for the time. And usually average fare between 2/3000tg. If you wanted to get an official taxi with a proper light you will be waiting a long time. They exist but are rarely sighted. Sometimes the taxi can be newish car but usually on the mor aged side and usually a young male driver though we have had one female. This time we have had Tugsoo with us most the rides which makes it easy for directions.

We caught up with Sauurel the museum director today. He is out of hospital,and was disappointed he was unable to open our show. We are making plans to have a couple of days painting with him after we return from the Gobi desert. He had also wanted to accompany us to the desert but is unable to take the time away from the museum.

Tugsoo took us around town to visit a few more galleries, some open and some not. We were near the ger town below the large Buddhist Temple Gandan Khalid. We left Tugsoo here and proceeded to walk to the temple, remembering my time here two years ago I wanted to visit again. I had very good memories of the beauty of this main Ulaanbaatar temple and monastery. Here is a photog of the path leading up to the temple.

20120531-215541.jpg

Mervyn had just gone ahead while I photographed this hole in the pavement. This is quite typical around the city and why you need your witty about you ALL THE TIME. Often the man hole covers are set into the path and more difficult to see, at least this one was offset and raised. It would not be of any benefit to be blind or intoxicated.

There was a wild sky and lightening when we reach the temple. Seems such a pity cars are now allowed to park inside. If you look back towards the mountains it is possible to see the beautiful layout of the original plans with the many small buildings and temples that make up the grounds. Many people are feeding the pigeons and it was just about closing time when we reached the main temple housing the enormous golden Buddha. We didn’t go in this time as the approaching storm made us think better to head home. Tugsoo had given us directions on how to get back to our district 11.

20120531-221105.jpg

20120531-221135.jpg

20120531-221221.jpg

We began walking down through one of the ger town lanes next to the monastery when we noticed a man coming up behind us. He began speaking to us and it seemed obvious he wanted something and he appeared pretty drunk. As he approached he kept talking to us quite wildly and we said the only bits of language we knew that implied no. He was saying he wanted us to go into another lane and we indicated we were going the opposite direction. As we approached the T intersection he grabbed hold of MervynS sleeve as if to steer us in the opposite direction. We kept heading to the right and he shouted to us to turn left. He stayed with us hanging on to Mervyn as we crossed the lane. Then he had hold of my leather bag that Mervyn was carrying and would not let go, either would Mervyn. All the while he was talking instructions in Mongolian to us and the alcohol on his breath was strong. We were saved by a car load of men who pulled up beside us and could see the assault talking place. They yelled at the man in Mongolian and obviously knew him. He didn’t want to give up the bag and took some talking to to let go. He then headed off in the direction he was trying to steer us.

This was pretty disturbing for both of us. And we are extremely aware of our bags and things where ever we go. I hate to thin where this may have ended if the little white car had not stopped and disturbed the potential assault. And my iPad was in the bag. If we had intended to go into this area I would have heeded my own advice and not taken any valuables with me.

We decided to head back towards the city and walk back to district 11 from where we were more familiar. Here is a photo of one of the many Children’s fun activities around in the celebrations for Children’s Day which is apparently tomorrow, not yesterday as I had originally posted, yesterday.

Also a photo of a pink university from yesterday’s walk.

20120531-225408.jpg

20120531-225858.jpg