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.

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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.

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Camp 6 – Mountain Ice in the Gobi Desert

We sleep well in the ger. There is something special about the comfort of a well set up ger, and a good stove to keep the space warm. The stove we had last night was extremely efficient while it was hot, but once the wood had burnt we had the hole in the roof and the night chill crept in, just a little. To wake up and look around, first thing at the walls of a ger is really great. Don’t want to get out of the warmth. Know it will be cold as we are high in altitude and in the mountains.

Mervyn lit a small fire with the wood left from last night and we made tea and coffee and slowly worked our way into the new day. It has been a longtime since i have relaxed and I think I am just beginning to remember how it is. Knowing we have another night here and a day exploring the wild mountains we traversed late yesterday in an attempt to find this camp…

Tugsoo and Unench came into our ger for a pre breakfast Italian coffee. My coffee pot is the only one I have seen in Mongolia and am pleased I bothered to pack it. Remember from two years ago thinking it would be possible to buy a coffee pot anywhere in the world, but I was wrong. I have been looking and still none on stores, only filter or electric machines. My little coffee pot is stainless steel and if we make the coffee strong enough can be shared between three. I will gift the pot to Tugsoo and Unench who has become addicted to the Italian coffee.

After breakfast we drove to the Gurvansaikhan National Park. What a wild place. We were early and felt like the only people around. The single lane track meandered high through the wild rock outcrops of multicolored hard rock. We don’t know what the rock type except that is is not like anything I have seen in Australia. Most of it is a dark grey or green with quartz lines running through. Occasionally there are red rocks or seams of various colors.

It was about seven kilometers to the edge of the ice and then a three kilometer walk to the end of the valley. There was only one fork in the road and we chose well.

At the gate to the hike was a fence and several horses tethered which could be hired for a h Ike up the valley. A family was set up with a stall as well as the horses. It was a scene from an old Mongolian movie, all dressed in deel, even the young child. The family sat on the ground and seemed relaxed and at home. Most fascinating was the woman whom was selling and hand stitching embroidered fabrics of Mongolian life. I have not seen these thread paintings anywhere in Mongolia at any tourist or other stores. These were original. The man was selling carved stone and carved timber pieces of local animals. There were all kinds of artifacts laid out on a small table. I bought one of the fabrics immediately and a second one later as I had been taken with them in my mind as I walked. The fabrics were a little like my mother Grace’s thread paintings. Mervyn was taken with one of the small stone carvings. I took a short video of the woman working.

Along the road to the top of the range we passed many gorges as the track narrowed and opened. This country has many wild animals of which we saw none. We did see, however many small mammals that looked like guinea pigs, or hamsters. There were two kinds, one with a tail and one without. The animal with a trail was quite rat like, until it stood up on it’s tail like a prairie dog.

The wildlife we did not see include, Mongolian sheep, the native ones, wolves and bears. There are also rare sightings here of the snow leopard. Many birds seemed to hassle after the mammals and several wedge tail type eagles soared through the thermals above. There was much food for them in these ranges.

The vegetation was also very interesting with an array of scented herbs. Wild rhubarb was growing all through the mountain along with a ground hugging conifer. There were no trees taller than the conifer. A yellow poppy similar to the arctic poppy I saw in Greenland, though smaller and wild iris, a parsley like plant that tasted like parsley though spicier. I picked and smelt many of the herbs but without knowing what they were was not brave enough to taste.

A fresh water stream ran Along much of the track. Then we came across the first patch of frozen ice. And the temperature was cold. The whole mountain was cold and we we’re rugged up with several layers of clothes for the hike and still the wind was like an Antarctic summer on the face. But the spot where the ice was still frozen on the stream was unbelievable cold and windy. We kept on hiking until we reached the end of the gorge and the last weeks of the glacial winter freeze. It was still large and stained with the gravel from storms and landslides. It was visible melting with fountains of dripping ice water trickling into the creek below.

After we had reached the end of the valley and the ice we had coffee back at the car and hoped we could paint but the wind was once more far too strong to allow us to work.

We decided to explore the forked track and once again headed into wild country, up steep mountain tracks and down so steep you couldn’t see where the car was going. At the bottom we were in another river like yesterday’s convoluted jouney. We started to head down the river and after about five kilometers turned back so as to not end up driving to distraction again.

It was four in the afternoon by the time we returned ger camp. We had a rest and painted from the comfort of the ger. The ger makes a great studio!

The most extraordinary thing about where we are now is that we are still in the middle of the southern Gobi Desert. The cold, the ice, the mountains, easy to forget we are in the desert. Apparently the ice can continue for ten kilometers and there are waterfalls visible at times. We were this time unable to reach these parts. Tugsoo has been here twice before and this is the first time she has been able to see the ice. Most tourists come next month and by them it will have melted.

Camp 10 – Gobi Desert Tsagaan Suvarga (White Stupa) Again

This morning we left our luxury ger with the sunken bathroom and toilet and headed once more into the great desert wilderness.

We are heading back north east today and then east then north to our previous camp White Stupa to the lovely family who showed us so back a week ago.

We travelled through some incredible desert today. Places as wild and remote as I have seen yet in the Gobi desert. The temperature was back into the high 40s and at one place where we stopped to look at some stone edged sand dunes 52c! We Wondered if the temperature gauge in the car was broken and if it wasn’t for the cloud cover and wind to help it may have been even hotter.

We have had strong winds most of the day, white sky, dust? Cloud?

The roads were the usual corrugated ruts with forks heading into every direction and it was necessary to keep an eye on my compass app on my iPhone. The car reading was often erratic but it seems the $2.99 app I downloaded back home before the journey has been worth the exercise.

Through the deep sand and rugged rocky roads we travelled. Stopped for tea but it was too hot… Kept driving always uncertain if we were on the correct road. It is worth it just to see the breadth and wild country. As the land became dryer the herd animals became less. We saw a few herds of camel with not much to eat. Twice we came by a well with animals standing around a dry well. The first well had about a dozen beautiful small horses. We stopped and Unench and Mervyn drew water up from the well to fill the trough. The horses drank so much, they were so thirsty. The lifted nearly twenty buckets. Distant camels also saw what was happening and two of them came sauntering across the stony ground and waited behind the horses. The horses were not going to let the camels in and rushed at them until they had had their fill. The camels are such gentle creatures, so tall and polite looking. These must be females. When the horses had had their fill and we had taken many photographs they moved off and andered away up the hill. They seemed very grateful to have a drink. This is the first of the hot days and the animals must climatise too.

Half an hour further on we came across another dry well. This time a herd of camels looking thirsty. We could not drive past. Stopped again and to our disappointment there was no sign of a bucket or any way to reach the water. The well was about two meters or more down. We had a bucket and some rope in the car and thought we could use that. Unench investigated a hit nearby another well and eventually found a bucket at the end of a long pole. All the while the camels were watching in anticipation and following our every move and clearly wanted to drink. I wanted to give them our drinking water but Tugsoo stopped me saying it would not be enough for them and the camels would get angry if not satisfied.

So once more Unench and Mervyn took relays in being the heavy buckets of water from the well and we watched on the these giant creatures drank and drank and raised their head and sucked their lips and made satisfied noises. They looked at us and said thank you with their souls. We left them with water in the trough as we left.

A little further on we passed yet another well, this time a beautiful white camel was sitting down and patiently waiting and I wanted to stop for her too but the others would not. Camels, I was told clearly can survive without water for fourteen days at a time, and white ones fifteen.

I felt as if while we were getting lost we were traveling across this dry desolate place feeding animals. Well, feeding we were not as there was very little feed in any of this part of the country. It surprising how close to the surface and how sweet the water is we have found. It is as if when it does rain the water is captured underground and the surface dries out to its extreme.

We drove another hundred kilometers planned today as we continued to take the wrong track. We have enough petrol we hope for the next sum.

Eventually we arrived back at this ger camp. We had another interesting diversion when we took yet another wrong track nearby when we came upon a valley with illegal gold diggers. Unench was a little nervous when he said not to take photographs as these ger camps are mining illegally. The miners they call ningers because they are always carrying sacks of rock on their back to sift for gold. They carry guns and people disappear down the deep holes. The police do nothing to stop the activity. He went on to tell us a lot more and wanted to quickly get away from this valley.

It was interesting because just before we tuned down the wrong valley we had been wondering about the bones and clothes we found on the roadside, half buried. Nobody wanted to go digging and all presumed the bones were of the many animal bones strewn across the Gobi. Hmm. There were trousers, a pair of shoes, a hairbrush and other unrecognized pieces of cloth well weather beaten.

We were pleased to finally sight the white gers of our camp. The family were just as pleased and smiled widely when we pulled up. The family had heard us speak on the radio when we were being interviewed at our exhibition at the history museum. That was lovely.

A heavy grey sky with what appeared as a thick dust storm was heading our way. Once more in this camp we managed to get our stuff into the gers before the wind struck. We had to change gers as when we cover the top with felt there were great holes. These came from the storm a few nights ago. We buckled down, closed up everything and had a quick shower before the winds arrived. They were strong. The worst of it past quickly enough I think. I am laying on my bed now, the air has cooled considerably and the wind now milder. The generator has just been turned in and I am hoping for an early peaceful night.