Mongolia, 13 Days

March 3rd - 15th 2020

The Mongolia, Gobi Desert journey is a celebration of the Bactrian Camel and the important role it plays in the lives of the Gobi's nomads. Mongolia, since prehistoric times, has been inhabited by nomads, this fully catered journey travels with an extended nomadic family through the enormously panoramic southern Gobi Desert, gaining insights into Mongolia and it's nomadic culture.

We welcome you on our fourth journey in the Gobi Desert

$8500AUD

with local guides and professional photographer

Gordon Best

Standard occupancy: 2 individuals, inclusive.

Single supplement fee extra: $1,200 AUD per person

This Tour is managed by Clare at Back Track Adventures and requires

a $1000 AUD deposit amount 

Bookings open July 1st 2019 

Call or email Clare ph. 07 3850 7651 E: cta@backtrack.com.au

"If you endeavour, the fate will favour you."

Mongolian Proverb

Camel Treks Australia's guests enjoy an experience combining festivals,culture with Mongolian nomads and the impressive Gobi Desert landscape and livestock, which includes Bactrian Camels. Guests are transported in a luxury four wheel drives and coach's with experienced private drivers that double as experienced mechanics.

A personal Chef and local crew of over 20 staff travel with us into the Gobi Desert, the personal service and three course meals are superb and second to none!

 

At our disposal is the excellent and knowledgeable companionship of our local guide who is passionate about Mongolian history and an equally accomplished horse and camel man. Ganzorig is constantly by our side to translate and explain our day-to-day cultural experiences. All accommodation, meals and experiences are exceptional, including the Golden Eagle and Thousand Camel Festivals. Being able to learn and share from Bataar ( owner of riding Camels ) and his family's nomadic lifestyle in the Gobi Desert is something none of our guests will ever forget. The Bactrian Camels were in immaculate health, princely in stature, and pleasantly comfortable to ride...and ride we did for many hours each day! The fence-less landscape of the Gobi Desert was breathtaking and vast, surrounded by snow-capped mountain ranges with a sense of timeless stillness, reflecting that life had been continuing on here for centuries in the same manner.

Not only will 2020 guests enjoy a skilled chef for the length of the journey, they will also enjoy shared Ger / Yurt style accommodation and comfortable camp toilets during the camel riding component in the Gobi Desert.

In 2020 we are joined by professional photographer Gordon Best who will assist guests with how to best capture their journey. With an itinerary spanning hundreds of miles, we are going to see some of the most legendary photography locales on the planet. To travel and shoot The Golden Eagle Festival and The Thousand Camel Festival has been on almost every photographer’s bucket list. Gordon will guide you through both of these festivals and itinerary destinations, teaching you how to capture that amazing shot. Both pros and excited amateurs will be able to improve their skills. If you are ready to capture the journey of a lifetime, come along, he hopes to see you there!

 

Gobi means “desert” in Mongolian, yet its topography is much more diverse than the word implies. From deep canyons to sand dunes to endless steppe, the Gobi includes sites of some of the world's most important paleontological discoveries of the past century.

The Gobi is inhabited by nomadic herders who consider their native landscape sacred, they call their country and themselves "Blue Mongolia".

 

The people of the Gobi Desert maintain a traditional culture from ancient history. Due to their remote position, extreme variables of climate, and rocky geography they must remain close to their animal herds. They must also remain nomadic, searching for precious water when a location's supply runs dry. With frequent moving, they live in felt-covered Gers, also referred to as Yurts. These circular dwellings are uniquely adapted to the conditions of the Gobi Desert, providing shelter from the sun during the day and warmth at night when winter temperatures demand warmth.

 

A Ger's design has changed very little in over 2,000 years of use and guests travelling to the Gobi with us will enjoy staying with nomads in their Gers with the constant companionship of a guide who will translate for our group.

 

Mongolian residents of the Gobi Desert are traditionally nomadic people, though they love visitors. There's even an old Mongolian proverb concerning hospitality: “Happy is the one who has guests, merry is the home boasting a tethering rail full of visitor's horses.” The Gobi Desert commands the place in which they live, and regardless of their challenges these warm strong people provide as much hospitality as they can. 

 

The Gobi Desert covers 1.3 million square kilometers, 2.5 kilometers of Gobi is usually home to fewer than 3 people. The Gobi is elevated with hot summers and cold winters and provides a home for many different animals including the black-tailed gazelles, Bactrian camels, wolves, marbled polecats, Mongolian wild ass, brown bears, snow leopards, and sand-plovers.

 

Individuals travelling with us on this tour will be given the opportunity to purchase traditional clothing and boots. The temperatures in March can be below freezing and travellers will need to bring heavy jackets, gloves and hats to keep warm, dressing in layers is recommended. 

This Tour is managed by Clare at Back Track Adventures and requires a $1000 AUD deposit.

Bookings open July 1st 2019  | Call Clare ph. 07 3850 7651 

Day 1, March 3rd | Arrival

​Nearly half of Mongolia’s three million residents are nomads, and most of the rest live in Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital and largest city. The cultural, economic, and transportation hub on the Tuul River is the starting point for many desert expeditions, but its ten museums, close proximity to national parks, and collection of imperial palaces and Buddhist monasteries qualify Ulaanbaatar as a destination rather than way station.The contrast between ancient traditions and a 21st century democracy is most visible in Ulaanbaatar, where traditional Gers and Buddhist Monasteries sit side by side with modern high rises. Upon arrival at the airport, guests are welcomed by our nomadic guide and transferred to a centrally located hotel within walking distance of various museums and shops. Guests need to arrive with warm clothing as the temperature in early March could range anywhere from 10 degrees to - 20 degrees, on average it only rains 2 days in the month of March. Many flights entering Ulannbaatar arrive in the evening and the Shangri-La Hotel is perfectly positioned adjacent a modern shopping mall with a plethora of meal options, both traditional Mongolian and western cuisine. As CTA crew will be attending to airport greetings throughout the day and evening, guests will remain independent this evening and share a welcome dinner with the entire group next evening.

Accommodation: Shangri-La Hotel | Deluxe rooms

 

Note: Please make certain to provide us with your flight information so that we can ensure someone is at the airport to greet you.

Day 2, March 4th | Ulaanbaatar

​Begin your day with a visit to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Strolling through the monastery grounds, hear the low tones of the horns used to call the lamas to the temple and observe their daily rituals, including the reading of sutras, the teachings of the Buddha.  Also visit the magnificent statue of Migjid Janraisig, “the lord who looks in every direction.”  This 82-foot high statue, gilded in pure gold and clothed in silk and precious stones, completely fills one of Gandan’s temples.Drive through downtown Ulaanbaatar to the National Museum for an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture.  The newly remodeled museum displays traditional implements of daily nomadic life including Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, historical costumes of Mongolia’s minority tribes, sacred religious relics, and agricultural, fishing, and hunting equipment.Spend the rest of the afternoon shopping for traditional Mongolian deels and boots. Enjoy a welcome dinner at a fine local restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Shangri-La Hotel | Deluxe Rooms

The Golden Eagle Festival

Aisholpan was the 13 year old star of the breathtaking film Eagle Huntress directed by Otto Bell - a 2016 Kazakh-language British-Mongolian-American documentary that was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and was a BAFTA Award nominee.

 

Now 17, Aisolpan has received proceeds from the film to enable her to complete her schooling in a top UB school...on her way towards her dream of becoming a doctor.

 

Images: Colin Monteath Hedgehog House New Zealand

Hunting with Eagles

By Monique Ross

Deep in the unforgiving wilds of far western Mongolia, the last remaining Kazakh eagle hunters harness a powerful force of nature. The burkitshi, as they are known in Kazakh, are proud men whose faces reveal the harshness of the beautifully barren landscape they call home. They have an extraordinary bond with the golden eagle, which to them represents the wind, the open space, the isolation and the freedom found at the edge of the world. 

 

Australian photographer Palani Mohan has spent years documenting the noble hunters, culminating in a book available now from Merrell Publishers. Mohan says only 60 eagle hunters remain, and fears the ancient tradition could disappear within 20 years.

 

A dying breed

Ethnic Kazakhs number around 100,000 and are the largest minority in Mongolia. They are mostly settled around the nation's desolate far west, around the Altai mountain range, which stretches from China through Mongolia and Kazakhstan to Russian Siberia. This is where Mohan found the eagle hunters.

 

"You need to go deep into the wild to find the real hunters. They don't normally like to bring their birds into a very crowded environment, because a lot of the time the birds have heart attacks because they're not used to the noise and the car horns and the people and the sirens, and so on," Mohan says.

 

During the long winters, the eagle hunters leave their homes and head into the mountains on horseback to hunt foxes - an ancient tradition said to stretch back as far as 940AD. Some estimates put the number of remaining burkitshi at 250, but Mohan says most of those are "men with eagles posing for tourists". "There are about 60 of the true hunters left, and each winter claims a few more because winters are incredibly brutal. And they're getting old, and every winter about two of them die," he says.

 

"It's important for people not to forget about people like these eagle hunters on the edge of the world." It is not just the bitter cold threatening to wipe out the eagle hunters. "I've spoken to a lot of teenagers, men and women, and they want to wear jeans and go into town and listen to music and earn money. The eagle hunting is a lonely, cold, old way of living and like all teenagers they want the new modern thing," Mohan says. "Ulaanbaatar, the capital, is a very long way away but that's where a lot of people head. People are going to Russia or Kazakhstan."

 

A spiritual bond

There is a Kazakh proverb that if an eagle hunter's father dies on the day the snow starts to fall, the hunter will miss the funeral because he will be up in the hills with his eagle. Mohan says all of the hunters he met had stories about how they loved their birds more than their wives. The hunters see themselves in the eagle: powerful and proud. 

 

There are no tall trees in these regions, so golden eagles build their nests high on rock faces. Mohan says the fascinating bond between hunter and eagle begins the second the young eagle, about four years old, is stolen from its nest by hunters. 

"The bond is created from the time that they steal the eaglet from its mother, right through to the day they let it go," he says.

 

"They spend so much time with these birds, it almost takes a spiritual quality."

The first bricks of the bond are the hand-feeding of the eaglet, which builds trust between man and animal. In a hunter's eyes, the eagle is like a child, and it does not fly away during the hunt because it feels part of a family.

 

"I took a picture of an eagle on its back, it's upside down like a baby. I think that's a special moment because these eagles are 80 per cent wild birds, and even though they live outside the gers (traditional felt-lined tents), they're hunting birds," Mohan says. "For an eagle to completely lie on its back is not a natural thing to do. I've only seen it twice, and I asked one of the guys 'why does it let you do this?' "He looked at me and he told me, 'because it loves me', and I thought that was beautiful, because the eagle completely trusts him."

 

The hunt

During the winters, the eagle hunters leave their homes and head into the mountains on horseback. Their eagles — huge birds with a wingspan of up to eight feet and weighing up to eight kilograms — perch on their arm.

 

"Almost all the hunting takes place during the winter months. You can see the foxes' and wolves' footsteps on the snow, and when they run there is nowhere for them to hide, because it's a snow cover," Mohan says.

 

"When they want to go hunting they literally climb on top of a huge mountain, and they stand on top of a rock, and they look down. Right down below, another hunter would go down and make some noise and chase the foxes out of the hole." The hunter at the top of the mountain then takes the hood off the eagle, which looks down and sees its prey for the first time. "As the foxes are running through, the eagle sees the fox as a small speck from the top of a mountain," Mohan says.

 

"It sits and waits, and waits, and waits. No-one talks, it's just the wind. And when the eagle is ready it lifts a wing, and with one flap just shoots down like a bullet, and within seconds the whole thing is finished — the eagle has got the fox by its neck and the hunter comes down and finishes it off." Mohan says the incredible power of the eagle must be seen — or felt — to be believed. "It is just amazing the first time the eagle flaps the wing, takes off," he says.

The oldest burkitshi

Orazhkan Shuinshi is described as the oldest and wisest of the eagle hunters — a "living legend" in Mohan's eyes."He's 92, he's blind, he cant hear any more, and he's had 20 eagles in his life. He's a real wise man," he says. Mohan says he has spent a lot of time talking to Shuinshi at his home near the Altai national park in far western Mongolia."He talks about how they are the last of the eagle hunters, and when they're gone, the tradition will disappear," Mohan says.

"He says there will always be men holding eagles, because it's cool to do – people get dressed up in fur and hats and hold an eagle, and tourists will come and pay a few dollars and take a photo of them, but they're not true eagle hunters. 

"And he feels that in a matter of a generation, a 1,000-year-old tradition will be gone."

Release

After several years of hunting, eagles are released back in to the wild to breed — ensuring the survival of the species — and live out their final years in freedom.

Shuinshi told Mohan letting an eagle go is the "hardest thing a man can ever do".

"Last year I released my last eagle back into the mountains — it was like a member of your family has gone. I think about what that eagle is doing. If she's safe and whether she can find food and make a nest. Have her hunts been successful? Sometimes I dream about these things," the eagle hunter told Mohan.

"The golden eagle is like no other bird. They want to be with you. They love you. And they love to hunt for you. "The eagle is a holy bird. Treat them as your child. Love them and respect them. If you do this they will give everything back to you."

Ross, Monique. “Dying Breed of Eagle Hunters Captured in Stunning Photos.” ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3 Oct. 2016.

Day 3, March 5th | Eagle Festival | Drive to Gobi

​In the morning we travel a short drive outside of Ulaanbaatar and attend the annual Winter Eagle Festival which will be held by local Kazakhs travelling from Western Mongolia. About one dozen hunters attend the festival with their impressive Golden Eagles. The competition begins with each Kazakh displaying his hunting outfit and accessories- the most elaborate and beautiful of which receive the highest points.In the afternoon, the judges will evaluate the Golden Eagles’ speed and agility. The Golden Eagles will be released from a cliff with their owners standing below, signaling for the eagles to land upon their arms as they do while hunting. Those with the fastest times and best technique will be awarded the highest scores. It is a spectacular day for the senses surrounded by new sights, sounds and celebrations. Late in the day we drive to Dalanzadgad (8-9 hours), the capital of Mongolia’s southernmost province of semi-arid desert. On arrival we check in to a local hotel and are staying overnight.

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Local Hotel

 

Day 4, March 6th  Gobi | Thousand Camel Festival | 

​We drive early to Bulgan sum to attend the opening ceremony of 'The Thousand Camel Festival' and parade of Camel riders. We can participate in the parade if we wish to, joining the procession on Camelback (in order to participate in the Camel parade we need to make advance reservations). The day’s competitions include "best looking couple on Camelback,” “most adorable male and female Camels", as well as a Camel polo match that takes place in the central square.

Note: Please advise us if you wish to participate in the opening ceremony riding a Camel so that we can plan to book in advance.

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Local Hotel

Day 5, March 7th | Thousand Camel Festival 

​The Thousand Camel festival, held in the Gobi desert, is a celebration of the endangered Bactrian camel and the role it plays in the lives of the Gobi's nomads. Camel races and polo competitions, as well as performances of traditional Mongolian music and dance, are among the highlights of this annual event.

 

Today the celebrations of the Festival continue and we will watch the camel race and competitions among local nomadic bactrian camel herders. There will also be an exhibition of paintings by local children who have participated in a drawing contest called “Camel - My Friend.” In the late afternoon we enjoy a performance by “Altai Snowcock,” a local youth organization involved in the preservation and conservation of the surrounding area, our entrance fees are helping to fund the club’s activities. We will be staying with local people, sharing all meals with these families.

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Local Hotel

Day 6, March 8th | Camel Trek | Tugrugiin Shiree 

Today, we transfer to a camel herding family at Flaming Cliffs, where you start your camel trek towards Tugrugiin Shiree. Tugrugiin Shiree is a white escarpment where the famous “fighting dinosaurs” (a fossil of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor locked in combat) were discovered in the 1970s. After 5-6 hours of camelback, we arrive in another camel herding family at Tugrugiin Shiree for overnight and dinner in comfortable wood heated gers.

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Trekking with nomads, staying in Gers; all meals chef prepared

 

Day 7, March 9th | Camel Trek | Arts Bogd Mountain

​Today, we trek towards Arts Bogd Mountain, via some flat sandy valleys- this valley is known for finding ancient stone tools. After 5-6 hours, we arrive to see a family that lives in Arts Bogd Mountain. Overnight in comfortable wood heated gers.

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Trekking with nomads, staying in Gers; all meals chef prepared

Day 8, March 10th | Camel Trek | Tevsh Khairkhan Mountain

​Today, we trek back to Flaming Cliffs and after 5-6 hours on the rocky desert trail, we arrive staying with locals who lives in Tevsh Khairkhan Mountain. Overnight in comfortable wood heated gers.

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Trekking with nomads, staying in Gers; all meals chef prepared

 

Day 9, March 11th | Camel Trek | Flaming Cliffs

​In the morning, mount your camels and embark on another exciting day of camel ride. After 5-6 hours, we will arrive at our camp right by the Flaming Cliffs. Overnight in comfortable wood heated gers.

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Trekking with nomads, staying in Gers; all meals chef prepared

Day 10, March 12th | Camel Trek | Moltsog Els | 

Today is the last day of camel trekking. After 4-5 hours of trekking, bid farewell to your desert ship and wranglers, then move to a family at Bulgan sum (1 hour drive). Overnight in comfortable wood heated gers.

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Trekking with nomads, staying in Gers; all meals chef prepared

Day 11, March 13th | Ulaanbaatar |

 

​Following a traditional breakfast with the family, we start driving towards Ulaanbaatar (6-7 hours) to get an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture. We will enjoy dinner and share experiences at a fine local restaurant in the evening and overnight at the Shangri-La Hotel in deluxe rooms

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Shangri-La Hotel | Deluxe room

Day 12, March 14th | Ulaanbaatar | Hustain Nuruu National Park

​After breakfast, drive to Hustain Nuruu National Park (2 hours). Hustain Nuruu is home to the world’s last remaining species of the wild horse. The takhi, commonly known as Przewalski’s horse, was reintroduced into the Mongolian wilderness from zoo populations in 1994, 25 years after becoming extinct in the wild. Around 280 now roam the Hustain Nuruu National Park. Learn about current conservation efforts and the status of the herds found within the reserve at the visitors center before trying to spot these beautiful horses in their natural habitat. Return to Ulaanbaatar in the evening for a farewell dinner and overnight at the Shangri-La Hotel in deluxe rooms.

 

Meals Included: Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner

Accommodation: Shangri-La Hotel | Deluxe room

 

Day 13, March 15th Departure

​After breakfast some of us are continuing travels elsewhere, however transfers to the airport in the morning for your departure are an option. Those who are remaining can enjoy a shopping tour with Karen at the local markets as well as visits to museums.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Land Price includes:

Land Price Includes:
• Ground transportation in Mongolia as described in the itinerary
• Transfers upon arrival and departure on the specified arrival and departure dates
• All accommodations based on double or twin occupancy (hotel rooms and gers)
• Meals as noted in the above itinerary, snacks in vehicles and unlimited water
• All excursions, entrance fees, and visits as described in itinerary
 Experienced bilingual guide and ample support staff throughout your stay

Gobi Desert: 

  • Sleeping bags, camping cots, extra blankets, and pillows will be provided.

 

Land Price does not include:


• Passport and visa fees and international airfare

• Comprehensive medical and trip insurance
• Airport taxes
• Excess baggage charges
• Photography and video fees
• Tips to guides, drivers and support staff (Please estimate $20 per participant per day x 13 days = $260 per guest);
• Any optional extra food and alcohol not included in the group meals
• Items of a personal nature, including alcoholic beverages, laundry and telephone calls;
• Other items not specifically mentioned as included.

More information ...

This Tour is managed by Clare at Back Track Adventures and requires a

$1000 AUD deposit. Bookings open July 1st 2019 Phone 07 3850 7651

cta@backtrack.com.au

The main guides for Mongolia 2020

Karen
Baataar

Booking Office

Back Track Adventures

222 Barry Parade, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006

cta@backtrack.com.au

Phone 07 3850 7651

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