Kazakhs in Mongolia
by James Madsen
Kazakh people by Nir
I:m afraid that these stories will overshadow the good in Mongolia, which is ample. At the same time, in many ways they did cast a shadow on the second half of our trip, so maybe that:s the most honest way to tell it. And anyway, the story of attempted murder is far more juicy than the rest of my stories, but they:re okay too.
So all the hullabaloo about the flight and the long drives was so that we could get to some snow capped mountains in the west of Mongolia near the town of Ulgii where we would live with a Kazakh family and see their eagle--which they steal as a chick and train to hunt wildcats and foxes and wolves, before releasing it back into the wild in after a couple years. The eagles ride on their master:s arms while the master is on horseback, and then take off and attack their pray and crush its skull.
The eagles are HUGE--something like a four foot wingspan, and they:re very heavy--I had one on my arm, in all the pictures I look terrified, because I am--the eagle is hooded and if the hood falls off the eagle can see where it is going and then starts flapping around even though it is feathered, and those talons and wings are strong enough to do some serious damage.
The Kazakh people we stayed with were very kind--they had a couple kids and I made some new friends--they loved my sunglasses and watch (no you can:t
have them, no way) and they also loved lotion because the air is so dry up there (and so I gave them some of that instead).
I went horseback riding, grabbed goats and sheep by the horns and lined them up for milking, and tried to surmount the language barrier--I was unsuccessful most of the time we all had fun. The Kazakhs look a little different from the Mongolians; they:re more fair skinned I think--less oriental overall--and they were very nice--not like Borat at all.
The last leg of our journey in Mongolia was right outside Ulaanbaataar--we went horseback riding in the mountains. Mongolian horses have shorter legs and so the ride is smoother at a walk and trot, and they like to gallop too, so we had some fun climbing the mountains. It was beautiful--sheep and rivers and meadows and gers and forests that made you feel as if you were in the alps over the summer. But by the end we were all ready for a hot shower, as real a bed as you can get in UB, and Japan.
My mother is amazingly tolerant of strenuous trips--quickly she forgets the jostling for the beauty of the people and the memories of our time in the countryside, so this is my warning to you in --when you hear from her everything she says is true--Mongolia is a magnificent place--but it:s worlds and worlds and worlds away from the lives you live, and to see what we saw, you:ll have to endure some truly trying terrain.