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Mongolian Nomad Migration

Listed under Traditional Cultures in Mongolia.

  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
  • Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
Photo of Mongolian Nomad Migration
Photo by flickr user Matt Forsythe
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Every fall, a group of several hundred Mongolian nomads pack up their possessions and herd the cattle and animals they survive on from one side of a high mountain pass to winter pastures on the other side. The yaks are saddled with great leather & wood panniers which are packed with the very old, the very young, baby animals, gers (yurt is the Russian word) and supplies of food. Everyone else mounts their horses and the week-long migration begins.

Thousands of people, goats, sheep, cattle, horses and yaks make the journey across the remote Saridag Mountains from the green forested valleys up onto the high plains and across the rocky, sometimes snowy, passes. By day this slow moving procession, with Buddhist prayer flags flying and animals roaming off the tracks, moves forward like a cloud, and in the evening the group spends an hour erecting their wood & canvas gers in a new location. Not an easy task, but an essential one to keep warm at night, and each morning it takes another hour to strike the camp. It's rare, but sometimes weaker members of the party don’t make it to the pastures on the other side. For those who do complete the migration, there is an honor code by which everyone knows which section of pasture is theirs and life begins again on the other side.

With the right contacts it is possible to travel with the group as a helper and observer. There to watch and assist, you stay in tents separate from the main group but are included in many of the daily tasks. For this group, possibly the only one of it's kind, this trip is a part of their cultural and pastoral heritage, and the art of ger building & packing takes years to master. This is truly a unique opportunity to share a journey with a group of people living entirely different lives than yourself, and if you're interested in traditional cultures this is the real thing.

For foreign travelers, this is a three-week trip. Beginning in the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Baatar, the first part of the expedition involves travel by jeep, boat and horse to the northern province (aimag) of Khovsgol and Khovsgol National Park. Travelling along a section of the 100 miles of Lake Khovsgol's shoreline and into the high mountains, similar to the Tetons in appearance, is a spectacular experience in it's own right. You will be in the company of local Mongolian wranglers and horses which are central to Mongolian life and culture. Small in stature but tough as nails, these horses will carry you without a fuss over varied terrain. Unlike western horses, these mounts are not interested in carrots or being coddled at the end of a long day.

The migration takes place in the Fall, with the exact dates being decided equally by the weather and the auspicious dates selected by local shamans.

Boojum Expeditions.

Written by  Linda Svendsen.

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