THIS PLACE IS SO FAMILIAR AND YET IT IS SO FOREIGN.
We met the group at Chenggis Khan Airport and set off in our Russian vans. The city stretched on for quite some time but slowly gave way to short grass hills with the occasional ger. We traveled about 100 km across rough dusty roads until we made it to our camp at the Pallas Cat Research Station. The camp is little more than 7 gers and a handful of tents for bathroom and shower use. There are a dozen native Mongolians who will provide services like cooking, guiding and transportation.
As I write this overlooking camp from a small hill, I find myself wondering about things; Things that seem familiar and others that seem so unfamiliar.
Much of the landscape reminds me of Montana. The areas of large hills and vast open range. I can see from probably 20 miles to the West and 5 miles to the East. From this spot I can see 60+ horses in two groups. Two dozen head of cattle in the bottoms below me and three ger way off in the distance. The sound of the horses sounds familiar but the lack of fences holding them in does not. The lay of the land looks familiar, but the lack of roads, or structures, or plowed under fields does not. The sky may as well be plucked from a Montana postcard, but the absence of contrails from airplanes is strikingly different. The rush of the breeze is like the warm Montana Chinooks, but the pungent sage smell here is unlike that of home. I am relaxed here...
I have yet to get my bearings, which, for some unknown reason, is important to me. I like to orient myself to a place so I know North from South and East from West. I guess it is the Boyscout in me. I could use my GPS, but it is down at camp. So, instead, I have gone back to basics and build a "sun dial compass" with a stick and rocks.
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