Hustai Valley Steppes

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Hustai Valley Steppes, originally uploaded by linhvienthai.

Hustai Valley, Mongolia; September 2001:

The time just before dusk is some of the most amazing 20 minutes of light. This was a cold day in Hustai Valley, Mongolia; and the winds came in strong from the North. When winter encroaches here, it literally roars in with powerful howling gusts. It’s bright, it’s cold, and hardly anyone come here this time of year.

This valley and just over the hills mark the edge of Siberian taiga forests. From here it’s flat grasslands and arid stretches of vast open land. I was riding through on horseback amid  bright drab of grasses and rocky ground. Looking up at a ridge line I noticed a shiny glint coming from a small dark green dot. It was a typical UAZ 469 Russian jeep, the ones commonly found in Central Asia; it was sitting idle with a few people running about.  They were atop a very high hill. I could see them hastily arranging equipment.

Upon riding closer for further inspection, I heard them calling and they waved me towards them. It was all in Russian and there was a writer and the other a photographer. Their Mongolian driver/guide was also with there, he was frantically readying their equipment. When I arrived and dismounted they excitedly greeted me. Patting me on my shoulder and pointing wildly, they directed me to look back towards where I came from. Then I saw this. The streaks of light and long stretched shadows from both the terrain and clouds were magnificent. The sky was brilliant. The weathered looking Russian man nodded and smiled then lifted up his camera. I then joined them.

With this window of time brief, we panned for the right scene, focused or cameras, looked, felt, and shot. It’s one of those times in life you don’t ever forget. None of us could understand each other but we all expressed with the universal thumbs up, laughter, and a bone crunching Russian’s handshake. As it got too dark to shoot, their Mongolian guide brought out a bottle of vodka and a large plastic bag. In it was a very gracious portion of smokey meat. I believed it was marmot a delicacy here. Offered to me I grabbed  bit of meat, ate it, chased it with a swig of vodka. Then consumed a hit of sharp tasting albeit very dry cheese. This was repeated one or too many times for me to recall. We were carrying on conversation in our very loud native languages. None of us could understand a word we were saying, but it was all good. Later, I rode back to my camp in the dark, cold but very happy, and slightly buzzed.

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