Terelj National Park, just outside UB
Me, nervous about holding an eagle (THEY ARE HEAVY!)
Eagle hunter heading back up the hill
look at those wings
Eagle hunter posing majestically
Christian being taught a thing or two
Ryan and Natasha-Kazakh royalty
Yesterday I attended the first Kazakh eagle hunting event in UB. The story, as told to me by a credible source, is that the Kazakh MP was sick of people in UB saying that it was too far to travel to Bayan-Olgii (Western Mongolia) for the Eagle Fest, so he asked some of the hunters to come to UB. I must say, I was pretty negative about going. First off, I've been to Olgii and seen an eagle up close and personal. I felt like this would just be too touristy...and I was right! It was pretty touristy, but getting out of the city pollution, and experiencing a fascinating piece of Kazakh culture was worth it. It was nice to be standing in a group of people, in a familiar place, but not being able to understand a word that was being said (they were speaking Russian and Kazakh).
In case you didn't know, Mongolia has a small Kazakh minority that lives in Western Mongolia, specifically Bayan-Olgii province, although not exclusively. When I visited Kazkhstan in 2005, the joke was that if you really want to see Kazakh culture, don't go to Kazakhstan, go to Bayan-Olgii or Urumqi, China.
Pictures say it best, so here are a few
Where am I in Central Asia?
Eagle hunters all lined up
Playing "who can hold on to the goat carcass"
Eagle, on the right just below the mountain peak, soaring through the air.