For the first time in my entire life a journey has left me speechless.
It’s not often I find myself without words, if you know what I mean. A chatterbox since as far back as I can remember, not being able to express myself had never been an issue, until now.
I’ve been back home in Wanaka for days after a week long horse expedition with Zavkhan Trekking in Mongolia, and I don’t know how to begin to describe my experience.
“It was awesome…the coolest thing I’ve ever done…it changed my life…” and yet I feel like I can’t even begin to verbalize what Mongolia meant to me. I’ve been reduced to a stutter saying things like “it was totally awesome” while in my head thinking that there was absolutely no way I could begin to describe my experience that would do justice to how special it was and what precisely it meant to me.
How could anyone understand what I meant when I would describe it.
I am not exaggerating or joking, it actually changed my life. It changed the way I view the world, how I travel, and most importantly, how I view myself. But more on that later, I am not ready to share that just yet.
It was almost so special that I didn’t even want to begin sharing photos and stories from the trip, instead wanting to hoard them away and savor them for just myself.
Have you ever had an experience in your life where you felt that way?
So while I am trying to process the experience, internalize what happened, and really begin to figure out someway to share my stories from the most epic adventure of my entire life, I thought I would start with some of my favorite snaps from Mongolia, and let the photos speak for themselves.
I swear this is not a cop out, and I promise heaps of several thousand word novels are forthcoming, but in the meantime I didn’t want to leave y’all hanging.
So here is my introduction to the Eurasian steppe and thirty of my best shots of the Altai region of Mongolia.
Have you ever been on a big trip or challenging journey? Would you like to visit Mongolia one day? To find out more about the cameras I used on my trip, check out my post What’s In My Camera Bag.
On our first day we left Ulaanbaatar, the capital, and flew hours west to Bayan-Olgii and then drove for 5 hours through the wilderness in our Russian Furgons to the first camp
Meet the Zavkhan team! 10 of us explorers, our Kazakh wranglers and support team, Ian our guide and Anar our Mongolian interpreter
My ride for most of the trip – I named him Chewy, even though the Kazakhs don’t name horses. I picked Chewy because he was pretty slow and lazy and to get him going, the Kazakhs say “tcho tcho” to encourage him
Our main wrangler and owner of the horses Khadaran taking a rest and overlooking his family’s gers
Some of Khadaran’s family, generations living and working together
Sunset tea at one of our camps
Amangul our trip manager who made everything run smoothly playing the traditional dombra and singing.
My tent and the camp before we entered a national park on the border with China
Some pre-Mongolian man stones in the middle of nowhere in the Altai. These are dotted all over the country and considered to be ancient gravestones of fallen warriors and leaders
One of the many river crossings we encountered in the Altai – I hated them all.
Putting up the ger – gers are the Mongolian versions of yurts
One of my first attempts at astrophotography, shooting the Milky Way over our camp
Exploring the Altai from one of our camps – in this park there is a lot of forest and dense wood, very different from the rest of Mongolia (Want to take photos like this? Learn how in this brilliant video tutorial course by Elia Locardi!)
In the ger having dinner – please notice our sheep hanging from the ceiling
We also drank a lot of vodka – the Kazakhs love it
The last row of mountains is China
Near the end of the trip Chewy went lame and I had to switch horses, luckily this big guy was faster and I finally got to gallop! Also featuring my beautiful new ONA Camps Bay camera bag
More dreaded river crossings
I love riding through the tall grasses, even though they are sometimes littered with marmot holes that can trip up the horses
Inkarbek, Amangul’s oldest son and a wrangler in training showing off his horse skills. He can pick up a stone off the ground at a run, even wearing my GoPro
The Milky Way over my tent – getting night skies like this every single day made the freezing night conditions bearable – edit by Emiliano Bechi Gabrielli
Looking down the Pass of Death, one of the steepest mountain passes we encountered
Showing some love to the foals
Coming down a mountain pass, leading the horses
One of the traditional Kazakh eagle hunters
On our last day we held the Kazakh games, playing some of the traditional horse games of the Altai including tug of war – the Kazakhs are such talented riders – neither of these guys fell off the horse
Me and Moetkhan – my favorite wrangler and one of the guys who taught me how to ride. He was always laughing and smiling even on the toughest days
Many thanks to Zavkhan Trekking for hosting me in Mongolia, aand some of the links on this page are affiliate links (I gotta pay the bills!). Like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me.
99 Comments on “Introducing Mongolia in Photos”
Liz! Your pictures are stunning. I’ve quite enjoyed following you on Instagram, and I can’t wait to see more pictures of stars. Keep em’ coming!
Thank you, heaps more to come!
Wow! This looks like an amazing trip! Love your photos, looks like you had an awesome time! 🙂
It was so amazing, I still can’t believe it happened!
I’ve been moderately intrigued by Mongolia since traveling to China six years ago. Then I read “I Grew my Boobs in China” (link below) and became fascinated. Really looking forward to your posts on it!
Mongolia, together with Iceland and New Zealand is one of the destinations that is high on my bucket list. I love rugged landscapes. A friend of mine spent a year living and working there! Out of all places she chose Mongolia and loved it.
One of the experiences that changed me was visiting Lauca NP in northern Chile. Even some of the chilieans I met didn’t know where it was and others didn’t understand why I would go there! It was a big pain in the butt getting there too. Bus, hitchhiking, trekking, than hitchhiking again, but the views!!! I have not seen anything like this before and apart from our hostel owner and my friend who came along with me, I have not seen a single other soul for 2 days.
I am really looking forward to your posts from Mongolia and am glad to hear that it was such a life changing experience for you.
Wow that’s an amazing story, I can’t wait to go back to Mongolia again!