Call of the Majestic Mountains
Venturing into Mongolia’s vast mountain ranges, a photographer sees its endless wild beauty and the perfect backdrop for a festival that honours the ancient tradition of falconry.
Words: Suthipa Kamyam, Pattaramon Puapalroj
Photos: Suthipa Kamyam
Late autumn, in the midst of cold weather in Ulaanbaatar, we packed our bags and set off on our journey at dawn. We flew across a vast stunning landscape. Awestruck, the view transitioned from dry desolate desert to grand mountain ranges blanketed in white shining snow that gently turned light pink, painted by the touch of dawn. We finally landed in the Far West of Mongolia, home to the Kazakhs, who are known for their unique lifestyle, language and culture. After sunrise, the spectacular view of Ölgiy city clearly forms. It’s like looking at a toy board with miniature colourful houses, as it lines along the silvery Hobda River, surrounded by the seemingly endless range of the Altai Mountains.
Next morning, an old Russian military van took us from the city and headed to a vast open land outlined by the austere and dark backdrop of rocky mountains. Crowds of people came from everywhere to join the Golden Eagle Festival, an annual and grand event to mark the beginning of the hunting season. Eagle hunters arrive with their birds. Some rode horses or camels, others on motorcycles in an atmosphere that feels like that of old friends reuniting. Visitors thrilled to see eagle hunters in their full traditional fur ensembles as their enormous eagle companions spread their wings in approachable distance. The competition started with the “eagle call.” Eagle hunters on horseback call to their majestic birds from the top of the mountains, using a vocal tone known only between them. As the last glow of sunlight disappeared behind the mountain ridge, nomads do a fast cleanup. The tent landscape of gers and their white spread suddenly vanish, leaving the vast grounds empty as if nothing took place. In a simple and natural way, everything just moved on and left memories of a remote land’s beauty.