Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Swan Song

Lonely Planet wants to know what is the best place to be today.  It's ironic that I'm sitting here writing a blog about seeing the swan migration on Ganga Nuur in Sukhbaatar aimag (province) for their competition, because going to Ganga Nuur was an idea I got out of Lonely Planet.  During our visit to Tsenkher hot spring more than a year ago, I told Engrish that this was one of those things I wanted to do before I left Mongolia, and she said if I stayed another year, she'd go with me.  So here we are.
Mongolia's not the country to go to if you want to see ancient ruins or capital-c Culture, although you'll find both if you look. What it does have, if you are willing to spend the time barreling over rough roads is stunningly beautiful nature. After two years, I've come to appreciate it (although I appreciate that first shower when I get back to the city even more!)
After a long day's drive to Baruun-Urt, the aimag capital, followed by a full morning's ramble over Mongolia's famous dirt tracks, veering into and over each other before stopping halfway for slices of sausage and cheese on Khentii aimag's famous bread, we pulled up to the lake and were hailed by the chatter of a thousand birds' honking and hooting. They were scattered over the surface of the lake, none too close to the shore, some so far away that they were just specks on the water.
The weather here isn't exactly mild, but during this trip it was pretty much perfect. The wind on the lake was pretty stiff, and it was amazing to see how smoothly the swans could fly through it. The wind may have ruined the recording I tried to make of their song, but it added to the immediateness of the experience. We were really there, standing on the banks of Ganga Nuur, hidden between undulating sand dunes.
Of all the places I could be today, I can't imagine any better than this wild land. In a week or two, the swans will all have moved on, the weather will be colder; the lake may be rimed with ice and the drifts may be snow as much as sand. Today, though, we're here.  Between the birds and my bestie, there's no place else I'd rather be.

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