Full Moons (almost) and Howling Wolves – On the road update

Wild Family Explorer – Travelling With Your Family In Mongolia
August 16, 2013
Rock and Roll In Ondorkhan – On the road update
September 24, 2013

We’re currently driving through the homeland of Chinngis Khan, Khentii Aimag on our Landscapes of the East itinerary. Today’s destination is Dadal located in the Onon Balj National Park and close to the border with Siberia.

Khentii – the homeland of Chinng
The road is rough but the views truly spectacular as we drive over vast open country and as I like to think, in the footsteps of Chinngis Khan.
Tsonjin Boldog

Having made a stop at Binder, which along with Batshireet and Dadal occupy the territories of the culturally rich and traditional Buriat communities, a minority ethnic group of Mongolia, we have now crossed the mighty Onon River. We’re roughly 80km from Dadal and we’ll  be spending a few nights camping, making the most of the public shower house and feasting on home-made (but shop bought!) Buriat bread and ‘khaliartai khuushuur’ – both specialities of the Buriat community.

We spent last night camping alongside Öglögchiin Kherem (Almsgiver’s Wall) – this 3.2km wall is said to date from between the 8th to 10th centuries. Close by on what is known as the Almsgiver’s Castle, over 60 graves have been discovered – thought to be a royal graveyard. The effort of the labour required to construct the wall suggests that it was a very important site and radiocarbon dating indicates its continued use by the Mongol tribes. 

As we sat around our small campfire, we were discussing those who had been before us – the Khitad and the Mongols – who had built the wall and used this area and the potential reasons as to why. The moon lit up our camp and as the hot water came to the boil and we went to prepare our last mug of tea of the day, we heard the sound of howling wolves echoing across from the opposite forested hillside.

Wolves use howling as a form of communication and maybe they were howling prior to hunting or as a pack to defend their territory. We don’t know, but sitting there under the moonlight by a 1000 year old wall we felt privileged to be there. 

(Of all the wolves’ different calls, howling is the only one that works over great distances. Its low pitch and long duration are well suited for transmission in forest and across the steppe or tundra, and unique features of each individual’s howl allow wolves to identify each other.)

(Both Sue and Ross read the EL blog and said that surely howling wolves under a moonlit sky were worth a post. Sue and Ross make great travelling and fireside companions and so I dedicate this post to them as a thank you for their kindness and thoughtfulness and to their future adventures – wherever the ‘altan shar zam’ (the golden yellow road) continues to take them.)

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