Mr. Michael Forster, Canada, 2015
12 day trip from Khoton Lake x Altai Tavan Bogd and Eagle Hunter
I contacted Vyenyera in May, 2015 by email and asked if she could put together a trip to Altai Tavan Bogd for me in June, with emphasis on cultural issues in this Kazakh area. I was already booked with another company for the centre of the country for what I hoped was a similar experience, but Mongol. For this to work it would have to be affordable, the guide would have to speak English well and be able to express local content to me, and have contacts with families in the area so I could in some way, in this short time inhale a little of the culture.
In every way she exceeded my expectations, as there were several hurdles, namely: I don’t ride a horse and Khoton lake is a four day horse trip across the mountains, I don’t speak Russian, so there is no backup language, a solo trip is way more expensive in principle than a group (even 2 people), and it was early in the year and snow would be an issue (it was).
The horse riding was an experience for me, but probably painful for them to watch and wait as they Kazakhs start very very early age, as they are still TRULY nomadic, in the Mongolian sense. This is VERY hard to find, and staying in a local ger/yurt made this really obvious with their inclusion of me – as much as possible – as a guest. Vyenyera translated much of the conversation and I felt at home – given the cultural differences.
The horse trip was spectacular by Canadian standards, although the ‘payoff’ at the Basecamp dumped rain and cloud on us that day, and the ascent of Malchin (one of massif) was not possible. Russian Ridge, in the sleet was fun though and Vyenyera was great company.
Food, cooked daily in our full size tent was Mongolian standard – and I had the same food with the other tour – and well cooked given that everything came by camel. I did though get tired of mutton, and after the next trip, very tired. Bringing hot spice worked wonders though.
The eagle hunter (Agalai) and daughter (Aisholpan) was full-on beyond expectations, as I did not expect to handle such a big bird that can crush your arm through the leather glove. The hospitality (we were not expected) was complete, and I left there very very happy.
In fact, after the trip I actually felt physically ‘full’ of information even for that short period of time (that does not happen often). It was not much more than the 12 person trip I took a few days later in central Mongolia, and for which I got ½ my money back as the tour was quite poor, even though it was 13 days. Part of that is being unlucky with the guide, and the other part is that West Mongolia has so much more to offer comparatively. PS I credit this company for refunding.
a) Petroglyphs. 2500+ years with nobody else around.. except the eagles.
b) Stone grave markers carved in human form, all over the country. No fences, no paint, just part of the scenery.
c) Big mountains and glaciers, more like Alaska (in TavanBogd), and not overrun with tourists..
d) Flowers and flowers and flowers (once in the park) and vistas that you are glad a horse did some of the walking.
e) Good hospitality everywhere, despite language barriers, and relaxed embrace of cultural differences.
Comment: There are NO facilities on this trip. It resembles backpacking in the 1930s with a full complement of camels to carry tents (for when there are no gers), fresh food, table, chairs etc. It is NOT the same as staying in a Ger camp.
Vyenyera, the owner/ guide is COMMITED to PROBLEM SOLVING as there were problems with horses, camels and the late snow year.. AND AS WELL, I was well taken care of, even when NOT on the trip.
More than satisfied. AND, yes, I would ride a horse again for a similar payoff.
There is a link in the current thread (this one):
and I see also in Facebook:
SzeMing & Martin, Hong Kong, April 2016
I just want to say thank you to you and your family for the wonderful time in Mongolia!! Despite some hiccups with transportation, we enjoyed very much the nature, the immersion with local Kazakh culture, and the hospitality of every one we met over there. Special thanks to Don the ultimate driver (and vodka drinking instigator) and Tabitai the kind and talented chef (I hope her cold has gotten better)!
We'd be happy to write a review on FB or Tripadvisor.
Thanks and we look forward to another trip in Mongolia!
Wan Luk & Coco Cheng, Hong Kong, October 2015
We are safely back to Hong Kong. It was a great pleasure to be part of your family and we enjoyed our trip a lot.
If you have time, please add your business in TripAdvisor:
Good luck and take care,
Patricia & Vang, USA, July 2016
I finally managed to go through all the pictures I took. I am attaching a link to all the pictures.
Thank you so much for making sure we had such a great time!
Rodney Leben, Australia, 2011
During my time in Mongolia I found West Mongolia Travel and Venus to be highly professional in their approach to providing a quality holiday. The Western Mongolia area can only be described as stunning. If you wish to see snow capped mountains, glaciers and mountain lakes or the high mountain steppe. It surrounds you here. If you are more interested in the history of the area, petroglyphs, man and deer stones and kurgans (burial mounds) are dotted throughout the region. While here I experienced the hospitality of the local Kazakh and Tuuvan people. The welcome I received when visiting families was inspiring. An added bonus is the English skill of Venus herself. Communication was never an issue during my stay at the camp. For lovers of true adventure I highly recommend a holiday with West Mongolia Travel.