Following breakfast we transfer to the airport for a flight to the town of Olgiy in the western most province of Mongolia - Bayan Olgiy.
This province is 90 percent Kazakh with a markedly different culture to the rest of Mongolia. The Kazakh majority are Muslim as opposed to Buddhist, and we see immediately that their ger homes are of a different shape and size. The Kazakhs trace their history to a breakaway group of Turkic nomads (who revolted against a Khaanate leader) about 400 years ago. Kazakh roughly means ‘free steppe rider.’ Since China, Russia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan agreed on borders in the 1930s-40s Kazakhs have been unable to migrate freely as they used to. Kazakh culture as a result however has been largely preserved in Mongolia, unlike russified Kazakhstan. What we witness in Bayan Olgii is truly a slice of history. Kazakh hunters even still train eagles for winter hunts of fox, wolf and marmot- a 2,000 year old tradition. Beautiful valleys lined with gers, deserts, and snowy mountain ranges rising to 4000m and above, it truly has a rugged, timeless beauty.
From Olgiy, we journey by 4WD to the front side of Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain situated in the basin of Tsagaan River. On the way we'll make a stop in Tsengel Soum (the province centre) for refueling before crossing the Khovd River where we will have a chance to visit a nomadic Tuvan family before setting up camp for the night.