The morning of the eagle festival was absolute caos as the blue wolf ger camp was bulging at the seams and the management couldn’t manage a piss up in brewery! On entering the dining room for our ‘inclusive breakfast’ one of the blue wolf muppets shows us to a table and says “free breakfast” It was a simple breakfast of stale bread and jam with a pot of just about warm black tea. Then they brought out what tasted like fried pastry served with grated carrot that was really quite shit. I noticed a couple who were leaving were arguing with the muppet that told us it was free breakfast as she was trying to make them pay for it. In the end they paid 6000 tugrik each! Which is near enough 3 quid. Now that is expensive here in Mongolia you can get a decent big hot and tasty meal for less than that. Realising that blue wolf were taking us all for a ride and blatantly trying to rip us all off I made a sharp exit as there was no way I would pay anything for that crap excuse of a breakfast. They tried to make Maria pay for mine and hers but she stuck top her guns and told them to shove it up there arse. She is also a black belt at everything and could kill you with her little finger so she probably gave them ‘the look’ that left them trembling on the ground in a pool of there own piss! It was ok for her to do this as she was not going to be staying at the blue wolf again anyway.
Maria joined her new found trekking buddies and made her way to the eagle festival. I hung around for ages waiting for the blue wolf fuckwits to eventually get there arses into gear and get their minivan moving in the direction of the eagle festival. When I eventually arrived I couldn’t see Maria anywhere amongst the swarming mass of tourists. This was my worst nightmare it was like every tourist in Mongolia had descended on the eagle festival. Trying to take photograph of anything without some twat getting in the way was near enough impossible and every time I would find a great spot or an interesting individual to photograph like fly’s round shit the fuckers would descend and completely ruin it. I felt like I was in the papperatzzi and I could feel my patience getting thin. I gave up trying to photograph anything as I didn’t fancy doing time in a Mongolian jail for bludgeoning to death a Chinese tourist with his own 300mm lens!
I eventually found Maria and met up with the couple who were earlier being ripped off at breakfast. It turned out Cora form Holland and Dominiek from Belgium weren’t actually a couple they just happened to be travelling together. The eagle festival was now in full swing and we managed to find a good place to photograph from without to many people wearing north face jackets getting in the way and where the light was looking pretty good. Dominiek was a photographer too so it was good to have someone to share the experience with and it meant we could both bitch about the ‘other tourists’. For this part of the eagle festival the hunters eagles were taken to the top of the mountain while the eagle hunter rode out into the valley bellow. When the eagle hunter starting whistling and shouting the eagle was released. In the hunters hand was some raw meat to entice the bird down to him. Once the eagle locked onto its target the hunter began to gallop towards the end flag post where if all went well the eagle would land on his glove and eat the meat. This is the textbook way of doing it however only a small handful of eagle hunters managed to achieve this as some eagles decided to fly off over the other side of the mountain or attack other eagles and even some tourists! After the third tourist had his eyes gouged out by a ravenous and seriously pissed off golden eagle an announcement came over the loud speaker that we should all be careful of the colour red as this will attract the eagle. On hearing this I quickly pulled the bright red woolly hat that I had been wearing all morning off my head and shoved it in my pocket!
After lunch the game of tenge ilu began where riders had to gallop towards a piece of cloth filled with sand and pick it from the floor without falling off his horse. Some of the guys were really going for it and travelling at speed while others were just riding upto it stoping bending down to pick it up then riding off again. Which is pretty much cheating in my book! For me and Dominic this game was ace as we could get pretty close to the action without anyone getting in our way as most people started to get bored of the tenge ilu and went back to the other side of the festival to carry on watching the eagle hunters. On our program it had a listing for camel racing which sounded pretty cool, however on scouting over the festival it soon became apparent that there were only two camels at the festival. Surely they were not going to have a race with just two camels. The sun had now disappeared behind the mountain and the festival was soon to be coming to and end for today so in the last of the light I made my way over to the archery contest and quickly got a few shots of them. They were all in good spirits and looked to be having a lot of fun, they were firing arrows with padded balls on the end and their targets were a set of clay balls on the floor about 50 meters away. Now every one of these archers must of been pretty good as all there friends were stood right next to these balls and in the lime I was there only one of them got hit with an arrow. It was pretty much dark now and as our russian bus looked exactly the same as all the russian buses I decided to try and locate ours before they left without me!