Khustai National Park is located about 100 kilometres to the west of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. It is one of the few nature reserves in Mongolia where Mongolian takhi, or wild horses, have been reintroduced since their extinction in the wild during the 1950s.
One day, my expat colleague wanted to travel to Khustai to see these magnificent animals and asked me to accompany him and his wife on their visit. Since I’m fond of nature trips, I eagerly accepted the request. Several days later, we were on our way to Khustai.
Upon arrival, we were met by the camp manager and we asked where we would have a chance to spot the wild horses. She told us that it’d be easier to spot them in the late afternoon by driving deep into the hills. Having to wait until late afternoon, we decided to hike toward a nearby hill. The countryside, fresh air and spring weather cheered us and the majestic natural scene made for happy hiking.
When we got on top of the hill and were enjoying the surrounding natural scenery, we spotted a local horseman approaching us from a distance. I don’t know why, but initially we felt slightly ill at ease, maybe because we were otherwise alone in a complete wilderness.
The rider was an elderly man. When he came close to us, he greeted us while still seated on his horse and asked where we were heading. I explained to him that we were from the nearby camp and were enjoying some hiking nearby.
It became clear that he was a park ranger who protects the area from illegal activities. As he explained, the park administration cooperates with local nomadic families residing in the area to provide protection for the park.
After exchanging a few words, we said goodbye to each other and we continued our trip. This photo was taken as we were about to continue our hike.
My foreign friends seemed to get greatly excited to have such an experience.
Horses are hugely important in Mongolian culture and while they may seem like slow going compared to more modern means of transport, they still provide one of the best ways to navigate the steppes. Travelling by foot or on horseback allows visitors to enjoy all the benefits of slow travel and to feel closer to the pace of life that surrounds them.