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Spending the winter with the last of the reindeer nomads

Spending the winter with the last of the reindeer nomads

During their excursion to Mongolia, Tanja and Denis Katzer are going to be riding a total of 2.000 km across the Mongolian Steppe, through marshes and over mountain ridges, accompanied by their packhorses and a horse-drawn wagon. Mongolia has an unusual continental climate. Summers are extremely hot and dry, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees in the shade. Spring and autumn are characterised by raging storms and it is common to have torrential rainfall combined with temperatures of 20 degrees. Countless flies and mosquitoes terrorise both humans and animals.

In this land of extremes, even today the greater part of the population lives a nomadic life, trekking from pasture to pasture with their reindeer herds. Tanja and Denis Katzer‘s goal are the last Tuvan reindeer nomads, whose way of life is threatened with extinction. They live in an area of North Mongolia that is very difficult to access. The expedition passes the largest freshwater lake (Chowsgol) in the country. The adventurers will ride through mountain forest steppe and conquer the 3.000 m high Choridol-Saridag snow-covered mountain range. On the other side of the pass, not far from the Siberian border, there where the sparse green of the Taiga offers grazing for the nomads’ reindeer, they will seek out the Tuvans who are said to set up their camps for the winter here in small family groups. The reindeer nomads spend the winter in dwellings that they call ortz and which strongly resemble native American Indian teepees.

Denis and Tanja Katzer will ask to share the Tuvans’ hospitality, in order to spend an entire winter with the Tuvans in their own tepee or Mongolian yurt. The long arctic winter, when temperatures can drop to minus 50 degrees Celsius, means that living in this region is tough. The lonely days and nights, the cold, finding food and simple survival will be particular challenges for them. The Europeans want to experience how the Taiga hunter people withstand such extremes. During their stay they will document their customs, songs, worries, hardships and moments of happiness.

In the spring, before the snow melts and the earth transforms into a treacherous swamp, Tanja and Denis Katzer will decamp again with their horses, in order to set out on the 1,000km return journey. Without doubt, this is an expedition that combines great depth and respect for the natural world.

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